Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rubber Duckie You're The One...

If you are out on the open seas in the near future and a rubber duckie floats casually by, net it - it may be a very valuable piece of low-tech Nasa scientific equipment. That bathtub toy may be worth $100 and bragging rights for finding the first rubber duckie dropped into a tubular hole in a glacier on Greenland’s west coast. Make sure you have your digital camera with you so you have proof positive that you are the rightful heir to the claim of finding the first duck.

What makes these ducks so special? I mean, aren’t rubber duckies meant for those private moments when you’re alone in the bath? Nasa has come up with a way of making these $2.00 bathtub toys into low-tech pieces of scientific equipment. Ninety ducks were dropped through holes in Greenland’s ice three months ago in an effort to track the way the Artic icecap is melting. The toys were chosen for their buoyancy and ability to withstand low temperatures.

The holes they were dropped into are known as “moulins” and are in the Jakobshavn glacier. The scientists are hoping the ducks would find their way into channels beneath the hard-packed surface so they could track the flow of melt water into the ocean.

"We haven't heard anything from them yet," Nasa robotics expert Alberto Behar told the BBC.

The scientists also released a football-sized, floating, robotic probe equipped with a GPS positioning transmitter powered by hi-tech batteries. The probe has yet to communicate its position. "We did not hear a signal back, so it probably got stuck under the ice somewhere," said Behar.

Glacier movement has speeded up in recent years and scientists believe that melting water lubricates the bases of glaciers increasing their movement.

Nasa is offering a modest prize of $100 to the first person who finds a duck. The ducks have an email address stamped on them, together with the word "reward" in three languages, including Inuit. I suspect the real glory lies in finding the first duck and having pictures to prove it.

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