Oh buoy, there goes $18,000


Aircrew aboard a Kodiak-based HC-130 Hercules aircraft deploy an ice buoy from the rear of the aircraft Aug. 17, 2009, over the Arctic Ocean for the first time. // Petty Officer 1st Class Jason Yonk

Ice is on the outs in the Arctic. As a result there is an enormous treasure-trove of previously undiscovered natural resources being made accessible  by the  receding ice. Now Russia, the U.S., Greenland and everybody in between who has an Arctic coastline is struggling for control of as much loot as possible.

So, Arctic research has become a popular subject around the defense establishment. Apparently scientists teaming with the Coast Guard are still working out some kinks.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports a joint Coast Guard-University of Washington study got off to a rough start when an $18,000 buoy dropped from a C-130 based in Kodiak, Alaska, failed to transmit. Now it’s lost at sea and nobody is looking for it:

The enormous cost of searching in the Arctic will mean no effort will be made to recover the buoy, especially because it is not transmitting its location. That is part of the price of doing business in the Arctic, said University of Washington researcher and mathematician Roger Andersen.

“I’m afraid a cost of ($18,000) seems very large, but the logistics costs of a capable vessel or aircraft conducting such search would be far more,” he wrote in an e-mail.

“The takeaway point is the data is extremely valuable, and data from unmanned data buoys is a bargain, easily worth losing a few buoys in a failed deployment, crushed in a pressure ridge or chewed by a bear.”

What caused the buoy’s problems is not known.


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