The Stratton Commission report, released this past January, documented the results of more than two years of study and investigation of the priorities and methods by which government and industry should develop the potentials of the seas. This report of the Commission on Marine Science, Engineering and Resources, responding to the Marine Resources and Engineering Development Act of 1966, called for the establishment of a new and independent government agency to coordinate and guide national efforts in marine affairs, and recommended six national projects on which initial attention and effort should be centered. One of these six projects is the development of ocean data buoy technology and the development of a pilot buoy network by 1975. It is the purpose of this paper to describe briefly this important new initiative the development of National Data Buoy Systems to summarize the events leading to this project, and to examine its present status and planning.


In 1966, the Ocean Engineering Panel of the (then) Interagency. Committee on Oceanography took note of the many individual and relatively ineffective development programs underway within government agencies and Federally-sponsored scientific institutions to design and develop data buoys for the observation of marine environmental information, and suggested that a single national system of such buoys might be more efficient than many individual, limited networks. As a direct result of this suggestion, the ICO asked the United States Coast Guard to manage an interagency-funded study of the feasibility of a single national system of marine environmental buoys.

In response to this request, the Coast Guard, with the aid of representatives of the United States NAVY and the Environmental Science Services Administration, selected through competitive procedures The Travelers Research Center, Incorporated (now the Travelers Research Corporation) to perform this feasibility study. The ten-month investigation was completed on 15 October 1967, and documented the following significant findings (1):

There are extensive national requirements for environmental information to satisfy operational and research needs in the deep oceans, the coastal North American regions, and the bays, estuaries, and Great Lakes of the United States.

Unmanned, automatic buoys are capable of measuring a significant portion of these environmental requirements, and are technically feasible for this use.

Unmanned, automatic buoys are a cost-effective means of measuring and reporting those environmental parameters which buoys can satisfy, in comparison with other feasible methods of measuring and reporting those parameters.

Substantial national benefit can be derived from the marine environmental information which buoys can measure, by aiding ocean transportation, weather prediction fishing, offshore mining and construction, water and air pollution control, national defense, recreation, and similar fields of activity. Depending on the relative pessimism or optimism assumed in estimating the value of such benefits, it was shown that the nation should derive benefits amounting to from two to eight times the cost of developing, deploying, and operating ocean data buoy system without assigning any beneficial value to national security information.

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