Skip to content

This site is using cookies to record anonymous visitor statistics and enhance your user experience.   OK | Find out more

Into the blue logo

Into the blue Liverpool

4-7 October 2016
Liverpool Waterfront, Princes Parade, Liverpool, L3 4BB

As part of NERC's celebration of science, Into the blue, our Royal Research Ship Discovery visited Liverpool to show off the amazing environmental science she does.

She will be moored on the Liverpool Waterfront - external link for four days of events, including school tours.

Each evening, RRS Discovery was bathed in light with accompanying effects, showcasing the stunning profile of this state-of-the-art research ship against the backdrop of the Liverpool waterfront and skyline.

RRS Discovery arriving in Liverpool

Arrival in Liverpool

The Royal Research Ship Discovery arrived in the Mersey at 08:00 on 4 October to show off the capability of her state-of-the-art propulsion systems by rotating 360 degrees in the middle of the river, before coming alongside the Cruise Terminal.

RRS Discovery has visited Liverpool before, but this time she brought along unique marine science equipment to showcase the science she undertakes on behalf of the UK and its environmental science community.

She received a wonderful warm welcome to the city from local residents and ship-lovers alike.

A scientist showing school children some fish

Tours of RRS Discovery

Members of the public were invited to join us for an exclusive tour of the vessel to see the hands-on science taking place and view amazing technology which is used to do world class marine science. Visitors also met our world-leading scientists and ship's crew, who were on hand to explain how marine science is done, and saw film footage from some of the most recent science missions.

Many thanks to all those who toured the ship.

RRS Discovery illuminated on the Mersey

Learn all about gliders - underwater robots launched from the RRS Discovery - with this infographic. Click the image below to view it full-size (810KB).

Infographic - the text of which is available to screen readers below

Underwater gliders

Gliders are underwater robots used to collect data up to a kilometre beneath the ocean's surface.

Gliders collect data about the 'ocean column', the whole expanse of water between the sea surface and the seabed. They take measurements including temperature, pressure, water density, salinity and oxygen content.

They can be used all year round, unlike ships, which are mostly used only during the summer months.

Instead of a conventional propeller, gliders use an engine to change the buoyancy of the vehicle, which makes it oscillate from the surface to 1,000 metres depth and back.

Gliders use very little energy and are cheap to run. They move slowly though. If researchers need a faster, higher-powered glider, they would use a bigger robot submarine like an Autosub.

Gliders upload data via satellite to researchers whenever they reach the surface, typically every six hours.

How gliders work

Ocean gliders move by changing their buoyancy using oil-filled bladders. Oil is pumped into or out of the bladders to change the glider's volume, causing it to ascend or descend.

  1. The glider descends by pumping oil into its internal bladder. When this is full, the craft is slightly heavier than the water around it (less buoyant) and the front of the craft is slightly heavier than the back of the craft. This causes the glider to tip downwards, which makes the wings drive it forward.

    Side fins act like aircraft wings - converting vertical force into forward motion. Sensors take measurements of ocean conditions.

  2. The glider ascends by transferring the oil into the external bladder. The front end becomes lighter than the back end and the glider is slightly lighter than the water about it (more buoyant). This causes the craft to tip upwards, which also makes the wings drive it forwards and the craft rises in the water.

    The tail fin stabilises the craft and prevents it from drifting off course. At the surface, the antenna transmits data to satellites. It also checks its position using GPS data and downloads new instructions.

  3. It can increase the pitch of its ascent, or descent, by sliding its battery pack backwards and forwards to alter its centre of gravity.

    Sliding the battery forwards increases the dive angle. Sliding the battery backwards increases the angle of ascent. The battery can also be moved from side to side, causing the glider to roll, which helps to steer the glider.

Our gliders

Slocum G2

The yellow Slocum gliders are operated by the Marine Autonomous and Robotic Systems (MARS) group and are owned by the National Oceanography Centre.

  • Weight: 54kg
  • Vehicle length: 1.5m
  • Diameter: 22cm
  • Max endurance: 12 months
  • Max depth: 1km
  • Max range: 6,000km

Seaglider 'Talisker'

The 'Talisker' is owned by the Scottish Association for Marine Science, which names all its gliders after Scottish places.

  • Weight: 52kg
  • Vehicle length: 1.8m
  • Diameter: 30cm
  • Max endurance: 10 months
  • Max depth: 1km
  • Max range: 4,600km

Ocean gliders use so little power they can operate for months at a time. One glider made a 7,200km transatlantic crossing that lasted 221 days, using the equivalent power of just three Christmas tree lights.

Where are our ships?

Our research ships travel the world undertaking environmental science expeditions. You can see where they are located 24/7 with our online ship tracker - external link.

RRS Discovery's journey to London

To mark our 50th anniversary in 2015, RRS Discovery travelled from her home in Southampton to London, passing through the Thames Barrier and under Tower Bridge. Find out about the research she does and her unique journey to the capital in the video below.