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Ocean Drifters Project

Results of GOMI-B-WET Drifter Project: While there are a variety of “results” to come out of this GOMI-B-WET project, the drifter data collected is an important outcome and is described here.  While GOMI has built and deployed dozens of drifters prior to the B-WET project (2013-2015), we focus here on the B-WET-funded units (2015-2016). All of the data is permanently stored in a NOAA database and is readily available on a public website.  Since the B-WET drifters were deployed in different batches at different times of the year, they are described in three sections as follows:


Late 2015/Early 2016 are displayed on a Google map here.

A total of 16 drifter deployments were made in this period. Two deployed by River Valley Charter School on Oct 14th off Gloucester came ashore within a few weeks at Star Island and Rye, NH, respectively.  When they were refurbished and redeployed later in the year, they survived a longer track before one came ashore on the outer Cape and one failing off Cape Cod after several weeks. In a multi-institutional collaboration between Harborlight Montessori Schools, Salem Sound Coastwatch, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, and the Mass Division of Marine Fisheries, another unit was deployed in Mass Bay on December 18th to simulate the track of recently spawned cod larvae, survived several months, and travel half way across the Atlantic Ocean. A similar unit, this time involving Kennebunk High School, was deployed in another potential spawning ground near the southern portion of Jeffrey’s ledge in January 2016 and arrived just to the north of Georges Bank a few months

later. A large cluster of 10 drifters were deployed within Cape Cod Bay under the direction of Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary with the help of multiple Cape Cod schools as well as Middlesex Community College during the turtle stranding season.  Nearly all of them oscillated with the tide for a week or two before coming ashore at a variety of places ranging from Barnstable Harbor to Truro.


Early 2016 are displayed here.


The next set of drifters was all deployed off the North Shore. Salem Sound Coastwatch (SSCW) succeeded in designing and deploying a few eco-friendly drogue drifters using a variety of material including some bamboo frame and mushroom flotation. While the first three deployments were short due to drogues running aground on offshore ledges, the drogues held up well and one of them is ready for another deployment. The one mushroom surface buoy that lost its drogue ended up on the beach in Cohasset where it was recovered, refitted with NOAA’s prototype star-shaped bamboo-framed drifter, and redeployed along with a few surface drifters built by Cohasset Center for Student Coastal Research. The star-shaped drogue also ran aground in shallow water after several days and was never heard from again. The Nock Middle School also deployed a few drifters off the North Shore during this period (6 July) but, with a set of northeast winds, they were all ashore within three days just south and west of Gloucester.  However, one surface drifter deployed by SSCW and two by Bethlehem, NH schools did escape Mass Bay and, as of this writing, are out in the open ocean.  One of Bethlehem’s surface drifters helped document a large Warm Core Ring off Georges Bank. The other helped document the shelf edge jet and the effects of Post-Tropical Storm Hermine in late October.


Late 2016 Bay of Fundy track are displayed here.

Four drifters were prepared and deployed with help from Acadia University and a few other Nova Scotia schools at the mouth of Minas Basin in late August 2016.  On 25 September, after more than a month of oscillating back and forth in one of the world’s largest semi-diurnal tides and traveling more than2500 kilometers each, they came ashore not far from Halls Harbour where they originated. As of this writing, a search party is out to recover them.


Many more deployments are planned for the fall of 2016.


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