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In One Ear: Where are you, OSKER?

Scientific instrument travels far from home
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on December 29, 2017 12:01AM


An Oregon Coast Aquarium staff member, Jason King, made an unusual find near Boiler Bay State Park, which was jokingly referred to as a UFO, in this case meaning an Unidentified Floating Object (aquarium.org/tag/osker). It is pictured, courtesy of the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

“I was beachcombing along the wrack line when I spotted what looked like a Frisbee under some driftwood and bull kelp,” King recalled. “When I went in for a closer look, it appeared to be a floating portable speaker because of the Bluetooth symbol. After retrieving it and clearing some debris, I realized that it was a scientific instrument of some kind.” But what kind?

The letters OSKER were visible, and it took some research to find out the object was an Iridium Surface Tracking System. There was also contact information, so King sent off an email. Stephen Page, Oceanographic Monitoring Coordinator for the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney, British Columbia, replied.

“The drifter you found is part of our (ocean) surface circulation studies on the West Coast,” he wrote. It’s used to “calibrate oceanographic circulation models, understand surface drift and to give insights into where spills, debris or any floating item may end up.”

This particular OSKER was deployed Sept. 1 at the mouth of the Juan de Fuca Strait, and transmitted data via satellite until its battery died Sept. 21. King found it 300 miles south of its last transmission. “I immediately felt a sense of joy and accomplishment,” he noted, “as after many years of searching beaches for treasures, I had never found anything like it!”

OSKER is being sent home to be refurbished for, what Page calls, “another adventure at sea.”



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