Today’s Zeppelin flight was absolutely spectacular as we flew over the ocean, taking off from Peenemunde and making several circles, heading offshore and then back again toward land. You can see people on the beach below.
I arrived at Berlin Schonefeld Airpot on June 16 to fly the Zeppelin to Peenemunde on the northern coast of Germany, from where the team plans to make measurements of the Baltic sea from the air and water. A large press conference to mark the start of the experiment has just finished and we boarded from the airfield around 16.00 hours in clear weather.
The flight was an amazing experience — we floated/ flew about 400 m above Berlin and then onward over the countryside to the northern coast. The zeppelin was flown by two pilots and special permission was obtained to fly over Berlin, which is a no-fly zone.
The zeppelin itself is filled with helium to make it slightly buoyant so that just a little propellor power is sufficient to get it off the ground. It is hard-shelled unlike the soft-shelled blimps. The passenger cabin has huge windows and one can stand up and walk around because it is very stable. There are only 2 Zeppelins in Germany, and 2 bought by Goodyear in the US. This is the first time the platform is being used for oceanic measurements. There are 2 special cameras — one infrared and another hyper spectral that look downward and cover a field of about 32 degrees. They are mounted in a well in the center of the cabin. The cabin is not pressurized, so windows are open and you can stick your head out. We are traveling at a speed of about 60-70 km per hour. It is very nimble in making turns, but also, the ride is very smooth and comfortable. We should be arriving around 7 pm. The landing at Peenemunde was spectacular. The Zeppelin gets attached to the mast of a truck which itself gets footed. The Zeppelin floats just above the ground and can swivel in the breeze.
We, Sebastian Essink and Amala Mahadevan, are participating in an experiment in the Baltic Sea being led by Burkard Baschek of Institute for Coastal Research at Helmholtz Center, Geesthacht. The aim is to study sub-kilometer scale eddies in the ocean, that have life spans of less than a day, and are a part of the eddying flow field of the ocean that covers a wide range of scales. The research is being conducted from a Zeppelin, multiple airplanes, and 3 research vessels and more details are at the Clockwork Ocean website http://www.uhrwerk-ozean.de/expedition/index.html.en
This blog relates our experience. Sebastian and I have come from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, as this experiment uses some novel methods of measurement and addresses a scale that is difficult to observe with conventional means. It is the first time that the ocean is being measured from an air-ship. The plan is to use hyper-spectral and infrared imagery from the air to get very high resolution information of the sea surface temperature and color (chlorophyll and other pigments), and at the same time, use research vessels to sample features in water. The airplanes will scout out features and survey, the air-ship will park itself above the research site and the vessels will tow instruments through the water. In addition, a high frequency radar will be used on a research vessel to get high-resolution measurements of surface currents.