US Army Corps of Engineers
Waterways Experiment Station

NEWS RELEASE No. 16-97 , 26 August 1997

Contact: Public Affairs Office, (601) 634-2504

SANDYDUCK - World's Largest Coastal Field Experiment

SandyDuck, the largest coastal field experiment ever conducted, will take place in a flurry of activity at Duck, N.C., Sept. 22 to Oct. 31. Over 100 scientists, technicians, and students will monitor more than 400 sensors in support of 30 separate research experiments. SandyDuck's research will help advance the fundamental knowledge of how natural forces (water, wind, and sand) cause beaches to change.

SandyDuck offers a unique opportunity to witness a variety of coastal research conducted by internationally recognized experts at one location during a very specific time. It is the last such grand coastal field experiment scheduled for the next decade. The research results gathered from the efforts of SandyDuck will ultimately affect decisions on the management and development of coastlines, beaches, other coastal facilities for years to come.


SandyDuck is sponsored by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Office of Naval Research, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Participants from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain represent 18 universities, six government entities, and two private companies.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the nation's coastal engineer and is a recognized leader in coastal engineering research. The Corps of Engineers is hosting the SandyDuck coastal field experiment at its Field Research Facility at Duck, N.C.

The Field Research Facility has hosted several previous large-scale coastal experiments. Coastal researchers are attracted to the Field Research Facility because of its unique facilities, almost 20 years of coastal data records, and the staff's expertise in conducting field studies in the breaking wave zone. The Facility is located on 176 acres of barrier island habitat and has 3,000 feet of waterfront.

The Field Research Facility has very specialized equipment to support such coastal experiments. One unique vehicle is the Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy or CRAB, a 35-foot-tall motorized tricycle that is driven from the beach out into the ocean. The CRAB is used to install instruments, collect sediment samples, and map the ocean bottom. Some experiments will be conducted from the Facility's 1,840-foot-long concrete and steel pier. Other experiments will be aided by amphibious vehicles, boats, divers, and a variety of other coastal research support at the Facility. To support the flow of scientific data, a network of 115 computers and work stations has been established to connect the scientists to their instruments and to the Internet.

SandyDuck Instrumentation

While previous nearshore experiments focused on understanding waves and currents, SandyDuck will emphasize measuring and understanding sediment movement. To accomplish this bold objective, a wide variety of sophisticated sensors are being deployed. These include acoustic probes, current meters, fiber optic sensors, side-scan sonars, secscan sonars, acoustic altimeters, radar systems and a variety of other innovative sensor systems.

Additional data will be collected from the Field Research Facility's concrete pier using the unique Sensor Insertion System. This large custom-designed crane precisely places instruments in the ocean and is particularly useful during severe weather conditions. Video cameras mounted on three towers, including a 140-foot observation tower, will constantly monitor the beach and waves, providing a visual record of beach changes through time-lapse photography.

Experiment Schedule

SandyDuck was scheduled for September-October since these months have historically been active for early nor'easters, hurricanes, and other storms. Since SandyDuck's researchers are interested in measuring a variety of beach change data parameters, they hope to experience several storm events and the accompanying large-scale beach changes.

The SandyDuck experiment consists of three basic phases: June 15 to Sept. 21 is instrument deployment, Sept. 22 to Oct. 31 is the actual SandyDuck field experiment, and instrument removal will occur through November.

SandyDuck Activities

A typical day during the experiment will begin with a meeting of all participating researchers to discuss the previous day's data and to plan upcoming activities. Some of the scientists then move to their respective offices to monitor the collection of data from the army of sensors deployed for SandyDuck. Other researchers will deploy to the beach zone to perform numerous field tasks associated with the experiment.

While many of the sensors arrays are statically in place, the CRAB will be used to deploy several instrument sleds from the beach. When conditions permit, small inflatable boats will be launched to support underwater diving operations and to collect sediment samples. Coastal geologists will be collecting, analyzing, and x-raying sediment samples. A number of experiments will be conducted on the beach, including GPS beach surveys from highly mobile vehicles. There should be ample opportunities for interesting video and still photography to be taken, including use of the 1,840-foot pier and the 140-foot-tall observation tower as photography platforms.

Additional SandyDuck Information on the Internet

For additional information and frequent updates as SandyDuck progresses, check out the SandyDuck web site through the Field Research Facility's home page at:

Media Point of Contact

Media interested in the SandyDuck experiments should contact William Birkemeier at the Field Research Facility (252 261-3511x229) in Duck, N.C. A special media visitation period is scheduled for Oct. 1-3. This is when the maximum number of research experiments will be under way and when some of the world's leading authorities in coastal engineering and research will be on-site for interviews. Media representatives are heartily encouraged to schedule visits to the SandyDuck site during this time.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
"The Nation's Coastal Engineer"

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SandyDuck Participating Organizations

Government Organizations

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station
U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Naval Research
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Naval Research Laboratory
Naval Postgraduate School


Dalhousie University (Canada)
Duke University
Memorial University of Newfoundland (Canada)
North Carolina State University
Oregon State University
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
State University of New York, Stony Brook
University of California, Berkeley
University of Delaware
University of East-Anglia (United Kingdom)
University of Florida
University of Manitoba (Canada)
University of South Florida
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire
Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Washington State University
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


Arete Associates
Offshore and Coastal Technologies, Inc.

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