Information Wants to be Free: Sandettie Lightship and the English Channel

Information Wants to be Free: Sandettie Lightship and the English Channel

(tl; dr — 10 years of English Channel weather data, in a single CSV file. And some fun charts.)

Weather can turn on a dime in the English Channel, and the dreams (and finances) of English Channel swimmers often turn on the weather.

sandettie lightship
Location of Sandettie Lightship in the English Channel

The most important source of information about that weather is a 156-foot lightvessel called Sandettie, which serves as both a floating lighthouse and a weather station. Here’s a nice photo.

Sandettie collects a variety of important meteorological data – air and sea temperatures, wind speed and direction, wave height and period, humidity, and barometric pressure. These data are then fed back to the UK Met Office, who publish the most recent 24 hours’ of observations on their website.

Anything before the last 24 hours are what the Met Office call “chargeable data” — at the rate of £6800 per 10 years, per two elements (e.g., air temp & sea temp). According to the today’s exchange rate, that converts to no less than $11,575 USD.

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NOAA Buoy Cams: A (potentially) interesting resource

NOAA Buoy Cams: A (potentially) interesting resource

The National Data Buoy Center (NDBC), operated by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, maintains a global network of data-collecting buoys that provide useful information for, among others, open-water swimmers in their vicinity.

I utilized NDBC data in my observer report on Craig Lenning’s recent Farallon Islands swim.

Recently, I noticed a new feature on the NDBC website: A few buoy stations now have cameras!

Granted, there are currently only 11 BuoyCams worldwide, most in locations people have never swum (and probably will never swim), but still: Potentially an interesting resource for marathon swimmers, if this program expands.

Current "BuoyCam" locations
Current “BuoyCam” locations

Just imagine: How cool would it be to have a camera on Sandettie Lightship? (n.b., that’s a UK Met Office buoy, not NOAA)

And if I were planning a swim from San Miguel Island anytime soon, I’d probably be monitoring this guy daily.

A sampling of BuoyCam shots from today (click to enlarge):

Buoy 46054: 38 NM West of Santa Barbara, California
Buoy 46054: 38 NM West of Santa Barbara, California
Buoy 41009: 20NM East of Cape Canaveral, Florida
Buoy 41009: 20NM East of Cape Canaveral, Florida
Buoy 44007: 12NM Southeast of Portland, Maine
Buoy 44007: 12NM Southeast of Portland, Maine
Station 51021: mid-Pacific Ocean, west of Kiribati
Buoy 51021: mid-Pacific Ocean, west of Kiribati
Buoy 46061: Between Montague & Hinchinbrook Islands, Alaska
Buoy 46061: Between Montague & Hinchinbrook Islands, Alaska
Buoy 32322: S. Pacific Ocean, west of Ecuador
Buoy 32322: S.


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