Tracking Bay of Fundy currents

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on August 7, 2013

With notes from Anna-Marie MacKenzie Kelly and Lucy Lockwood

If you threw a message in a bottle into the middle of the Bay of Fundy, where would it end up?

Participants at the Gulf of Maine Institute (GOMI) International Youth Conference built and launched an “ocean drifter” off the coast of the Digby Neck and Islands on Thursday, July 4 – looking for answers to some questions of a more serious nature.

“Do lobster larvae or salmon fry remain in local waters or do they get swept to new locations along the coast? Where would contaminated water from nuclear power plants spread in the event of a leak similar to the one in Fukushima, Japan? How might the melting of polar ice and other effects of ongoing climate change alter the general circulation patterns within the Gulf of Maine and the larger North Atlantic region?” asks Lucy Lockwood, a coastal science education and research consultant.

Lockwood helped a group of GOMI youth build and launch the ocean drifter between Tiverton and Grand Manaan. GOMI youth launched another drifter off Barrington July 28.

The floating buoys with sails below the surface of the water are designed to track the ocean currents in the Gulf of Maine. A transmitter sticking up above the water sends in its location twice a day.

After the launch the Bay of Fundy drifter seemed headed straight for land but then veered north again and has since been making its way steadily up the Bay of Fundy.

As of Sunday, July 21, it was in the middle of the Bay between Port Lorne, Nova Scotia and Saint Martins, New Brunswick.

As of Wednesday, Aug. 7 it is still headed up the bay and is now just north of Margaretsville and Kingston.

The GOMI students and the Northeast Regional Association of Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS) are tracking the drifter’s progress and anyone can check out the ocean drifter’s path at .

The students ask, if anyone finds one on shore, to please contact the number painted on the Drifter so it can be retrieved and re-launched.

The GOMI youth conference was held at Acadia University in Wolfville from June 30 to July 6. This annual conference is the highlight of the year for the youth groups who have all been working on a diverse number of environmental projects concerning the Gulf of Maine in their home communities. The Gulf of Maine Institute is made up of youth groups in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

This drifter project is designed to provide students with hands-on, tangible experience studying and measuring ocean currents.

The project is also part of ongoing research efforts by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists to study, track, and model the ocean currents within the Gulf of Maine and beyond.

Participants built the drifters from scratch, tested them, and launched them.

This drifter is the initial phase in a planned multi-year, Gulf-wide GOMI project that will involve all of the GOMI teams in building and deploying ocean drifters in their own schools and towns.