New wave buoy for Victorian surfers
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/