The Slocum mission

In April of 1989, the magazine, Oceanography, published the vision of the famous oceanographer Henry Stommel. He dreamt of a world where autonomous buoyancy driven underwater vehicles surveyed the world’s oceans. The peer-reviewed article titled “The Slocum Mission” chronicles a stunning near future where autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) harvest subsurface data on an unprecedented scale and frequency.

The Slocum float is named after Joshua Slocum, the first person to sail single-handedly around the world at mean speed of 1 knot. Like Slocum, the sailor, Slocum, the AUV, can travel long distances at almost the same speed. Unlike the sailor, this AUV explores the deep seas while gliding thousands of kilometres through various bodies of water.

Stommel, the oceanographer, was inspired by Slocum, the adventurer. In turn, Stommel inspired younger oceanographers and pioneering ocean engineers to design, build, and operate long distance, high endurance gliders. Three decades after he published his foresight of fleets of sentinel Slocums circumnavigating the globe, Stommel continues to inspire researchers to dream, innovate, and develop new methods to sustainably monitor the world’s ocean bodies and seas. These innovative methods to explore the ocean bodies with marine robots increasingly contribute to widespread ocean observations for science, industry, and regulatory agencies around the world.