Lifeguard Peter Cherry with the sophisticated submersible vehicle washed up on Glen Eden Beach at North Peregian.
HELLO, University of Sydney? We've found your $350,000 yellow submarine.
Researchers at the prestigious facility couldn't believe their ears when the Daily rang to tell them their unmanned underwater vehicle had washed up on the Sunshine Coast yesterday- two weeks after vanishing off Moreton Island. "I can't believe it's up there, I'll be on the next plane up," a relieved Dr Stefan Williams yelled.
Early morning walkers and lifeguards were the first to discover the slightly damaged mystery vessel on Glen Eden Beach. Investigations by the Daily revealed the yellow submarine was named Sirius and belonged to the University's Australian Centre for Field Robotics.
It uses a high resolution stereo camera system and obstacle avoidance sonar to survey marine areas and study the impacts of climate change. The vehicle's small size and ability to travel close to the seabed means it is able to explore areas that would otherwise be inaccessible to researchers.
It is the only one of its kind in Australia.
The Daily tracked down Dr Williams, the project manager and associate professor with ACFR, after identifying the vessel through the university's insignia and motto on one of its panels. "We were a bit concerned, I've had it for six years, it's been all around the country and it's never gone missing," Dr Williams said. "We were starting to think we would have to build another one."
Sirius was last used by scientists from the University and CSIRO to map out kelp and coral on the sea-floor east of Moreton Island as part of a large national mapping program.
But before it could be recovered, something went wrong and it dived out of sight. "We believe either a pressure housing flooded or a change in water density caused it to sink," Dr Williams said. Brisbane Water Police projected the vessel was most likely to wash up around North Stradbroke, or as far south as the Gold Coast and Tweed.
Coast Guard Brisbane conducted an extensive sea and air search last weekend, covering hundreds of square nautical miles of ocean. "We weren't even looking at the Sunshine Coast. We've been in contact with every other yacht club, surf life saving club and coast guards around where we thought it would end up," Dr Williams said. He will travel to the Coast this week with his team to dismantle and retrieve the Sirius.
Sunshine Coast Council lifeguard Peter Cherry, one of the first on the scene yesterday, said rough swell must have washed the vessel in overnight. "From a distance it looked like a small boat, but the closer we go we realise it's made for going underwater," he said. "It was getting a lot of attention."
Mr Cherry said it was the strangest item he's found on the beach in all his years as a lifeguard. "We've had a dinghy or two wash up but never anything like this." A council crew removed the vessel from the beach and took it away for safe keeping.
What make Sirius so special?
It can dive to depths of up to 800m and map out a 3D model of the ocean-floor by taking 7200 pictures per hour. It's 2 metres long, 1.5 metres high and 1.5 metres wide, weighing approximately 200kg, Maximum speed on 1m/s
Features include a high resolution stereo camera pair and strobes, a 330 kHz multibeam sonar, depth and conductivity/temperature sensors, a 1200 kHz Doppler Velocity Log including a compass with integrated roll and pitch sensors, an Aanderaa Optode measuring dissolved oxygen concentrations, a fluorometer to measure coloured dissolved organic matter and chlorophyll-a and backscatter.