Robot "Nemo" battered by Australia sea current

Sun Dec 28, 2008 3:10am EST
 
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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - An underwater robot named after the cartoon fish Nemo came close to grief when sent out to explore the same ocean current featured in the hit film, an Australian researcher said on Sunday.

The 1.8 meter robot submarine is part of an Australian project to study the East Australian Current, one of the world's strongest ocean currents which may play a major role in global warming, project scientist Iain Suthers said.

In the film "Finding Nemo," the father of the little clownfish used the current to reach his captured offspring.

Researchers named the sub Nemo after the fish but got more than they bargained for when they nearly lost the A$125,000 (US$85,000) satellite-controlled namesake on its maiden trip.

Suthers said the robot sub got caught up in an eddy and was adrift for 16 days, before it was retrieved earlier this month.

The craft is part of a government project run by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science to find out more about the current, which brings massive amounts of warm water down Australia's east coast.

Temperatures in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, which the current flows through, have risen an average 2 degrees Celsius in less than a century, according to Suthers, which he said was among the highest recorded anywhere in the world.

Hopes are that the sub will help scientists understand it better.

(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)