Buoy that tells current news, history is back on duty

November 15, 2008|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,candy.thomson@baltsun.com

ABOARD R/V BAY COMMITMENT - Shot up and left for dead three months ago, the bright yellow buoy took just a few minutes yesterday to get its bearings and begin transmitting from the mouth of the Patapsco River.

The $120,000 "smart buoy," part of the John Smith National Historic Water Trail, was badly damaged July 26, when vandals armed with a .22-caliber rifle blasted holes in the solar panels, the navigational light and electronic gear - more than 20 shots in all. The buoy, a year old, was hauled from the water for repairs in early August.

Replacing parts and patching holes cost $7,000, said Doug Wilson, buoy project manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The buoy, one of six on the Chesapeake Bay, transmits real-time data on water quality, wave height and wind direction and speed. A recording provides a historical narrative of the voyages of discovery of Captain Smith 400 years ago. Boaters and those on shore can access the data at 877-buoybay or www.buoybay.org.

As a gauze of fog and mist hung around the research vessel, NOAA scientists wrestled the buoy back into place, anchored it at a spot known to boaters as Seven Foot Knoll and gave it a final checkup. Then, they waited for the buoy to come to life.

"We're back on line," hollered an obviously relieved Wilson, raising his hands over his head.

A reward of up to $1,250 is being offered for information that leads to the conviction of the vandals. People with information should call 410-260-8888.

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