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Niu Poni Lasts 795 Days at Sea

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After a tremendous 795-day journey of almost 14,000 miles around the Pacific Ocean, Niu Poni (in purple on the map) has sent its last transmission.

On April 6, it reported in with nearly full battery power, all internal sensors logged normal values, and it was in relatively calm seas. So, while we can only assume that it leaked or was struck by floating debris, we may never know what happened. The Project Niu team put stickers on all the Niu devices so that whoever finds them someday (if they even remained afloat) can contact us and return them.

What do YOU think happened to Niu Poni? Let us know in the comments below.

Interestingly, Niu Poni followed the predicted path of the currents around the Pacific Ocean, heading west from Hawaii towards Japan, eventually turning north and east, and then proceeding in a clockwise direction back towards the west coast of the United States. During the journey, it traveled as far as 2,900 miles from Honolulu, Hawaii but was just 1,200 miles away when it stopped transmitting (due north of the Gardner Pinnacles, one of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands).

What have we learned from Niu Poni during its journey of over two years? Well, we have seen first-hand that the currents of the Pacific Ocean create a giant vortex that can accumulate floating items. This, unfortunately, means that trash left on beaches can all end up in a giant heap in the northern Pacific, something called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or the “Northern Pacific Gyre”.

Since Niu Poni floats on the surface just like plastic bottles and other debris, it shows us that our actions (such as doing beach cleanups) can make a difference throughout the entire region. We should all be stewards of the environment and of our oceans. If we want them to be clean to enjoy for many, many years, we must each do our part to reduce our impact by following the Three R’s: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle (in that order). So, next time you get bottled water or take plastic bags at the grocery store, think about where that item may end up someday… because it’s probably going to be in the ocean.

We at the Project Niu team hope that all you students and teachers out there have enjoyed this real-life science experiment. We’ve used some cool technologies (GPS, satellite modems, digital cameras, solar panels, etc.) to study in real-time the mysterious world of the open ocean.


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