Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Equatorial Countercurrent

Author: Chris Uyeda
Location: Underway
As one of the two marine science educators aboard, and in the spirit of ocean education, I bring you a brief update from the science department.

Argo, currently travels eastward at 7 knots. For those regular followers of the podcasts, you'll note that this is a substantial increase from the past few days. But why? The answer has everything to do with something known as the equatorial countercurrent, a fascinating phenomenon that occurs in this unique part of the planet.

Throughout the world, just north and south of the equator, all currents flow from east to west. As a result, this creates a small bulge in the ocean, as water piles up near landmasses on the western edge. In our current case, that means that the water we sail on is not flat, but rather, slightly angled - with the high side near Africa and the low side near Indonesia. Couple this with the fact that on the equator there are essentially no winds - a phenomenon known as the doldrums - and the ocean is literally free to flow downhill as gravity pulls it towards Indonesia. And as we head towards Bali, we can't help but be along for the ride.

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