The officials said a fishing boat bearing St. Petersburg resident Adam Carr and friends Richard Hubbard and Chris Sanders were fishing Saturday afternoon when the Slocum glider, which measures water temperature and salinity and surfaces to transmit data, came to the top of the water 40 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times reported Tuesday.
"It looked like an unmanned aircraft,'' Carr said. "We spun back around to see what it was.''
Carr, 40, said he and his friends loaded the object onto their boat with the intention of trying to track down its owner Monday and parked it with his boat at his canal-side dock.
Meanwhile, officials at the university were trying to discover why the glider's transmissions seemed to indicate that it was headed for St. Petersburg. The glider led officials to Carr's dock Sunday and they reclaimed the equipment.
Chad Lembke, project engineer at USF's Center for Ocean Technology, said he and other team members are working on ways to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.
"It will say something like, 'If found before such and such date, please do not disturb.' That way on the off chance that it did become non-functioning and is drifting around, that would be tremendous if someone brought it back," he said. "But if it is still performing science, we prefer that it be left alone.''