Transatlantic Scout 'loses her way' out near Titanic

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By Bruce Burdett

Systems apparently shut down, little transatlantic boat Scout is meandering about the mid-Atlantic, adrift and traveling at the whim of wind and currents.

The 13-foot Tiverton-built solar-powered electric motorboat that set out from Sakonnet Point nearly two months ago seems to have lost her way not far from the final resting place of the Titanic — well over 1,000 miles out into the Atlantic. In the nearly three weeks since then, the boat has wandered first east, then south and then seemed briefly to be trying to head back home.

First clue that something was amiss came when Scout's navigation system went offline and ceased sending 20-minute updates on speed, course and more. Before that, the boat had weathered big waves, rain squalls and the remnants of a tropical storm or two.

"She is probably fully adrift," said Dylan Rodriguez, a Tiverton resident and senior at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. "It's most likely a result of whatever took the main tracking system offline — we have a few theories but would have to receive a diagnostic transmission from Scout or take a look at her in person to know exactly what happened.

"We activated the backup tracker on Scout (the pink dots on the tracking map) and this unit has a year of battery left — Scout is now basically a message in a bottle that's 1,300 miles away from the New England coast she was launched from. She could end up anywhere (we are hoping a tropical crash landing in which case the entire team will be forced to fly to the Caribbean and wait for her there," Mr. Rodriguez said Thursday.

Before losing power, "Scout did pass within two miles of the bow section of the Titanic. We're not sure what this means, but it is pretty incredible to think about."

Although he said it is sad that Scout may not reach Spain as planned and is drifting along far out of reach, the project has also brought great satisfaction to the team, Mr. Rodriguez said.

"All the team members are great friends, now more than ever, and this project has been a great reason for us to work and learn together. In one case, it even changed the academic focus of a team member from civil engineering to marine architecture. Scout made it about 38 percent of the way across the Atlantic, and we're all proud of that, regardless of what happens to Scout in the coming months. We all still follow Scout's journey, and we still call each other to brainstorm and talk. The real question, however, is, 'What are we going to build next?'"

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