New wave buoy for Victorian surfers

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

Though surfers use them, most wavebuoys haven't been dropped in place by surfers. The primary function of buoys is to service industry and governments, and the reason for this limitation is price. Depending upon make, wavebuoys can cost between $50,000 and $100,000, plus expenses to moor and maintain the buoy.

Recently a new manufacturer came onto the market and researchers at Deakin University dropped the first one in waters off the Victorian coast. If all goes to plan, there'll be a whole network of these buoys - called Spoondrift buoys - along the coast. Just like existing buoys they'll serve a lofty purpose, yet surfers will also be able to check them for swell info.

Swellnet recently spoke to Dr Daniel Ierodiaconou at the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University.

Swellnet: Someone informed me that you've just dropped a new wave buoy off Port Fairy. Is that correct?
Dr Daniel Ierodiaconou: Yeah, it's been there since mid-September.

I'm assuming it's not there to provide information to free-loading surfers. What's its purpose?
There's a need for monitoring waves for a number of reasons and we are working with the State government, University partners at Deakin University, and University of Melbourne and the National Integrated Marine Observing System to fill gaps in knowledge of the wave climate and establish a wave buoy network for Victoria.

The drivers locally are concerns around coastal erosion, and we don't really have sustained accurate measures of the wave climate. We need this to inform our models of how our coasts are likely to respond now and into the future. We're likely to see swells tend more southerly and there's a lot of concern that our coastlines will realign to some degree.

Ian Goodwin at Macquarie Uni has proposed a similar argument for the East Coast.
Yeah, he's made that same sort of argument in terms of East Coast Lows, whereas ours is obviously a different system, but it's the same kind of process. You know, the movement of those systems down the Antarctic is really going to impact what we are seeing.

There has be some great work by Professor Ian Young at the University of Melbourne that has shown that there are globally increasing wave heights over the past thirty years with the greatest increases observed in the Southern Ocean - of the order of 0.7cm/year. This will greatly impact the southern coast of Australia.

OK. Now, the buoy, is it temporary?
Our plans are to test this bit of tech and to leave that buoy out there for as long as we can. We are testing this disruptive technology that enables wave measurements at a fraction of the cost over the typical larger buoys.

It's in a pretty volatile area.
Yeah, we've already had some pretty hairy seas. The idea of putting it off Port Fairy was to put it into a very volatile environment and see how long it lasts. We've had five four metre events since September, and I think we recorded up to seven metres on it. It seems to be holding well. The data is also free for all to view

And if it all goes to plan?
The longterm idea is that we want to establish a swarm of these cheaper Spoondrift buoys along the Victorian coast, so we can start to understand the propagation of waves to the coast. We'll also have three large buoys, one in each sector, so the west coast, central and east coast, and then have a swarm, maybe 10 or 20 of these Spoondrift buoys.

This is all subject to funding, but we've got a commitment from the State Government, which is a great start.

So, fingers crossed, there'll soon be an array of buoys across the coastline?
Yes. The whole idea is that if we can set this up in Victoria, it will become a world class test bed for global wave climate models. Not only will we have a better understanding of our local wave climate and impact on coastal processes but we have a unique opportunity to set up such a test bed for these type of models.

We have world leaders in wave modelling in the state of Victoria, we have the most detailed coastal seafloor mapping program of any state - bathymetry is very important for waves! - so establishing a wave buoy network will provide some amazing opportunities for science as well as the needs for the broader community    

That's what we're aiming for. Whether we get there, we're not sure, but we think we're progressing well.

Now, of interest to surfers, will the real time information from these buoys be available to surfers?
Absolutely, so that website that I've sent through, that's real time.

[Editor's note: Here's the link. Bookmark it!]

Our intention is to establish a real time available network across the state, and I think from a science communication point of view, there's a huge opportunity there. I would love to see sponsorship of wave buoys, like when we get Bells Beach, it would be great if, for instance, Rip Curl sponsored that wave buoy.

The way that we set up that website is that if any Spoondrift buoy gets registered, it automatically populates on that website, so like I said, we have plans for 10 to 20 Spoondrift buoys, but if any more come online they'll be visible on the website.

Once more: https://vicwaves.com.au/

Comments

Ed Sloane's picture
Ed Sloane's picture
Ed Sloane commented Thursday, 13 Dec 2018 at 4:35pm

Excellent stuff.

Bnkref's picture
Bnkref's picture
Bnkref commented Thursday, 13 Dec 2018 at 6:30pm

Interesting comment about them expecting that swells will tend more southerly over time. Good result for the Surf Coast!

greyhound's picture
greyhound's picture
greyhound commented Thursday, 13 Dec 2018 at 6:39pm

Big oil related????

JJD's picture
JJD's picture
JJD commented Thursday, 13 Dec 2018 at 6:41pm

So I'm assuming they're cheaper.

Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone commented Thursday, 13 Dec 2018 at 7:57pm

Is the pin where its uhhh pinned, is that the actual location?

Also, what info would it provide for surfers? I.E Sorell can provide a bit of indication on what's too come.

I rarely use Pt. Nepean living on the Peninsula..

Phantom's picture
Phantom's picture
Phantom commented Thursday, 13 Dec 2018 at 8:25pm

The location of the bouy at Port Fairy looks like it could be a bit sheltered from westerly swells

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 14 Dec 2018 at 12:03pm

Not necessarily. I don't think the pin on the website is that accurate. I referred back to the interview and Dr Dan said the buoy is dropped in thirty metres of water, which, referring to Navionics charts, places it somewhere south of the pin's location and not as sheltered.

uncle_leroy's picture
uncle_leroy's picture
uncle_leroy commented Thursday, 13 Dec 2018 at 8:41pm

Dr Daniel Lerodiaconou,
Can you please confirm who has given funding for this project at the very start of the paper trail?
Is it just a coincidence that new wave bouy's are also being established along the WA south coast, also by a University group? http://wawaves.org/
What's that.......? with further offshore bouys planned way way out beyond any usable depth to recreational or commercial fishers. Why would they want to install wave bouys at an ocean depth of 2,000m....?????
Or is that just a thankyou present from the Offshore Energy Security program and the New Petroleum program for the 19,000km of seismic reflection data obtained off the WA coast?
WA Fisheries Marine park brochure even shows "Sponsored by Chevron", go figure

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Friday, 14 Dec 2018 at 12:18pm

Buoy data from deep water locations is equally as important as coastal locations, in order to validate wave models, and build climate databases. The BOM/IMOS had a buoy - the 'Southern Ocean Flux Station' - moored almost 600km SW of Tasmania in water depths of 4.6km (!) for around 13 months. It wasn't recording wave heights, but instead wind, temperature, humidity, air pressure, sunlight and rain.

uncle_leroy's picture
uncle_leroy's picture
uncle_leroy commented Friday, 14 Dec 2018 at 1:03pm

I get what your saying and yes it may be a 'nice to have' but seems like a waste of money. Can't believe they spent all that money off Tassie yet forgot to include wave data, that in itself seems like a wasted opportunity.
I'm sure 99.99% of the population would much rather have nearshore data. The cost for the one 600km off Tassie could have provided permanent inshore bouy(s)?
Shipping paths along the southern coast here are approx. 20-40km offshore (100-400m depth) and if they don't know what the weather is doing with all forecast data available then they shouldn't be on the ocean. No need for bouys further out.
Working on 3rds principal when anchoring for depth/current/wave, 3 km deep = 9km of rope and chain, seems like a waste of tax payers money, unless Oil and Gas is paying the bills....

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Friday, 14 Dec 2018 at 1:13pm

The fact is that a tiny fraction of the population (i.e. taxpayers) have any need for wave data, so funding for wave buoys is allocated proportionally to other weather services. 

Some of our wave buoys are funded through shipping and oil companies (via specialist Met/Ocean companies), as they're the ones who really need that level of data.

As for your comment: "Shipping paths along the southern coast here are approx. 20-40km offshore (100-400m depth) and if they don't know what the weather is doing with all forecast data available then they shouldn't be on the ocean. No need for bouys further out."

If that were the case, then why do we need radar, satellite and AWS data from remote regions where there are no people, and radiosonde data from weather ballons? Because, it all helps to fill in the gaps in the global data set, which ultimately helps to improve the accuracy of the weather models.

The fact is that a deep water buoy will in many instances be better at validating wave model data than a near-shore buoy, becase of the additional complex processes close to the coast (which the models don't always resolve very well). 

strictlybizness's picture
strictlybizness's picture
strictlybizness commented Friday, 14 Dec 2018 at 8:48am

This is great. Does Swellnet have plans to integrate live observations from these buoys?

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Friday, 14 Dec 2018 at 8:54am

We do, but the problem is that Australia's buoy network is covered by around ten different agencies, which therefore requires negotiating access with each of them (i.e. no point teeing up a feed of Vic buoys if we can't do the same in Qld, WA, SA, NSW etc).

It's a complex, time consuming task that costs a not-insignificant amount of $$ (to access the data and coordinate the feeds) and ultimately doesn't generate any revenue for our business.

So.. it's very hard to prioritise over our enormous list of other things we've got to do.

But.. I am keen!

aussieguy's picture
aussieguy's picture
aussieguy commented Friday, 14 Dec 2018 at 1:15pm

Would be great to see some of our industry leaders stepping up with sponsorship for some of these buoys. Giving back a bit to the community. Rip Curl sponsoring the Bells Beach wave buoy for the duration of the Rip Curl Pro comp would be great to see.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Friday, 14 Dec 2018 at 1:34pm

How about another industry like fishing? There are significantly more recreational fishers than surfers in Australia, and the commercial fishing industry is an obvious beneficiary of the data (to that end, the Cape Sorell buoy receives resource support from the Strahan fishing community). 

aussieguy's picture
aussieguy's picture
aussieguy commented Saturday, 15 Dec 2018 at 11:26am

Good point. You could also probably look at the sailing industry too.
Excellent article, though, and great to see Swellnet reporting on this.

Cleantones's picture
Cleantones's picture
Cleantones commented Friday, 14 Dec 2018 at 2:08pm

I've been keeping a close eye on the Port Fairy buoy and correlating the data with local conditions. What has been most interesting is the difference that a longer period makes to a decent swell. I knew theoretically that period changes the way breaking waves behave, but being able to see this happen with the data in real time has been an eye-opener.

Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone commented Friday, 14 Dec 2018 at 9:41pm

Im watching this space.

I believe in period more than height.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Saturday, 15 Dec 2018 at 12:30pm

Especially in Victoria high period swell be it small or big generally equals good waves on reefs and beachies.

East coast Australia though, beachies generally break good even best on short period swells.

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter commented Saturday, 15 Dec 2018 at 7:40pm

@thermalben ,, With all due respect ,,I don't agree that "the commercial fishing industry is an obvious beneficiary" . to the introduction of waverider buoys.., certainly not as a whole. A large percentage of commercial fishing is done by guys with years of local sea and weather knowledge . Bouys are usually only sporadically used to assess bar conditions in suspect conditions, Hardly a game changer. Most guys I know treat the data with caution and always go with their own best judgement, or if not someone elses. Commercial fishermen generally have a network of people with real time information with actual boots on the ground , so to speak. ,
Perhaps you should include as contributors to future wave buoys commercial surf forecasting/reporting websites that will profit from the modelling data mentioned.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Sunday, 16 Dec 2018 at 8:29am

We'll have to agree to disagree, mate.

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter commented Sunday, 16 Dec 2018 at 5:40pm

We could do that . I thought you'd like to back that statement with some substance.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Sunday, 16 Dec 2018 at 8:08am

Yesterday the buoy registered something at a period of 34 seconds?

Obviously couldn't be a wave...maybe a speed boat passed very close?

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Sunday, 16 Dec 2018 at 8:28am

Erroneous data occurs across all buoys (though, wake from a speedboat would be very short periods). 

Check MHL's Eden buoy for ongoing incorrect period data. Though in this case suggests a faulty sensor.

http://new.mhl.nsw.gov.au/data/realtime/wave/Buoy-edenow

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming commented Sunday, 16 Dec 2018 at 12:55pm

Ok thanks....

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter commented Sunday, 16 Dec 2018 at 5:49pm

the exact reason commercial fishermen don't rely on them

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter commented Sunday, 16 Dec 2018 at 9:10pm

commercial fisho's don't sit around on their phones and laptops wondering what the ocean is doing.,, looks pretty shitty tonight , glad I,m not out there. cheers to the boys that are. stay safe.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Sunday, 16 Dec 2018 at 9:14pm

I'm currently reading a book on the history of Datawell, the company that make Waverider buoys, and the North Sea fishing fleets - Datawell is Danish - greatly depend on the buoy networks. In fact the fishing fleets have driven some of the innovation, especially in regards to communication.

tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter's picture
tubeshooter commented Sunday, 16 Dec 2018 at 10:08pm

Sounds like good reading.. I'd be interested in that. Buoys in certain locations are definitely beneficial to many fisho's. My only point is it far from benefits the majority. , and yes some of the technology certainly came from the fishing industry , which is also why I question that the fishing industry pay further. Our collective fees support these programs whether they affect our areas or not. cheers

spuddyjack's picture
spuddyjack's picture
spuddyjack commented Monday, 17 Dec 2018 at 11:29am

Really interesting stuff Ben. Thanks for chasing up Dr Daniel Ierodiaconou for more detail. Hope Swellnet can integrate the data into its mix at some stage . . . but also painfully aware you've got plenty of other pressing matters to deal with. Please keep up the good work; anything linked to wave science and bathymetry is knowledge gained.

Stay salty