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 Thomas will begin the mission of discovery from Newlyn, Cornwall on 22 May, from where the support vessel 'Blue Thunder' will accompany him to an area near the Isles of Scilly, where an oceanic front dividing different water masses can be found.  Ocean fronts - regarded by scientists as biodiversity hotspots and an important focus for marine research and conservation - attract high abundances of plankton, which in turn attract fish and top predators including basking sharks, seabirds, dolphins, porpoises and whales.
 
Thomas will carry sensors to detect marine life and simultaneously monitor the surrounding environment, including temperature and salinity of the water and weather conditions at the sea surface. He will be carrying GoPro cameras to capture images of seabirds and marine macro-litter, and passive acoustic monitors to detect clicks and whistles from echo-locating marine mammals such as harbour porpoise and common dolphin. 
 
He will be assisted in this task of discovery by a sub-surface glider known as Drake, who will use a similar array of sensors to search up to 100 m below the surface.
 
Real-time snapshots of data collected by Thomas and Drake will be transmitted via satellite back to mission control at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, allowing scientists to adapt mission plans depending on what they see. Next month the vehicles will return to base laden with all their pictures and data, which are expected to reveal the extraordinary richness of these waters.  These could help policymakers and scientists assess what additional measures might be needed to protect them.