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Saturday, May 6, 2000

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
The Kukui docked at Sand Island this morning with
Buoy 51002 aboard. The instrument buoy is one of
four located around Hawaii to monitor wind and
water conditions.

Coast Guard
retrieves wayward
data buoy

The Weather Service wants
it returned to its station south
of Oahu before hurricane season

By Helen Altonn


A weather buoy that has been drifting since April 24, but still sending data, was recovered and returned here today by the Coast Guard Cutter Kukui.

The Kukui was diverted earlier this week to search for the buoy after completing six weeks of missions in the South Pacific.

A Coast Guard C-130 airplane spotted the 19-foot-long yellow buoy yesterday about 160 nautical miles west-northwest of its anchored position 280 miles south of Oahu.

The Kukui retrieved it yesterday and continued to Honolulu.

The buoy, 51002, is one of four located around the islands by the National Weather Service to monitor wind and water conditions.

"It lost its tether that ties it to the bottom of the ocean, but it was still functioning," said Jim Weyman, meteorologist-in-charge and Pacific area manager for the National Weather Service.

Since forecasters weren't sure of its location, however, they turned off the source of data, he said. The other buoys are operating northwest of Kauai, south of Kauai and south of the Big Island.

Information from south of the islands is particularly important during hurricane season, starting next month, because hurricanes come from that direction, Weyman said.

"We get much better information on wind speeds and swell heights."

The weather service was concerned about finding the missing buoy because the unit can be refurbished and reinstalled faster than it would take to get a replacement here, Weyman said.

If they can get it back in the water before July 1, when most hurricane activity begins, "we'll be in good shape," he said.

The Kukui, a 225-foot buoy tender, called on ports of the Republic of Kiribati, Tonga, American Samoa and Samoa during its deployment.

Crew members serviced buoys and lights and boarded U.S. and foreign fishing vessels in U.S. waters to ensure compliance with federal laws and regulations.

The cutter, commanded by Michael Cosenza with a crew of 40, also delivered medical and educational supplies to the four countries in support of Project Handclasp, a U.S. Navy humanitarian program.

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