CASE STUDY: PacX - The Pacific Crossing

Mission Location

Pacific Ocean, 2011 - 2012

“Liquid Robotics has made this investment, not only to demonstrate the endurance of Wave Gliders, but more importantly, to ignite everyone’s imagination on what can be discovered and explored when the ocean is networked with sensors. I encourage everyone who has a passion for the ocean to participate in our journey.”

—Bill Vass, CEO, Liquid Robotics

What is PacX?

PacX was an unprecedented voyage; an unmanned crossing of the Pacific Ocean. The purpose: to foster new scientific discoveries in ocean science. Starting in San Francisco in November of 2011, the Wave Gliders set off across the ocean continuously gathering and transmitting valuable ocean data. "Papa Mau" arrived in Australia in November of 2012 and "Benjamin" arrived in February 2013.


On May 15, 2013 “Benjamin”, the Wave Glider named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, was officially awarded the Guinness World Record for the longest journey of an autonomous surface vessel.

Traveling a total of 7939 nautical miles (14,703 km), Benjamin survived shark attacks, overcame severe currents and ended his travels navigating through Cyclone Freda (a Category 4 cyclone) to reach the southernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef. Benjamin arrived at Lady Musgrave Island near Bundaberg, Queensland Australia on 14 February 2013.

The PacX Challenge

As part of the PacX journey, Liquid Robotics invited scientists, students and educators to compete in the PacX Challenge competition, which recognized the most innovative application of the ocean data that was collected. The PacX Challenge Prize consisted of a $50,000 research grant (courtesy of BP, the exclusive oil and gas industry supporter of the PacX Challenge) and six months of Wave Glider time, valued at over $300,000 from Liquid Robotics.

On September 24, 2013 at the Oceans '13 conference in San Diego, Dr. Tracy Villareal of the University of Texas at Austin, was announced as the Grand Prize winner of the PacX Challenge, for his research on a comparison of scientific spatial data collected from U.S. satellite streams to in-situ or surface data collected by the four PacX Wave Gliders.

The work of the other three finalists on ocean respiration, photoplankton ecology and FSLE ridges in the Pacific was also recognized at the event. They were: Dr. J. Michael Beman, University of California, Merced Dr. Nicole Goebel, University of California, Santa Cruz Dr. Elise Ralph, Independent Oceanographer, Boston, MA.

Although the PacX Challenge culminates with the award of the grand prize, the exploration of the Pacific Ocean continues. The PacX data set is still available and you are encouraged to use it.

PacX Challenge Finalists

The PacX Challenge finalists present their research. You can download their research papers here.

The PacX Wave Gliders


Pumped or surface optical fluorometers for detection of hydrocarbons, algae or chloryphyll-a activity, water turbidity, dissolved organic matter or chemical dyes.

Weather Station

Compact multi-purpose weather sensor for temperature, wind speed and direction, and barometric pressure.


Pumped CTD sensor measures water conductivity, temperature and pressure for salinity and speed of sound calculations.

Dissolved Oxygen

Dissolved oxygen (DO) sensor can be attached to pumped CTD for DO measurements.

Wave Sensor

GPS-based embedded wave sensor (on SV3) for wave height, period and directional spectra, or optional enhanced MEMS accelerometer-based wave sensors.