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Where's Waldo? Lab Loses Poorly Named Robot

Alright, so some of you might be a tad confused. Waldo is an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) owned and since misplaced by the Mote Marine Laboratory. The robot is equipped with a BreveBuster, a device that can automatically detect the presence of red tide in the water. Waldo had been patrolling the waters off Southwest Florida for five days looking for signs of red tide and sending signals to satellites every two hours between August 26 and 31.

Unfortunately for Mote, Waldo stopped responding. BreveBuster designer and Mote scientist Dr. Gary Kirkpatrick said the Laboratory currently has two theories as to Waldo's whereabouts: "It could have had a major leak or malfunction and sank to the bottom and is just sitting there. Or, it could have had a malfunction with its computer or its communication system and is floating on the surface but unable to tell us that it's there."

However, Kirkpatrick is worried that someone may have found the device while boating and taken it, not realizing what it was. This is why Mote is offering a $500 "No-Questions-Asked" reward for the return of the robot.

Mote said in a statement last week that Waldo has been "on the job" since 2005, through a grant from Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Two additional AUVs, Nemo and Carmen, joined the fleet in 2006 through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Each AUV costs about $100,000, plus another $30,000 to equip it with a red tide detector.

If you have information about Waldo (or know where it is), you should contact Mote on (941) 388-4441 x 271. If not, feel free to insert a "where's Waldo?" joke here.