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"Talking" Buoys Deployed Along Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail


Bring your phone with you during your next excursion along the Chesapeake Bay and this buoy will talk to you. NOAA photo.

It'd be impractical for the National Park Service to station living and breathing interpretive rangers at various points along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. But that hasn't stopped the agency from providing interpretation to boaters in the Chesapeake Bay.

In an agreement signed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Park Service is cooperating on a series of "talking buoys" that provide passing boaters not only with atmospheric and nautical information but also some pages out of history.

Under the agreement, which covers the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, and the Chesapeake Bay Gateway and Watertrails Network, the NPS and NOAA have programmed buoys with recordings that boaters, and even land-lubbers, can access via phone.

“Under this agreement, the National Park Service and NOAA will promote enjoyment and stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay,” says National Park Service Director Mary Bomar. “We will use projects like the interpretive buoy system to tell the story of the bay through science, history, and recreation.”

Director Bomar also believes similar buoy systems could work at San Francisco Bay at Golden Gate National Recreation Area or Jamaica Bay at Gateway National Recreation Area in New York.

The Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System consists of six strategically placed buoys providing scientific data and historical information to the public. The buoys collect and wirelessly transmit real time weather, oceanographic, and water-quality conditions to boaters, scientists and others via the Internet at this site or by phone toll-free at 877-BUOY-BAY (877-286-9229). Dial that number and you'll have options ranging from the latest weather to insights into Captain Smith's voyages.

“The buoys also help mark and interpret the nation’s first national water trail,” says Director Bomar. “The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is not only a great partnership with NOAA, but reflects the enthusiasm of many partners including Gil Grosvenor from National Geographic, Pat Noonan from the Conservation Fund, Will Baker from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Charlie Stek from the Friends of the John Smith Chesapeake Trail.”

The NPS Chesapeake Bay Office administers the 3,000-mile water trail commemorating Captain Smith’s explorations of 1607-09, as well as the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, a partnership of more than 160 parks, refuges, watertrails, historic sites, and museums throughout the watershed.


Too bad my sailboat is already out of the water in preparation for winter... I can't wait to find one of those talking buoys!

Given the unique nature of the trail, it seems like this buoy project is a form of "cell phone interpretation" that most Park advocates can all agree on. It looks like an innovative approach to tell this important story in a very unique sort of Park...

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