Provision for continuing such observation beyond the end of WOCE is essential.


To achieve their scientific objectives, physical oceanographers must use both proven methods and new technologies to make more complete ocean observations.

Volunteer Observing Ships The maritime industry is a resource for ocean research and monitoring that can no longer be viewed as simply an adjunct to the academic research fleet. On the contrary, its integration into a global ocean observing system would provide far greater and more frequent access to the ocean than will ever be possible with research vessels alone.

Volunteer observing ships (VOS) offer opportunities to study and monitor the ocean with a coverage and frequency that are unthinkable by any other means. With the advent of new and more sophisticated remote sensing techniques, such as ocean color scanners, altimeters, and scatterometers, it is plausible that the demand for direct observations will increase, for several reasons. First, the need for calibration measurements will grow. Second, the ocean color scanner will observe numerous signals that require in situ samples for identification, interpretation, and analysis. Third, as coverage of the ocean surface improves, a concomitant need for improved subsurface coverage is inevitable.

Without doubt, a major impediment to the use of VOS is the lack of automated instrumentation for nonscientists on moving commercial ships. Most instruments are designed for trained personnel on research vessels equipped with laboratories. A new approach to the VOS concept is needed. It will require discussions and planning with the maritime industry internationally to develop new modes of cooperation. The community must think of VOS as a potential platform, and ship operators must be persuaded that oceanographic work is to their benefit. At the same time, the development of instrumentation optimized for use on VOS must be encouraged, including the following:

  • Modern sensor packages are needed that can be dropped and retrieved repeatedly along a ship's route to measure salinity, oxygen, and fluorescence (primarily from phytoplankton). Data obtained by the sensors could be transferred to a small on-board computer for analysis and transmission to data centers.

  • Disposable free-falling sensor packages should be developed

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