People exploring the Bay-whether on boats, or taking a virtual excursion on the Internet-can tap into information from a "smart buoy" deployed this summer near the mouth of the Rappahannock River.

It is the fourth buoy deployed by NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office over the last two years to provide near real-time observation data of the Bay's conditions, as well as interpretive information along the route of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

The buoy was deployed off Stingray Point, near Deltaville, VA, on July 19 to mark the 400th anniversary of Smith's exploration of the region. The point gets its name from a July 1608 event in which Smith, while using a sword to fish in shallow waters near the mouth of the Rappahannock River, was stung by a stingray and nearly died. He recovered and ate the stingray for dinner.

The buoy is part of the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System and collects weather, oceanographic and water-quality observations, then transmits this data wirelessly in near-real time. These measurements, as well as historical and cultural information about the Bay, can be accessed at www.buoybay.org or by phone at 877-BUOY-BAY or 877-286-9229.

CBIBS is the only operational buoy system in the Bay dedicated to maintaining the broad range of measurements necessary to track Bay restoration progress. Online educational resources are also available through the NOAA Bay Office.

Other buoys in the system are located at Jamestown, VA; the mouth of the Potomac River; and the mouth of the Patapsco River. The Patapsco buoy is out of commission because of vandalism.

NOAA's Bay Office expects to deploy two more buoys in September, one on the Elizabeth River at Norfolk, VA, and one on the Susquehanna River off Havre de Grace, MD.

Buoy vandalized; reward offered

Officials are seeking information about an incident that took place on or about July 24 near the mouth of the Patapsco River in Maryland in which a "smart buoy" was shot by a small-bore rifle and a shotgun.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Coast Guard and Maryland Department of Natural Resources police are interested in any information that may assist in apprehending the those responsible. People with information may call 410-260-8888.

Anyone person who impairs the usefulness of such buoys may be charged with a misdemeanor and, if convicted, faces fines and/or imprisonment. Half of any fine will be awarded to persons giving information that leads to conviction.