The Saga of the SeaSoar

“Sally saw the SeaSoar near the sea surface over the seamount…” – The ‘6 o’clock News’ SeaSoar watch (Sara Rivera, Lauren Manck, Cynthia Martinson). 


One of the funnest parts of oceanography is getting to play with high-tech instruments that help us collect data about the sea around us. Yesterday we deployed something that looks like a yellow toy airplane – the SeaSoar!

The SeaSoar waits patiently on deck for its chance to shine on our cruise

The SeaSoar is a winged torpedo-like instrument that we tow behind the ship to collect a 3D profile of the water column. The instrument ‘soars’ up and down between the surface and 260 m deep in a yo-yo-like pattern, recording water temperature, salinity, oxygen, chlorophyll fluorescence from phytoplankton, and  water clarity.


The Ohman Lab and volunteers gather on the fantail of the Revelle to learn about the SeaSoar.

Our goal during this cruise is to sample and track the evolution of a filament of cold, newly-upwelled water that has developed along the Central California coast, extending out into the California Current System. Filaments like the one we are tracking are common upwelling features along our coast, and can be important conduits for moving nutrients, plankton, fish larvae, and other organic matter into offshore waters. The SeaSoar measurements help us characterize the subsurface picture of the filament.


Deploying the SeaSoar requires a large and attentive team.

Our SeaSoar path is a radiator-like grid pattern that traverses up and down between Pt. Conception and Monterey Bay, which means that today’s upwind leg to Monterey brought plenty of large swells, sea spray, and rocking ship decks. The SeaSoar has to be monitored via computer full-time, so our army of grad students and volunteers has been busy standing watch and composing sea limericks. We are all in good spirits after some evening whale-watching and a beautiful sunset – along with a great first day of data!

Classic Central California spring wind-driven upwelling – rough but beautiful.

The SeaSoar saga will be continued by The 6 o’clock News tomorrow…


Posted by: Laura Lilly, SIO

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *