The Scarlet Knight, the first submersible robot glider to cross the Atlantic, made its formal entrance into the port of Baiona Dec. 9, received by Spanish and American government officials, school children and the people of the town.
Baiona, a resort town of 11,000 in Galicia, is where the Pinta, one of Columbus's ships, made landfall at the end of the explorer's first voyage to America. It was thus the first town in the Old World to hear about the New World. A replica of the Pinta is docked at the municipal pier here. A replica of the Scarlet Knight now resides in the harbormaster's building and will eventually be part of a maritime museum.
Spain's minister of development, Jose Blanco, formally handed the glider over to an American delegation led by Richard Spinrad, assistant administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Jerry Miller, senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Dean Robert M. Goodman of Rutgers' School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, were also part of the delegation, and made brief remarks.
Spinrad told a gathering in the harbormaster's building that he had challenged Scott Glenn, professor of marine science in the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, to send a glider across the ocean in 2006. "Of course, I must admit that I made that challenge over a couple of bottles of wine in Lithuania," Spinrad said, referring to a meeting during an academic conference in that country. "But I have another challenge now: to send a glider on a circumnavigation. And I'm sober now."
A few minutes later, Goodman said, "On behalf of my colleagues, the guys and gals who have to pull this off, we accept your challenge."
Miller, in his remarks, singled out the Scarlet Knight's contribution to meeting that need. "It is especially gratifying that this craft -- which is sharing with the world everything it learned on its historic voyage -- is the epitome of the kind of transparency the Obama administration is committed to, in the firm belief that the best way for all of us to move ahead is to share information for the common good of all mankind."
Mayor Jesus Vasquez Almuina said the Scarlet Knight was as important to his town as the Pinta, and New Jersey was as important to Baiona as any part of the New World. "Baiona and New Jersey will be linked forever after this moment," the mayor said.
Later, several hundred fifth- and sixth-graders, teachers, parents and citizens gathered to wait for the submersible to come ashore. While a small boat brought the glider into the dock from the M/V Investigador, whose crew recovered the glider last week. The ship gave three long blasts on her horn, the people cheered, and Galician bagpipers struck up a tune. The people lined the old fortress wall as the Scarlet Knight was pulled on its trolley up to a dais on the yacht club's lawn. School children, ignoring their teacher's orders not to touch the glider, caressed it, pulled on it, patted it, moved its rudder back and forth, and ignored the speakers.
Among the honored guests was Doug Webb, a founder of Webb Research Inc., now Teledyne-Webb Research. He designed the Slocum Electric glider, of which the Scarlet Knight is the latest version. Webb, 80 years old and hard of hearing, did not speak at the ceremony, and was not interviewed by reporters. But at the end, when all the kids, their parents, the reporters and researchers had gone, he stayed a moment with the Scarlet Knight. "Quite a day," he said. "Quite a day."
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