Watch a free-floating buoy’s journey through Lake Superior


A Spotter buoy floats alongside two marker buoys in Lake Superior

The drifter buoy, center, floats on Lake Superior next to two marker buoys, just after being deployed this afternoon. You can watch its journey here. Photo by John Lenters, Michigan Tech.


By David Fitch, Great Lakes Observing System

Today, researchers dropped a buoy in Lake Superior without an anchor and let it drift away.

A collaboration between Michigan Tech and the Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS), this “drifter buoy” is floating near the north entry of Portage Canal off the coast of the Keweenaw Peninsula, and it’s collecting data on the wind, waves, water temperature, and currents as it travels.

A Spotter buoy floats in the water near a bluff

Spotter buoys are about the size of a basketball. Photo by Sofar Ocean. 

John Lenters, a research scientist at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center, released the buoy earlier this afternoon, and based on the latest movements, it is expected to drift Northwest toward the open water.  Researchers and the public can see the live data and track the buoy’s progress on the Sofar Dashboard.

The drifter buoy was deployed by a team from Michigan Tech, led by researcher John Lenters. 

This drifter’s journey will help scientists better understand the little-studied Keweenaw current that dominates much of Lake Superior north of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The experiment will also help test GLOS’ Seagull platform that is being developed to give anyone access to live information from buoys and other monitoring platforms all over the lakes.

When the team from GLOS and Michigan Tech has enough data, the buoy will be picked up and then anchored near Copper Harbor, Michigan. The live data will be available to the public on GL Buoys (Note: The link will not work until the buoy is deployed later this month).

Live information from other Michigan Tech buoys and dozens of others is available at GL Buoys.

Watch the buoy live. 


Today, the buoy was deployed with one good toss off the side of a research vessel.