Science

ESTOC Ocean Station Continues Tradition of Cutting-Edge Technology

The Canary Islands’ ESTOC site is one of nine fixed ocean stations in the Atlantic and Mediterranean where saildrones will collect in situ measurements for cross-calibration and validation.

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February 18, 2020

The European Station for Time Series in the Ocean Canary Islands, known as ESTOC, is a multidisciplinary ocean observatory in the Central Eastern Atlantic. Since 1994, it has used a variety of technologies to continuously perform surface and mid-water meteorological, physical, and biogeochemical monitoring. During the 2019-2020 Saildrone Atlantic to Mediterranean (ATL2MED) mission, two Saildrone unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) will collect in situ measurements at nine fixed ocean stations, including ESTOC, for cross-calibration and validation.

“ESTOC is one of the main time series in the ocean that has been operational using cutting-edge technologies. It started with ship-based technologies, later sediment traps were added, moorings with different technologies along the mooring line, sub-surface or surface buoys with real-time telemetry, and then autonomous platforms like buoyancy diving gliders, surface vehicles like WaveGlider, and now we have the opportunity to use a really cutting-edge technology—the saildrone,” said Dr. Carlos Barrera, head of the ocean vehicles unit at the Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands (PLOCAN).

SD 1030 mission track at ESTOC buoy
SD 1030 sailed six patterns in a period of 48 hours around the ESTOC buoy.

ESTOC is on a similar latitude as the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) in the Western Atlantic and the Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT) in the Pacific Ocean. The ocean depth at the ESTOC site is 3.6 kilometers (11,811 feet) and the mooring line is gravity based. It is attached with an anchor and provides real-time data via the Iridium satellite network.

The station is maintained by PLOCAN and contributes to many international initiatives, projects, and programs around the North Atlantic basin. The data collected by ESTOC is used to address several different scientific objectives: water mass characterization, CO2 monitoring, activity in the Canary Current Upwelling System (CanCS), one of the world’s most productive ecosystems, and studying the dust component of easterly winds blowing from the Sahara Desert. 

ESTOC buoy diagram
A diagram describing the ESTOC mooring buoy. 

ESTOC was established by the Institute of Marine Sciences (IFM) Kiel, now the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research (GEOMAR), and the University of Bremen in Germany and Spain’s Canary Institute of Marine Sciences (now PLOCAN) and the Instituto Español de Oceanografia (IEO). The site is a member of the European Multidisciplinary Seafloor and water column Observatory (EMSO) European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC) network of deep ocean observatories and the Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS)—the ICOS Ocean Thematic Centre is leading ocean site cross-calibration and validation study during the ATL2MED mission—and provides data to several European data networks including EMODNET, SeaDataNet, and CORIOLIS.

SD 1030 has completed a series of patterns around the ESTOC site and is now heading north to rendezvous with SD 1053. The two saildrones will perform comparisons at the Instituto Hidrográfico (Portugual)’s MONIZEE weather station before entering the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar. The 3,200-nautical mile (5,926-kilometer) ATL2MED mission began with an eddy survey in the vicinity of Cabo Verde in November – December 2019 and is expected to conclude in Trieste, Italy, mid-2020.

ESTOC buoy deployment
The European Station for Time Series in the Ocean Canary Islands (ESTOC) buoy is deployed by ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

“At ESTOC, we actively engage with partners from the private sector for developing new sensors and platforms, we provide our capacities and test site area to improve that technology. Of course, during the ATL2MED mission, we are not testing anything. We are doing real work, we are providing real data, we are providing real information for society—and we’re thinking big!” said Barrera.

Follow live mission updates on the ATL2MED mission page.