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Oceanographic instrument found near Panatag

MASINLOC, Zambales, Philippines – Fishermen from this town found an oceanographic instrument – a device for measuring seawater properties –with the mark “National Oceanographic Office, USA,” while fishing near the disputed Scarborough or Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea on Friday.

In a report to the Zambales Police Provincial Office, Chief Inspector Jude Bryan Maguddayao of Masinloc town police said three fishermen – Galley Godornes, 30; Reynaldo Mendoza, 30 and Joseph Asuque, 28 – found the yellow-colored device while fishing in the open sea and dragged it to the coastal village of Barangay Inhobol, where they live.

Now in the custody of the provincial police in Camp Conrado Yap in Iba, Zambales, the oceanographic instrument is the second such device found near the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

The instrument can measure various physical characteristics of the sea and provide data on tides, currents, and water quality characteristics, such as chemical composition and salinity. 

Fishermen from Subic town also found what was described initially as a US drone also near Scarborough in February this year, with a different haul described later as a marine instrument weighing about 40 kilos and was marked “Naval Oceanographic Office USA.”

Fishermen spotted the object in the open sea near Scarborough and initially thought it to be just a toy floating on the water.

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The marine instrument was turned over to the local police and eventually claimed by the US embassy.

That marine equipment found in Subic and the one recovered on Friday by Masinloc fishermen both bore a telephone number and e-mail address of the US Naval Oceanographic Office. 

The marine instrument also bore the name of the manufacturer, Teledyne Webb Research. The company’s website, www.webbsearch.com, described the marine instrument as a Slocum Glider, a uniquely mobile network component capable of moving to specific locations and depths and occupying controlled spatial and temporal grids. It is driven in a saw-tooth vertical profile by variable buoyancy and moves both horizontally and vertically.

The website further described it as having long-range and duration capabilities, making it ideally suited for subsurface sampling at the regional scale.

The glider carries a wide variety of sensors and can be programmed to patrol for weeks at a time, surfacing to transmit data to shore while downloading new instructions at regular intervals, realizing substantial cost savings compared with traditional surface ships.

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