Science, Equipment, and Buoys… Oh my!

Alright guys. Now that we’re done sharing whimsical photos of clouds, it’s time to get serious.


Ok, maybe not that serious.

But this post is oriented more for the science nerds out there. Or for the friends and family who keep asking me just what I do besides drive in circles in all day.

Seriously, I don’t drive in circles. I drive in straight lines. Big difference.

Anyway, this is a PIRATA buoy:


PIRATA stands for Prediction and Moored Array in the Atlantic (don’t ask me how). The program was jointly launched in the mid-1990s by France, Brazil, and the USA as the start of an initiative to study ocean-atmosphere interactions in the Atlantic.



This region has a huge influence on the development of weather patterns which can cause the formation of hurricanes, droughts, and floods along the coasts of the Americas and Africa. So accurate forecasting in this area is quite valuable.

The buoys we were working on make up the NE corner of the array and run down 23 degrees West, from the North Atlantic to the Equator. Each buoy is equipped with a number of sensors to monitor different elements of the ocean and atmosphere interface.


Our role in this project is to service these buoys annually and deploy other hydrographic equipment to collect additional water data in the area.

The primary instrument we use for data collections is the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth – This acronym actually does make sense). We stop the ship, sit on station, and deploy the CTD over the side to collect water samples at various depths.


A CTD deployment during a full moon. Yes, the instrument is in the water and I’m really just showing off the cable it’s connected to.


When it’s time to service a buoy, the operation takes an entire day. First we drive up alongside the old buoy in the water and bring it aboard. Then the next few hours are dedicated to pulling up the entire mooring line, around 4000 meters!

Once that’s all done and cleaned up we prepare a shiny new buoy to be redeployed in its place. The process is the exact opposite of recovery: first we put the new buoy in the water with all of its instruments, then we start spooling all of the line into the water, finally we launch the anchor!


And sometimes the sky reflects how we feel after the end of a buoy day.

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