Federal researchers lose pricey new submersible on first deployment – British Columbia

Researchers with Fisheries and Oceans Canada are hoping their fancy new oceanic surveying tool reappears, but there’s been no sign of the submersible glider since July 28, and it’s likely been lost.

The Slocum glider, manufactured by U.S. company Teledyne Marine, looks something like a two-metre yellow torpedo, but it’s slow-moving and propelled by diving and rising in the ocean, rather than a propeller. It’s outfitted with various high-tech sensors and equipment to take measurements in the ocean.

“Your first reaction is, you know, shit happened and it will report — you know, we’ll get it next time,” said Charles Hannah, a research scientist with DFO who heads up the program that deployed the glider. “You kind of get used to losing equipment in the ocean.”

The missing glider looks like a yellow torpedo with little wings, but it doesn’t rely on a propeller to travel through the ocean. The missing unit could dive 1,000 metres. (Rhianna Burnham)

“There was absolutely no evidence that anything was wrong, until it didn’t call home,” said Hannah.

Perfect deployment

The missing glider was launched four days before it went missing more than 300 kilometres west of Vancouver Island.

Tammy Norgard, DFO program head for the large offshore marine protection program and her team were on a research mission gathering data on seamounts — mountains submerged entirely beneath the surface of the sea. They launched the glider for Hannah’s team and planned to get some data for their own project, before it was set to bear west out into the North Pacific.

“We had to stay beside it for — I think we were out there for about three hours,” said Norgard, adding that the gliders are pretty new to Canada’s Pacific region and that she had never worked with one before.

“There’s quite a procedure, quite a long procedure that we followed.”

Norgard’s team soon left the area and only heard much later that the Slocum was missing in action.

A team of researchers rode alongside the glider for hours after its launch before leaving it to proceed with its data gathering in the deep Pacific Ocean. (Sacha-Bea Robert)

‘It’s a risk that we take’

“I was feeling really bad for them, because it’s a big deal to put this out and these things happen,” she said.

“We send a lot of high-tech, fancy units into the ocean. I mean, it’s a risk that we take.”

It’s unclear exactly what the glider cost — they’re outfitted with a wide range of sensors and Teledyne…

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