colored sketch of oceanographic research vessel

Satellite-tracked Drifters

View of upper deck with equipment crane On the upper deck of the vessel, equipment is stored for use during the cruise. In the background you can see a crane used for moving heavy objects. The other objects are satelllite-tracked drifters that follow parcels of water and report their position through the satellite system so oceanographers have a record of where the water and its associated plankton have been drifting.

sketch of satellite-drifter underwater

The satellite-tracked drifter consists of a 10 meter-long by 1 meter-diameter "holey-sock" of strong nylon cloth held open by a series of steel hoops. The center is set at the depth where scientists want to monitor water movements. The sock is connected by the necessary length of cable to a surface buoy which transmits its location to the GOES satellite system. The strobe light is to warn ships of its presence. The transponder and strobe are battery operated and can last many weeks; because they are expensive, these drifters are usually deployed for specific experiments and then recovered by the ship. The surface buoy has a low profile to minimize the influence of wind on where the drifter goes.

A Satellite-tracked drifter being prepared to go overboard On the aft (back) deck, Jim Manning and Bob Campbell prepare a satellite-tracked drifter for deployment overboard.

Preparing a CTD for deployment Before deploying a satellite-tracked drifter, cables must be stretched out to make sure they are not tangled and that the drifter will be suspended at the correct depth.

From here, continue with:
  • Return to Cruise Overview
  • Cruise Preparations: Planning a research cruise.
  • Current Meter Mooring: Reporting water data via satellite.
  • MOCNESS: Multi-level underwater net sampling system for collecting plankton.
  • Plankton Research: How plankton are stored and studied on board.
  • Conductivity, Temperature, Depth Testing: Obtaining water samples to determine conductivity, temperature, and depth.
  • Links to more research-related sites, as well as detailed, live data from buoys in the Gulf of Maine.
  • On Location Home Page