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PIRATA FR30 Cruise Conducts Research in St Helena EEZ

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From left, His Excellency the Governor – Dr Philip Rushbrooke, Dr Bernard Bourlès, Commandant Gérard Bourret, Dr Rebecca Cairns-Wicks, M. Michel Martineau and Mrs Elizabeth Clingham

PIRATA (« Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Tropical Atlantic ») is a multinational programme (France, Brazil, USA) of operational oceanography initiated in 1997 and delivered through the framework of an international cooperation between USA, Brazil and France. PIRATA maintains a network of 18 meteo-oceanic buoys that allow the measurement of oceanic (temperature and salinity between the surface and 500m) and atmospheric (wind direction, wind velocity, air temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, solar radiation) parameters. Data are transmitted in real time through satellite (ARGOS or IRIDIUM); they are freely available through internet. Thus PIRATA constitutes the main observations network dedicated to weather and climate prediction and to scientific studies in the Tropical Atlantic.

In the framework of PIRATA, France is principally in charge of the yearly servicing of 6 meteo-oceanic moorings, located in the eastern and southeastern part of the tropical Atlantic.

Distribution of the 18 meteo-oceanic buoys of the PIRATA network in the Tropical Atlantic.

Picture of a meteo-oceanic buoy serviced in the framework of the PIRATA program in the Tropical Atlantic (copyright: B.Bourlès, IRD).

In February-March 2020, France will conduct its 30th cruise (so named PIRATA FR30) onboard the French Research Vessel THALASSA (French oceanographic research fleet operated by Ifremer; see This cruise will allow replacing five meteo-oceanic buoys at 23°W-0°N, 0°E-0°N, 10°W-10°S, 10°W-6°S, 10°W-0°E.

Due to vandalism (fishing activity) observed off Congo from 2018 (the buoy located at 6°S-8°E has been destroyed in August 2018 then in August 2019 again… and will not be replaced anymore!), France will deploy a new meteo-oceanic buoy at 20°S-10°W, as part of a future southward extension of the PIRATA network.

During its route from the Gulf of Guinea toward 20°S-10°W, the cruise will pass, for the first time, through the Saint-Helena Exclusive Economic Zone.

Map of the PIRATA FR30 cruise.

Map of the PIRATA FR30 cruise for St Helena EEZ.

With 11 scientists onboard, the PIRATA FR30 cruise is also carrying out several types of measurement such as temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen and current profiles and numerous sea water samplings will be done for the analysis of dissolved oxygen, salinity, nutrients, carbon parameters and primary production (Chlorophyll pigments). 22 surface drifting buoys will be deployed along with 5 ARGO profilers for operational weather prediction and research.

Off St Helena, the cruise will allow the PIRATA FR30 cruise to collect measurements of meteorological and oceanographic parameters, ocean currents and temperature profiles (from the surface down to 800m depth), surface water samplings (for the analysis of salinity and nutrients) and to deploy two surface drifters.

Bernard Bourles, Oceanographer, Senior Scientist, IRD

For more information:
French Pirata website: 
USA PIrata website:

Image © Bernard Bourles

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