WHOI Buoy Operations


On Dec. 11, 1960, a group of scientists, engineers, and technicians from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution set a doughnut-shaped buoy into the waters off Bermuda. Anchored by a line to a pair of used train wheels, the buoy remained in place for 79 days. No record was made of what scientific instruments, if any, were attached to the mooring line; but this modest endeavor, WHOI buoy station #001, marked the beginning of the WHOI Buoy Group—and a new era in physical oceanography.  In the intervening years, countless technical and procedural advances in mooring hardware and instrumentation were made as moorings were fabricated and deployed by the Buoy Group in support of ocean science (for WHOI investigators as well as others in the U.S. research community) - a total now approaching 1500 in number.  In 1989, the monolithic Buoy Group structure was partitioned into a confederation of task specific activities. That structure remains in place today, under an umbrella body that coordinates the responses to support requests from U.S. investigators.  Three groups are presently entered into the confederation to support oceanographic mooring work by U.S. investigators (regardless of affiliation): the shore-side and at-sea arms of the Mooring Operations, Engineering & Field Support Group, and the Field Instrumentation & eXperiment Implementation Team (FIXIT).  Potential users are invited to contact these individual groups (use hot links above) or the umbrella coordinator - whoibuoy.whoi.edu - to discuss their plans.  Typically, potential users work with WHOI Buoy Operation team members to develop a plan and cost estimate for the activity, both of which are incorporated into a proposal from the requesting investigator to a funding agency to support the research. 

Much of the support for the WHOI Buoy Group in its first decades of existence derived from the U.S. Navy but in recent years, the principal source of funding for mooring infrastructure at WHOI has come from the U.S. National Science Foundation.  Following the protocol established several years ago at the time of previous instrumentation acquisitions funded by the NSF, all instrumentation so derived is made available to the U.S. research community with first priority given to projects funded by the NSF.  In the event of scheduling conflicts between NSF projects, the "first come, first serve" rule will be applied (based on when the PIs submit their requests), but only after discussion with the principals to hopefully avoid such situations in the first place. 

Management of loss risk is a topical question given that the cost of "over-the-side insurance" has become prohibitive.  After discussion with NSF program managers, a system of "self insurance" against loss has been initiated.  Under this protocol, borrowers of WHOI Buoy shared-use instrumentation are encouraged to discuss and establish a repair/replacement procedure with the WHOI Buoy Operations team and their program managers before fieldwork is initiated as contingency should equipment be damaged or lost during the course of their field program. 

WHOI Mooring Operations, Engineering, and Field Support Group

This full-service mooring group has the resources to provide complete, one-stop mooring services, including design and fabrication, coordination of field logistics, and at-sea support for all types of operations. The group includes roughly a dozen engineers and technicians from the WHOI departments of Physical Oceanography and Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering, and its members have more than 125 years of collective experience.

Sub-Surface Mooring Operations Group

This group primarily maintains a suite of instrumentation that normally does not penetrate the near-surface layer. They are also responsible for going to sea to deploy and recover these moorings. This includes current, temperature, pressure and conductivity measurements in the deep ocean to full ocean depth. Much of the equipment in this group is available for use through POOL.

Moored Profiler

Invented by WHOI researchers, the Moored Profiler is a newly operational instrument that attaches to a conventional subsurface mooring and travels vertically along the mooring wire to measure the ocean's temperature, salinity, and velocity.