Stratus Buoy Deployment and Recovery

As I mentioned in the start of this post, our current project involved recovering an old oceanographic research buoy and deploying a new one in its place. This is an annual recurrence and the buoy is part of what is called Stratus project, due to the persistent stratus clouds in this area.

Stratus clouds are low level clouds shaped as a sheet or blanket. More information than you ever wanted to know about them can be found at their wikipedia page, here.

And information about the Stratus project and buoy can be found here.

There isn’t really too much to a buoy deployment or recovery, so we had a lot of transiting for just a few days of buoy operations. But they were not wasted days. A lot of smaller instrumentation was deployed from the ship during those transits.

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This is a drifter. It’s thrown off the fantail (the back of the ship), and much as the name suggests it drifts along on the surface of the ocean. Its position is tracked via satellite, and through the continual monitoring of the hundreds of these bad boys which have been deployed, surface ocean currents can be observed on a global scale. More information about them here.

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And this is an Argo float. Similar to the drifter, it also moves with the currents, however it also has an internal bladder which can be used to dive down to depths of 2000m. There are also a number of sensors attached to it which monitor salinity and temperature of the water. When at the surface, the float can then transmit its position and data back to labs via satellite. More information about these are found here.

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Then the day finally arrived to deploy the buoy.

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First, a section of the bulwark (the side railing of the weather deck) had to be removed in order the make more space.

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I also dragged myself out of my rack to watch all the excitement, but I may have been a bit early.

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I did get to catch a glorious sunrise though!

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Finally, with all the initial prep done, everyone gathered together for a quick review of the procedures and a safety brief.

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Then the cranes were fired up and the fun began!

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Once the buoy was in the water it was almost time for me to go on watch. Where I basically just stared very intently at this screen for four hours:

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This is the vessel’s Dynamic Positioning screen, a system which I’ll be talking about more in depth in a later post. I’m preparing right now to be taking an advanced training course for this soon.

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By the end of my watch we were deploying these yellow fiberglass floats which are used to stabilize the mooring in the water.

And the anchor was deployed before I could make it down on deck for a photo, but I did manage to catch the recovery of the old buoy!

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Honestly, and logically, recovery was simply the opposite procedure as the deployment. First we collected the old glass floats on deck.

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Then we hooked the buoy itself with one of the cranes and brought it on board as well.

Once the mooring line itself, and all attached instruments, were recovered and properly secured, then it was onward to Arica, Chile!

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