Article Courtesy: floridatoday.com | By: Rick Neale |Originally published July 27, 2015 | Please click here for original article.
If Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen are floating at sea awaiting rescue, as their families and rescuers hope, subtle current-speed changes surrounding the Gulf Stream could drastically alter their drift course — making search efforts more difficult.
“Even if it’s only a quarter of a mile-per-hour difference, well, a quarter of a mile-per-hour in 10 hours starts adding up. You get to be 2 to 3 miles apart, and then you start getting 15 to 20 miles apart. Then you’re 30,” said Mitch Roffer, founder and president of Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service.
“Then if one of those possible trajectories goes into the core of the Gulf Stream, now you’re moving twice as fast,” Roffer said.
“They could be anywhere from 60 to 180 miles away from where they started, just as a function of where they were in the Gulf Stream. That’s a huge difference, between 60 and 180 miles. So you’re talking about a 120-mile variance in your estimate of where they might be,” he said.
ROFFS is a West Melbourne oceanographic consulting company that analyzes currents and pinpoints “convergence zones” along Gulf Stream boundaries where fish are likely to congregate. Roffer’s primary customers are recreational and commercial fishermen.
He said a friend of the boys’ families asked him to help with the search effort, so he analyzed satellite imagery Monday and posted color-coded maps on Facebook and Twitter for use by volunteer rescuers.
Monday morning, Stephanos’ family stated on social media that they believe the boys may have crafted makeshift flotation devices using a white boat engine cover, life jackets and a white cooler.
Assuming the boys ditched their boat on the western side of the Gulf Stream, Roffer predicted they may have floated today to a region from Cape Canaveral northward, extending about 30 miles seaward. He said volunteer pilots flew missions from Melbourne and New Smyrna Beach using his information.
Ted Lund is a FLORIDA TODAY outdoors writer and Cocoa Beach licensed boat captain. He said the boys’ disappearance demonstrates the power of the sea.
“It’s just another illustration that the ocean isn’t inherently dangerous — it’s incredibly unforgiving. And it doesn’t care if you’re a captain of industry or a Cuban refugee. The ocean is just indifferent,” Lund said of the incident.
“And you can find yourself in trouble very quickly,” he said.
Above: (Photo: AP)