Gliders -3 Open Ocean Gliders

Gliders -3 Open ocean Gliders

I’m McKensie Daugherty, your host for On the Ocean. As we’ve discussed in previous weeks, gliders are incredible powerful instrument systems that allow oceanographers to probe the ocean remotely for long periods of time and covering long distances. But sometimes, as with many scientific instruments, there are some problems scientists have to solve. Gliders move across the open ocean, meaning they are subject to a harsh environment, one with many potential dangers to their mission. Gliders use passive motion, meaning they do not usually use any motorized power to move through the ocean. So, when the direction the ocean is flowing changes, the glider has to move along with it, and large changes can potentially throw it far off course. In fact, this can lead to a glider washing ashore in incorrect places. In an effort to keep this from happening, gliders can be formatted with a propeller that uses battery power to help escape from a strong current. Since the battery life determines the length of the mission, using the propeller is a last resort option. Correct ballasting of the glider is critically important to its ability to function. Ballast measurements before deployment are set to the salinity that is expected at the mission sites. However, if that salinity somehow changes, perhaps due to freshwater runoff from a river, the glider may have difficulty coming to the surface. Another problem scientists had to get creative to solve is the animals living in the open ocean. Remoras are fishes that follow large cruising animals in the ocean by attaching to them. When they sucker on to gliders they affect the weight of glider, making them heavy and unable to move correctly. A nylon mesh stocking was created to fit over the glider, discouraging remoras from attaching. Although there are many potential problems from working in the open ocean, the scientists responsible for those instruments do their best to accommodate and get the most accurate and relevant data possible. This has been On the Ocean, a program made possible by the Department of Oceanography and a production of KAMU-FM on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station. For more information and links, please go to and click On the Ocean.


More Information and Links:

Contributing Professor Dr. Steve DiMarco:

Page for Gliders that gather Hypoxia data: