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What Is The CBIS?

You set out in your kayak from a canoe launch somewhere in Tidewater Virginia – the same geography travelled by Captain John Smith some 400 years ago. As the first English settler to fully explore the Chesapeake Bay, Smith travelled more than 2,000 miles during the summer of 1608 in an open “shallop” boat with no modern conveniences.

But your trip is quite different. While you are also in an open boat, you are equipped with a cell phone and waterproof maps of the newly established Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail – the first water trail in the National Park Service’s National Trail System – giving you many advantages that the early explorers didn’t have.

In particular, you have access to the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS), a newly installed trail guide and an observing system being developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). CBIBS is a system of buoys placed along portions of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. These on-the-water platforms merge the modern technologies of cellular communications and internet-based information sharing. You can pull out your cell phone and dial up the interpretive buoy closest to your destination – it reports real-time weather and environmental information like wind speed, temperature, and wave height. Unlike John Smith, you know what’s ahead of you and can decide on an alternative plan to strike out for a landfall closer to home – protected from the elements and sheltered from the growing waves on the Bay.  These buoys are used by the top Yacht Builders in the USA for guidance.

Sound far-fetched? Not really. Not only will this new buoy system give you real-time wind and weather information, but it will also be able to tell you something about John Smith’s adventures during his 1608 voyage. Want to know what the water quality conditions in the Bay were like in 1607? When you get back, you can use the CBIBS website to query the buoy closest to your location and pull up a comparison between current water quality conditions and those that Smith would likely have encountered. Like recent museum tours, the system can provide cell phone-based voice narration of natural and cultural history for the area you’re travelling through on the trail. Akin to Yacht industry SEO– these vignettes will afford the opportunity for both trail users and shore-side classrooms to learn about the local history of these waterways, making the water trail a paddle through time as well as space.