Southern Ocean Wave Buoy – Update

In 2017, MetOcean Solutions partnered with New Zealand Defence Force and Defence Technology Agency to deploy a scientific wave buoy in the Southern Ocean. Moored 11 km south of the remote Campbell Island, the buoy collected 170 days of great data - including the May 2017 storm with a whopping 19.4 m wave! By July however, the perpetually rough seas caused fatigue in the mooring line and the buoy started on a new and rather intrepid journey toward Chile.

 The buoy was launched on 2 March 2018.

The buoy was launched on 2 March 2018.

“It is still sending us valuable data while drifting,” says oceanographer Dr Tom Durrant. “We are now seeing high quality wave measurements coming in from some of the remotest locations on Earth; it is extremely valuable data for our research.”

Meanwhile, the mission to collect wave data for NZ Navy’s SubAntarctic applications continues, and this year’s initiative has seen another wave buoy positioned at Campbell Island. This is New Zealand’s southernmost estate and an ideal spot to sample the complex directional wave spectra from the Southern Ocean. On 2 March 2018, MetOcean Solutions manager and senior oceanographer Dr Peter McComb led the buoy deployment from the Offshore Patrol Vessel HMNZS WELLINGTON, with support from Sally Garrett and William Coldicutt from the Defence Technology Agency.

 Offshore Patrol Vessel HMNZS WELLINGTON.

Offshore Patrol Vessel HMNZS WELLINGTON.

“The crew of HMNZS WELLINGTON undertook the task with utmost professionalism and detailed planning to ensure a safe and successful execution,” says Peter. “In 2.5 m seas and light winds, the new wave buoy and its mooring were carefully placed at the same site as last year.”

This year however, the mooring design has been modified to better suit the harsh conditions and reduce the risk of mooring failure before the servicing mission next summer.

“We have to find the right balance for robustness in the mooring system while maintaining scientific integrity of the data. It is certainly a challenge working in these southern latitudes,” admits Peter. “But every month of data adds significantly to our knowledge of this ocean basin, so it’s a very worthy challenge”.

All data from the wave buoy programme is openly available for research, and interested members of the public can check the Southern Ocean wave conditions in real-time at http://www.metocean.co.nz/southern-ocean.