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recovered buoy on Delaware II's aft deck
The six-foot diameter buoy, known as buoy M, lashed to Delaware II's aft deck. ODAS marked on the side stands for Ocean Data Acquisition System. Credit: NOAA
NERACOOS buoy and deck crew
Deck crew who brought the NERACOOS buoy aboard (left to right):  Fisherman Jim Pontz, Lead Fisherman Todd Wilson, Ensign Junie Cassone, Chief Bosun Adrian Martyn-Fisher, General Vessel Assistant Chris Taylor, and Skilled Fisherman Steve Flavin. Credit: NOAA
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Ocean Data Buoy Recovered

Posted 12/15/2011

Contacts: Tom Shyka, NERACOOS, 207-650-9766, tom@neracoos.org
Shelley Dawicki, NEFSC, 508-495-2378, Shelley.Dawicki@noaa.gov

A critical ocean data buoy that had been adrift for fifteen days in the Gulf of Maine has been recovered by the NOAA Ship Delaware II.

On November 20, one of the Northeastern Regional Association of Ocean Observing System’s (NERACOOS) buoys separated from its mooring and started to drift. This buoy, known as buoy M, is located in Jordan Basin approximately 60 miles south of Bar Harbor, Maine.  Buoy M, along with six other NERACOOS buoys in the Gulf of Maine, have been collecting critical ocean and weather data for nearly a decade; the data is relied on by mariners, the US Coast Guard, fishers, researchers, weather forecasters and many others.

Although the six-foot diameter buoy was adrift, its sensors and computers continued to operate. Its location and other ocean and weather data were transmitted to the University of Maine, which owns and operates the buoy. “We were able to carefully track the buoy and send position updates to the US Coast Guard as we planned a recovery cruise,” said Dr. Neal Pettigrew, director of the Physical Oceanography Group at the University of Maine.

The University of Maine contacted the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC) to inquire whether any NOAA research vessels were planning operations in the area. The NOAA Ship Delaware II was conducting fisheries and ecosystem research in the vicinity and a plan to retrieve the buoy was developed.  Just after midnight on December 5, and in rough seas, the crew of the Delaware II recovered buoy M. The vessel then completed its science objectives before returning to home port in Woods Hole December 8.

“The Northeast Fisheries Science Center has been engaged in and supportive of NERACOOS since the beginning, and we were happy to be able to cooperate and retrieve the mooring,” said Dr. Jon Hare, head of the NEFSC’s Oceanography Branch. “One of NOAA’s strengths is ship-based operations, a strength that complements those of NERACOOS very well.”  

Dr. Ru Morrison, Executive Director of NERACOOS, said, “This is a great example of the collaboration between NERACOOS and the Fisheries Service. There are only a few vessels in the region that could have conducted this mission, and we are grateful that the Fisheries Service was able to send their ship to recover this valuable buoy.”

The University of Maine will service the buoy and repair damaged components at its facility in Orono. As soon as the repairs are complete, buoy M will be returned to its station in Jordan Basin to continue collecting critical ocean and weather data.

NERACOOS is non-profit dedicated to providing the public with access to oceanographic and weather information on the Northeast. It is a regional entity of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System. Information from the ocean is collected hourly by an array of moored buoys, land-based radar, and satellites. This information, along with model information of waves and currents and specialized ocean forecasts, are made available on the NERACOOS website to mariners, fishermen, researchers, educators, managers, and anyone who shares an interest in the Northeast coastal and ocean waters. 

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