Science experiment causes rapid response to the beach

Staff Writer
The Destin Log

Destin Fire Control District  and the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office responded to a possible HAZMAT call Friday morning about a strange device floating in the waters behind Jetty East Condominiums. The device, which had “U.S. Navy” written on it in marker, was in fact a GPS drifter.

The Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., is working with the University of Miami to study the effects of Emerald Coast waters after the 2010 BP oil spill. A phone number on the side of the device helped clear up the confusion.

"We deployed the GPS devices from Beasley Park in the surf zone to see how the water is moving around," Jamie McMahan, a professor at NPS, told The Log.

Friday afternoon the Sheriff's Office issued a "Research Buoy Alert" that reads "A number of white research buoys with black bottoms are washing ashore onto beaches in Destin and Okaloosa Island. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office has received multiple calls about the buoys, which also have an orange flag and flashing sensor. So far the OCSO has reports of one coming onto the beach in Destin near 500 Gulf Shore Drive, one near the Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island, and two near Nautilus Condominiums on Okaloosa Island. They are reportedly connected to a research team out of Miami that is involved in post-BP oil spill studies. As many as one-hundred buoys are believed to be in the Gulf in our region and are expected to come ashore at some point. The research team does want to try to collect the buoys. A phone number is on each one and anyone who finds one can call that number so the objects, approximately two and a half feet across, can be retrieved."