I just watched a film called Open Water again. Harrowing, if you haven’t seen it, but this isn’t a CS question. The premise of the film is that a couple on a deep sea dive is left behind by a dive boat through a tragedy of errors. At one point during the film the couple attempts to swim towards a buoy but fails.

So a couple of questions:

  1. I’m familiar with channel buoys, but are there really buoys out in the middle of the sea?

  2. If they are in the middle of the ocean, I presume they’re marking a seamount of some sort, or perhaps an EWS for tsunamis, or perhaps some other oceanographic purpose?

  3. If 2. is true, wouldn’t they have some sort of thing set up so that on shore monitors would notice if they stopped working?

  4. If, for some godawful reason, I found myself not only in the middle of the ocean but also swept up by currents near a buoy, could I climb up on the thing and disable it in order to get myself rescued?

  5. Who would charge me for repair of the diabled buoy? :stuck_out_tongue:

  1. Yes, there really are buoys out in the middle of the sea, run by the National Data Buoy Center

While there certainly are buoys out in the open ocean, hundreds around the world, no one rushes out if they suddenly go off-line. A trouble report is filed and a maintenance trip is scheduled-sometime in the next few months. Now if your were really ingenious, you could mess with the sensors in an intelligent way and get the watch-stander to eventually notice. But it would take a while. The data is monitored in real-time, but looking for SOS in the temperature data isn’t on anyone’s QC list.
But heck, all the person has is time (ie no food, no water, no shelter) so playing morse code with the wind sensor might attract attention. Now, if you were drifting helplessly in the open ocean and one of these-

popped up, grab it! It is making a cell phone call and you might be able to get a message in edgwise :). They are the latest research tool and they really do communicate in two way via cell phone through the Irridium network.

Hi chique, long time.

There are, indeed, buoys out at sea. Not in the middle of the ocean, obviously, but on the continental shelf.

They do not need to mark anything specific other than their location which is noted in the chart. By knowing their location and taking a bearing line from my boat I have a line of position. I am somewhere along that line.

Navaids can stop functioning and go without repair for a long time, not only out at sea but also inland where they are visible. I have Reported a few on the Chesapeake bay over the years and it’s not like they rush out to repair them.

To save a life you an do anything you like and I’m sure the Coast Guard will not charge you but it is indeed forbidden to touch the buoys, tie up to them, etc. I suppose doing so can easily get you a ticket.

The film was set several miles offshore, not the middle of the ocean, on and near a reef, so this buoy would be a real navigational aid.

…right before it drowns me, you mean. :stuck_out_tongue:

Nice to talk at you again, sailor. :slight_smile:

Ahhh, true…but I assume that if I can’t see land it’s “the middle of” - or, at least, might as well be.

Thanks, guys.

Just call me chum…

Ah. The godforsaken emptiness, the maudlin malaise of the sea. Luckily, the buoys are automated and without the help of the good folks at the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation (first up against the wall when the revolution comes!), they’re unlikely to develop personality disorders like Marvin.

Often, they are. Here is one that marks the Cordell Bank seamount, not for navigation purposes, but for collection of oceanographic data. Incidentally, I was on the buoy tender just after they tried to put the first one out - they broke it, literally busting open the casing which is just hard plastic - not as hard as one would like, though. Here is another one nearby for primarily weather data collection (actually, I think this one’s been modified or replaced since the picture was taken.

Generally, yes. In the case of the second link, that buoy uploads its data to the internet every 5-10 minutes or so. In the interests of efficiency, though, a very few people monitor many buoys, so it may be some time before the right people take notice and additional maintenance is scheduled.

Depends on the buoy, but often the answer is yes. Around here many buoys have a cage-like structure surrounding any flat areas to prevent sea lions from climbing on them and doing… things… to the works. A human shouldn’t have too much problem hanging on to the bars of the cage - maybe even getting in to the cage - and doing enough damage to cause it to malfunction. It won’t be effortless to stay on the buoy, though, hanging on through the swells would require that someone not be completely exhausted when they arrive at the buoy.

Note also that you can read the maintenance schedule for the second buoy form the link above. They’re not out there every week, and they’re unlikely to schedule an emergency maintenance trip unless it’s really important.

Depends on who owns the buoy. Both buoys I linked to are owned by NOAA, and they have a contract with a buoy tender to perform maintenance on the first one, because it’s part of the National Marine Sanctuaries program. The second buoy is part of the National Weather Service of NOAA, and if I recall correctly, maintenance is performed by the Coast Guard.

Boy, wouldn’t that be a pissser. Here you are, marooned in the middle of the ocean. With extraordinary good luck, and by dint of a superhuman effort, you manage to reach a NOAA data collection buoy out on the middle of the nowhere. You somehow haul yourself up out of the water; you’ve still got no food or (fresh) water, but at least the sharks can’t get to you, and perhaps you can even figure some way to send a message in Morse code in the air pressure data and get yourself rescued–it’s shaping up to be your very own Reader’s Digest Drama in Real Life story here…

And then the damned thing blows up in your face.

Well, if it spares you from being featured in one of those saccharine Reader’s Digest stories, then perhaps it’s for the best. :smiley:

If the buoy is transmitting some type of data, such as weather information, disabling the equipment may get you some type of response. However, it will not likely get you an immediate response, and you may die before anyone checks on the aid. Without water, you only have a few days.

If the buoy is just a navigational aid, and does not transmit information, then disabling the light will only get a response if someone notices it and then reports it to the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard’s response time will be largely based on how important the aid is to safe navigation, where it is, what type of traffic is in the area, etc. Each aid discrepancy is run through a matrix for scoring, and the score determines the appropriate response time. Lighted aids will typically be fixed quickly.

Your best chance would be figuring out how to bypass the flasher on the light, and tapping out SOS over and over, hoping someone sees it.

No one would charge you for any damage under these circumstances.

I watched it too,for the first time. It looked like an ordinary channel or hazard bell buoy. I thought I heard a bell clang when then showed it in the distance. I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t continue to it after the shark encounter. Hated the ending.

As I said:


Of course, in your scenario, I’d actually really be chum instead of run-of-the-mill human carrion, so perhaps this has more merit than MacGuyvering wires to produce an ([apparently] ultimately ignored) SOS signal. Also, instantaneous death via explosion seems to my mind infinitely preferable to the alternatives which, at this point, include the following:

  1. Drowning via submarine drone.
  2. SHARK!
  3. Starvation. Actually, perhaps this should be first - might as well be thin when they plant me.
  4. SHARK!
  5. Dehydration.
  6. SHARK!
  7. Literally “ignored to death”.
  8. SHARK!

Man, you really like the idea of being eaten by a shark, don’t you? Personally if I had to die alone in the open water I’d prefer “Stunned instantaneously by lighting, resulting in drowning while unconscious”