Follow the Voyage: FTV Surface Velocity Program Drifter Buoy Launch

By Meredith Emery
Captain's log posts: TS KENNEDY
Massachusetts Maritime Academy
Cape Cod, Massachusetts

The 2016 cruise introduced another exceptional opportunity for the cadets. In cooperation with the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), Physical Oceanographic Division, the Global Drifter Program, ( (which is another program which falls under NOAA), the cadets were provided a drifting buoy to deploy during their cruise.

These are satellite tracked surface drifting buoys which observe currents, sea surface temperatures, atmospheric pressure, winds and salinity. ( How exciting for the cadets to be a part of such and effort in environmental data collection.

Buoy Launch Team

Photograph by VOS PMO Rob Niemeyer

Drift Buoy Launch Team:

On the evening of January 27th, at approximately 1900, a group of Cadets from the TS KENNEDY assisted the NOAA, National Weather Service representative, Rob Niemeyer, in deploying a Surface Velocity Program (SVP) Drifter Buoy in the southern Pacific at approximately 2 degrees North Latitude, 82 West Longitude. A second drifter buoy by a second group of cadets was deployed the next morning at sunrise at a position of approximately 5 North Latitude, 83 West Longitude.

status of global drifter array

The drifter buoys are a high-tech version of the "message in a bottle". It consists of a surface buoy and a subsurface drogue (sea anchor), attached by a long, thin tether. The buoy measures temperature and other properties, and has a transmitter to send the data to passing satellites. The drogue/sea anchor dominates the total area of the instrument and is centered at a depth of 15 meters beneath the sea surface so that the dominant buoy drift is influenced by the ocean currents, not the surface wind flow and waves. The Drifter Buoys can provide over 400 days of information to analysts ashore. The hopes of the two drifter buoys deployed by the Cadets of the TS KENNEDY are that they will provide valuable information to analysts about the "El Nino" located in the southern pacific. El Nino is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. Weather is important to all that go to sea and it is regularly monitored by the bridge cadets. This special project by the NOAA emphasizes the importance of marine vessels to monitor daily weather conditions both in their current location as well as the weather along the planned course. The cadets on the TS KENNEDY are trained to monitor weather during their watches, as weather affects the ships course.On the bridge temperature and pressure measurements along with observing clouds, reading surface maps, and observing waves are among daily watch activities. These observations are forwarded to NOAA everyday so that the information can be shared with other ships traveling in the same area.

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