Robots ROAM the Antarctic Marginal Ice Zone for the First Time

Annually, 18 million km2 of ice grows and melts around Antarctica. We have limited knowledge of the ocean within, and at the edge, of this enormous sea-ice impacted domain of the Southern Ocean. The surface ocean processes are poorly quantified due to a lack of observations made at the right time and space scales. These scale gaps have been recognised by the science community as a key link towards improving our understanding of the sensitivity of the Southern Ocean to climate change. Robotic Observations and Modelling of the Marginal Ice Zone (ROAM-MIZ) is a multi-institutional initiative to observe the seasonal cycle of the upper ocean in the marginal ice zone in the South Atlantic using sensors mounted on an array of ocean robots, such as gliders, autonomous surface vehicles (ASV) and buoys.  This initiative is led by Assoc. Prof. Sebastiaan Swart of the University of Gothenburg, who is also co-chair of SOOS and co-chair of the SOFLUX Capability Working Group. The colloborative nature of the project means that many more scientific measurements can be collected and analysed, compared to a single institutional project. This is seen as a real strength of ROAM-MIZ.

The ROAM-MIZ team have had a busy year with a summer (2018-2019), winter (2019) and currently the spring (2019) voyages to deploy an array of platforms at and in the ice in the Weddell Sea.


Left: glider ready for deployment in the Southern Ocean (Photo: Louise Biddle). Right: sailbuoy being towed back to the ROAM-MIZ ship (Photo: Martin Mohrmann).

The summer deployment saw two gliders and a Sailbuoy ASV deployed at the Weddell Sea ice-edge. In July this year, mid-winter in the Antarctic, further deployments of a glider, a Sailbuoy , two APL SWIFT buoys (Surface Wave Instrument Float with Tracking) and an ice mass balance buoys were deployed at the sea ice edge.

Currently, the team is heading south again for a spring cruise to deploy Seagliders, Sailbuoys, SWIFT buoys and another ice mass balance buoy.  


Left: ROAM-MIZ team ready to sail with Sailbuoys, APL SWIFT buoys and ice mass balance buoys on board the RV SA Agulhas II (Photo: Louise Biddle). Right: Sailbuoy in the Weddell Sea marginal ice zone (Photo: Louise Biddle).

Live mission information including real time data visualisation from these deployments is available here.

These cruises are made possible by the South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP) and the current South African led SCALE experiment (


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