Our Ocean Blog

Taking on Drifter Buoys For the Pacific Ocean

Before the Blue Planet Odyssey start on 10 January, ten drifter buoys were loaded onto yachts in Key West, Florida, as part of the Odyssey science program, ready for deployment in the Pacific Ocean.

The Odyssey sailors and Shaun Nolk from NOAA in Key West

The Odyssey sailors and Shaun Nolk from NOAA in Key West

Odyssey sailors have already successfully deployed drifter buoys in the Atlantic during the Atlantic Odyssey in 2013 and 2014, as well as during the Northern Route of the Blue Planet Odyssey in the summer of 2014, when a buoy was deployed in the current off South Greenland.

The start of the Southern Route of the Blue Planet Odyssey which left from Key West, Florida, on 10th January 2015, marks a new opportunity as the yachts will be sailing across remote parts of the Pacific Ocean where drifter buoys are less frequently deployed.

One of the most important elements of the Odyssey science program is our partnership with UNESCO-IOC, JCOMMOPS (the joint technical commission of the World Meteorological Organization), and NOAA (the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

As an international organisation, UNESCO-IOC works with national institutes such as NOAA to manage the global span of the drifter buoy program.

The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), part of NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, is located in Miami, Florida, which gave scientist Shaun Nolk, who manages the drifter buoy program, a great opportunity to bring the buoys directly to the boats in Key West.

Shaun met with the sailors and explained the importance of the program, and how the buoys, once deployed, automatically gather data on various factors including barometric pressure, salinity and wind, as well as SST (sea surface temperatures).

‘There is a wide application for this data,’ Shaun explained. ‘It is important to scientists and meteorologists, but it is also used to help calibrate satellites, track marine debris and even assist with search and rescue operations. So we are really thrilled to partner with you.’

Shaun Nolk explains how to deploy the buoys

Shaun Nolk explains how to deploy the buoys

The ten buoys were divided up between the boats, and carefully stored above and below decks. As long as the buoys remain dry, they will not activate until put into the sea and immersed in water. They will be deployed in the Pacific Ocean between Panama and the Marquesas, at regular intervals on the 5 degree lines of longitude.

But this is just the start.

‘Obviously this is only leg one through four of your world-wide expedition,’ Shaun added. ‘So hopefully we can have drifters sent to you at some of the various ports along the way, and continue this as you make your journey across the globe.’

Norm, Claudia and their sons Mirko (11) and Martin (9) load two buoys onboard Tahawus

Norm, Claudia and their sons Mirko (11) and Martin (9) load two buoys onboard Tahawus

 To read more about the Drifter Buoy Program

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