PORTLAND –  A research mission to study global warming’s effect on Greenland’s glaciers will get under way in a few days, despite failed efforts to find critical pieces of stolen scientific equipment.

Phineas Sprague, owner of Portland Yacht Services on Fore Street, said Tuesday that Sonar Systems Engineering & Assessment Ltd. of England has agreed to ship a pair of transducer heads to replace the ones that were stolen this month from the research vessel Gambo.

The missing transducer heads are valued at about $25,000 but can be used only to send out signals that bounce off the ocean bottom. The signals allow researchers to measure the depth of glaciers.

The effort to find the stolen transducer heads failed Tuesday night. A team of seven Portland Police Department Explorer Scouts searched the hillside behind Portland Yacht Services, the area near the East End bike path and several Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad trains for the devices.

All the Scouts found was an abandoned transient camp.

“I thought it was a good idea to teach the Scouts how to conduct a search, and also because I knew it was important,” said Officer Gayle Petty, the senior lead officer for Portland’s Munjoy Hill neighborhood. “My suspicion is that whoever took the equipment didn’t know what they had and tossed it.”

But the two-hour search turned up nothing.

The Gambo was being outfitted for its mission to Greenland when its captain, Nolween Chauche, discovered that the transducer heads had been removed from the ship.

The theft imperiled the mission, which is being led by Alun Hubbard of Aberystwyth University in Wales. Hubbard is studying the sensitivity of the ice sheet in Greenland to rapid glacial melting.

The transducer heads weigh a total of about 50 pounds and look like black boxes. They were attached to a long coil of black cable.

Now that the equipment will be replaced, Chauche plans to leave Portland next week to meet Hubbard in Greenland in the first week of August.

Sprague hasn’t given up on finding the missing transducers. Sprague and Tom Yale of Yale Cordage are offering a $1,500 reward for their return.

Portland Police Explorers 2671 would have received the reward if they had found the equipment.


Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]