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A team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI; Woods Hole, Mass.) recently developed and successfully deployed a buoy-based ocean observatory that uses acoustic communication to retrieve data from sensors in the water column and on the seafloor out to ranges of about three kilometers from the buoy (Figure 1).

Each buoy is equipped with an Iridium satellite link that can transmit more than one megabyte of data per day to shore. The near-real-time data provided by this system, and two-way communication that enables control of sensors from shore, affords new opportunities for observing episodic events—such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and phytoplankton blooms—and changing ocean conditions over seasons and years, or during times of the year when measurements from shipboard platforms are simply not possible.