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Volendam – The Weather Boat

Volendam deployed weather buoys for the New Zealand Meteorological Service February 23. The first buoy was launched at 153 degrees and the second one near 155 degrees east, so 120 miles apart or approximately 6 hours steaming.


Cadet Lars removing the plastic and doing the last minute transmission check/test on the weather bouys.

The buoys have a serial number on them, and we write down the serial number and the coordinates where we launch that specific buoy. We take the plastic wrapping off the carton and the paper will dissolve, the bottom part is a big drogue — or sea anchor — which makes sure the buoy goes mainly on the current and not too much on the wind.


Cadet Stevens Melchior and Second Officer Harry Hobma doing the “1, 2, 3 in God’s Name” toss from the pilot break.

Every 90 seconds the buoys transmit a signal from the transmitter signal and the beeper will give a sound. We check until the very last moment if the buoy is still active before we launch it, less the buoy gets returned as a “dud”. (Actually they both work very well because I can hear them transmit based on the noise my computer makes every so many seconds. It interferes like a UHF radio.)

Julie Fletcher, the port meteorological officer for Wellington and Manager Marine observations for MetService NZ, shared this information:

Volendam is deploying weather buoys for Meteorological Service New Zealand. The buoys are a combined meteorological and oceanographic buoy, which measures and transmits air pressure and sea temperature data. Ocean current data is derived from the buoy’s drift. The buoy has a 15m drogue, or sea anchor, which ensures that the buoy drifts with the ocean currents.

Buoy data is transmitted ashore using Argos satellite transmitters. The buoy transmits every 90 seconds and the signal is picked up by the Argos package carried on the NOAA polar orbiting satellites.

The Global Drifter Centre map shows red dots in the equatorial regions. These buoys measure sea temperature and current only, while the buoys in the higher latitudes (blue dots) also have barometer sensors to measure air pressure data which is vital for weather forecasting.

Julie has been helping us over the years here calibrating our instruments and working with Larry Hubble in Anchorage who runs the NOAA program. He counts all the observations and publishes lists for the ships on how they stand in the friendly competition and sometime he sends awards or goodies like ball caps and pens.

Julie visits us and shows us any errors we might have made in recent observations. She was the one who asked last season if we were willing to do this since not too many big ships ply these southern waters on a regular basis.

Larry has arranged visits for the deck officers to the NOAA office in Juneau, Alaska, the past few seasons. He has also helped us reporting so-called phenomena reports which are special observations of weather phenomena, special clouds, wildlife, plankton fields …

As for me, I am pretty fanatic about motivating the officers doing the observations since I know they are valuable. And the officers get really motivated by Julie’s visits and Larry statistics showing that their observations were put to good use. So this is an extra bonus that we can do this, especially since this cruise we will be crossing a bit farther south than normal. Larry has also rewarded us with a special barograph with digital read outs.

We reward the officers with a Pinnacle Grill dinner or lunch if they set a new record somehow or reach first place. At the moment the Costa Fortuna is the undisputed champion; they manage 23 reports per day, we miss a few during arrival and departures. They are relative newcomers as well in this friendly competition.

Peter Bos is Volendam’s captain.

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