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  • Rights: The University of Waikato
    Published 30 June 2010 Referencing Hub media

    Dr Phil Sutton of NIWA explains how New Zealand has been able to make a large contribution to the international Argo project. New Zealand is close to vast areas of ocean inaccessible to other countries. The NIWA research vessel Kaharoa is well suited to deploying Argo floats in several oceans.


    NIWA was a very early collaborator in the Argo programme dating back to 2000. I think when we started deploying floats, there were only 8 or 9 countries involved, and that was because we throught that Argo was a great idea.

    The Southern Hemisphere and the South Pacific in particular tend to be a data-poor regions. That's because we are quite a long way from rich nations, we've got a lot of ocean, and there aren't many islands in the middle. Historically, there hasn't been a whole lot of data collected down here, so we saw Argo as a very good global initiative to try to fill some of those data gaps.

    There was a real problem about how to get floats into the Southern Hemisphere oceans, so we saw an opportunity to use NIWA's smaller research vessel, which is capable of ocean transits, to deploy floats in a cost-effective way. And that is really where the relationships began, was just the need to get floats into the Southern Hemisphere - the fact that we had this ship.

    Kaharoa has served or proven to be a very affordable way of getting floats deployed in the Southern Hemisphere, and the 3-way collaboration between NIWA, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Washington are basically responsible for deploying of 700 floats in the last 6 years in the Southern Hemisphere.

    The advantages that the Kaharoa had was, one, she was already based in the South Pacific so she was relatively close to the areas where we needed to get floats in the water - NIWA and the crew have been willing and able to do large ocean transits in what is quite a small ship - and so the combination really gave the opportunity for that collaboration to form and be successful.

    The Kaharoa has done some huge ocean transits deploying Argo floats. She has been to Chile on a number occasions - up to 3 or 4 - and is off to Valparaiso in Chile again later this year. Been to South Africa once, Durban - she only just came back from Durban a month or two ago - been to Mauritius, Tahiti, San Diego, Hawaii - so basically all through the Southern Hemisphere, except the South Atlantic. She hasn't go there yet, but we have hopes.

    Alan Blacklock, NIWA
    Public domain
    Argo data in this video clip was collected and made freely available by the International Argo Project and the national programmes that contribute to it. ( ). Argo is a pilot programme of the Global Ocean Observing System.

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