Missing buoys disrupting inlet science project

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Dr. Mark Johnson needs the public's help. The University of Alaska Fairbanks professor from the Institute of Marine Science is conducting an oceanographic project in Cook Inlet, but he has a problem boaters have been picking up the satellite tracked drifting buoys.

"Our data shows that two, and perhaps three, of our buoys have been picked up recently by boats in the inlet and taken ashore," Johnson said.

The drifters are about the size of a beach ball with the top half colored red and the bottom half gray, and are connected to a drogue a parachute like structure about 10 meters down. There is a number to call stenciled on the buoys side if found grounded or accidentally picked up by a boater.

Two of buoys picked up have been recovered, but one is still unaccounted for. Buoy number 39910 appears to have been brought ashore in Nikiski and currently is being sought.

"When taken ashore it disrupts our data flow and compromises the science," Johnson said.

Despite the inconvenience of having the buoys occasionally picked up by boaters, Johnson still invites help from the public.

People interested in working to recover or deploy buoys should contact him. The project will be ongoing for the next few years, and as as soon as commercial fishing season winds down, more buoys will be deployed.

The project's focus is to better understand the tidal motion of the inlet to improve the current understanding of tidal rips linear zones of high current and to improve oil spill trajectory modeling.

For more information on the project, to view images of what the drifters look like or to monitor the satellite tracked locations of buoys, consult the Web site at www.ims.-uaf.edu/research/johnson/cmi/index.html or call (907) 474-6933.

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