While it may look like the perfect craft for one of Luke Skywalker's Star Wars adventures, the HoverProbe is quite at home here on Earth. Starting tomorrow and for the next few days, you might see the unique vessel at work along the Delaware coast.
Owned and operated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the 21-foot-long, 8-foot-wide airboat is designed for taking water and sediment samples in environmentally sensitive coastal areas.
"The HoverProbe allows us to get in to places that are so fragile they would be harmed by any other means," says Don Queen, the USGS manager that oversees the craft. "This vessel runs off an airplane propeller and sets down with a force less than 1 pound per square inch. That's much less than a footprint."
On November 9 and 10, Delaware researchers Bill Ullman, Doug Miller, John Madsen, and David Krantz will use the HoverProbe to take sediment and water samples along Herring Creek, a tributary to Rehoboth Bay. Ullman and Miller are on the faculty of the University of Delaware College of Marine Studies in Lewes, Del.; Madsen is on the faculty of the UD Geology Department; and Krantz is a physical scientist at the USGS in Dover, Del., as well as on the adjunct faculty of both the UD College of Marine Studies and the Geology Department.
On November 12 and 13, Ullman, Miller, and Madsen are scheduled to take samples on the beach in front of Cape Shores, a residential development in Lewes.
Once the HoverProbe is on the beach, its equipment will be used to drill vertically into the sand and mud to take cylinder-shaped sediment cores, 5 feet long and
3 1/2 inches in diameter. Water samples also can be taken as deep as 80 feet.
Once the samples are collected, the scientists will take them back to the lab for analysis. The samples will aid the scientists' Sea Grant and EPA-funded research on roundwater "seeps" -- locations along the shore where warm, fresh water is seeping out of the ground and into the Delaware Bay and Delaware's Inland Bays. The scientists want to know what role these seeps may play in piping nutrients from the land into the sea.
For more information, please contact Dr. Ullman at (302) 645-4302, or Tracey Bryant in the Marine Communications Office at (302) 831-8185.