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"EQUATORIAL UNDERCURRENT PROJECT"
Gan Island Post 13th November 1972
What is happening in the lagoon? Are we expecting an air attack? The answer is NO. The mini Barrage Balloon
you may have seen on the MCU Pinnace is, in fact, a Kytoon(?) which is being used as a sky-hook for a Radar
Reflector. Why does the Pinnace need to fly a radar reflector? The short answer to that is - the Equatorial
Undercurrent Project.
It has been discovered in recent years that in all oceans along the equator, at depths of between 150 and
600 feet, and between 2 deg. North and 2 deg. South there is a strong eastward flowing current. In the Atlantic
and Pacific Oceans the current is fairly steady as are the winds near the Equator (Trade Winds) and so it is
suspected that the winds are the main driving force for the sea currents.
In the Indian Ocean however, the winds change in a regular cycle, blowing from the southwest from May to
September and changing to northeast for the rest Of the year. What is not known is how much this change in
wind affects the sea current. Only a very few observations have been made in the Indian Ocean and these tend to
show that in the southwest wind the current is absent altogether, or at best very variable. An attempt therefore is
now being made to establish what really happens in the yearly cycle.
Once a week the Pinnace will take out to sea an Aanderaa Current Meter to alternate positions 15 miles north
of Bushey and 15 miles south of Gan Channel. The meter is lowered into the water and allowed to sink slowly
through the current layers. The meter has sensors which tell the temperature of the water, the salinity md the
speed of the water past the current meter. There is also a compass to check the direction of the current and
a pressure sensitive device to tell the depth of the meter. The information from all these sensors is recorded on
a tape recorder built into the meter and when the meter is recovered, the tape is removed and sent off to the
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in America where it is fed into a computer for analysis.
This brings us back to the mini Barrage Balloon. By following the Pinnace on the Met Office radar its exact
position can be plotted and its rate of drift worked out so that this drift can be added to or subtracted from
the meter readings in order to find out the exact speed of the current in relation to the Ocean bed. The project
is expected to last for a year, so the next time you see a Barrage Balloon don't dive into the nearest air-raid shelter
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Dedicated To All Those Who Served or Passed Through RAF Gan, Addu Atoll, Maldives, Indian Ocean