PORTLAND – The theft of a critical piece of scientific equipment from Portland’s waterfront is jeopardizing a research mission to Greenland to study the effect of global warming on the country’s glaciers.

Phineas Sprague, owner of Portland Yacht Services on Fore Street, is offering a $1,000 reward for the return of two transducer heads for a side scanning sonar.

The transducer head units, which are valued at $30,000, were stolen this month from the Gambo, a research vessel that has been docked at Portland Yacht Services while the ship is being outfitted for its mission to Greenland in July.

“It’s basically a high-tech piece of scientific research equipment, which is really important to their mission. They can’t go to Greenland to do their work,” Sprague said. “I’m embarrassed for the city.”

The research mission is being led by Alun Hubbard of Aberystwyth University in Wales.

Hubbard, who is in Greenland, could not be reached Sunday. On his website, however, Hubbard says his current work involves modeling to predict the trajectory of glaciers and ice masses in order to understand how they will affect society as global warming intensifies.

He most recent research work has taken him to Greenland to investigate the sensitivity of the ice sheet to rapid glacial melting.

The 45-foot Gambo, whose captain is Nolwenn Chauche, is still docked in Portland.

Sprague said the transducers would have little value to anyone but the research team.

Though Portland police have been notified about the theft, Sprague said he is more interested in having the equipment returned than he is in having the suspect caught.

“My hope is that we can get the community to look for this. My fear is that the person who took it has thrown it away,” Sprague said. “I am asking the community to look behind their fences.”

The transducers look like black boxes. They were attached to a long coil of black cable.

The transducers work like radar, sending out a signal that bounces off the ocean bottom and that allows the ship’s crew to measure the depth of the glaciers.

“It is absolutely essential to their mission,” Sprague said.

Anyone with information about the stolen items should call Portland Yacht Services at 774-1067 or the Portland Police Department at 874-8575.


Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]