top banner

other documents
Popular graphs
Useful links
Other documents
Registering as a user for data extraction
Contact us

User's quick guide to data location and extraction

Registering as a user

To merely browse the inventory to inspect the scope and extent of the data holdings, there is no need to register nor to log-on for each browsing session.

To extract data, the user has to register (a once-off activity). Without registration, data extraction will not be possible. To register, click on 'registration' in the Home Page.

After submission of the registration, the user is informed of its acceptance by e-mail. Remember: direct extraction of data is for research purposes only.

To browse the inventory (listings of data) or to extract data, click on data access button on the left. The user is first provided with a brief description of what can be found on the Inventory.

By again clicking on 'Inventory and extraction' the user is taken to the Inventory and extraction itself.

Return to top

Locating data sets

The Inventory provides access to more than 6 000 individual data sets (a 'data set' being a cruise, or a deployed instrument, etc).

In addition, there are more than 7 million records of surface weather observations collected by Voluntary Observing Ships (and therefore referred to as 'VOS'), since 1660. These can also be accessed on-line (although not in the same way as the cruises).

It is often necessary to locate the survey you are interested in (like a library book).

A user searches for a particular data set according to the metadata of the survey (ship's name, date of the survey, type of data, etc). These parameters are captured in the buttons that appear on the left side of the screen in the Inventory (Fig. 1). A description of the functionality of these buttons is given below.

Not all surveys have been supplied with a full array of metadata, such as project name, chief scientist name, etc. The table below includes the % of entries that contain a particular metadata parameter. The best parameters are date, vessel, or area, of which the vessel is most useful.

The location of a survey and its extraction are illustrated through a few examples. In many cases, use is made of drop-down menus since the database entries are sensitive to spelling.

The SurveyID is not generally known to the user up front and is therefore not really useful to search for a cruise. The surveyID is a unique identifier of a data set, and includes the year of loading (e.g. 2005) and a sequential number (e.g. 0007), giving 2005/0007. Before 1990 the “year of loading” was made the same as the year of the cruise. [100%]

The date of the survey is always available in the Inventory, but if a date is only roughly known by the searcher (e.g. 1983), this search method can be used to start from a certain date onwards (e.g. 1 Jan 1983) and identify the required cruise from the other information supplied on screen. [100%]

A drop-down menu is provided to select the institute name. Remember that some Institutes have, on occasion, changed names over the years, so searching on this parameter is not unambiguous. [83%]

This is useful if the scientist name was provided at the time of data loading (not always the case, and not for some historic data sets). [27%]

The vessel name is normally a good way to track down a data set. A number of cruises have been submitted without a vessel name but these are largely ships-of-opportunity. [70%]

By defining a lat/long area all the surveys that had at least one station inside the box will be listed. The full survey will then be identifiable. [100%]

This option is useful for non-hydrographic (ship) data (such as time series data

Project names are loaded, where available. Multiple names have also been loaded in the “Project” field, and can be searched on any part of the field (not just the start). [82%]

Fig. 1 Descriptions of the various buttons by which the Inventory can be searched.


  • The total number of surveys in SADCO’s inventory is 6 705 (June 2009).
  • the percentage included in the table indicates the portion of the total number of surveys that include that parameter
  • shaded parameters are considered the best for searching [date, vessel name, area], of which the vessel is most useful

Return to top

Search for data from an institute

By entering the first few characters of the Institute name, an alphabetical list is provided of the institutes that start with those characters.

In the example below (Fig. 2), 'nat' was entered, with the intention to locate 'Natmirc' (National Marine Information and Research Centre, Namibia)

By selecting this institute from the drop-down list (Fig. 2), the next page provides a list of years for which data from this institute is available. If the number of surveys could fit on one screen, they would be listed directly. If there are more (as in the present case with 157 surveys), a further selection of the year is required (Fig. 3).

Fig. 2 The output after entering “nat” for the Institute name.

Fig. 3 After selecting 'Natmirc' in Fig. 1, the year coverage of the 157 surveys executed by Natmirc is provided (years marked in shading). Selection of a particular year provides a listing of the cruises Fig. 4)

Fig. 4 Listing of NATMIRC cruises obtained by clicking on '1994' in Fig. 3

Return to top

Search for data by scientist name

As before, enter the first few characters of the scientist’s surname (without initials). In the example below, 'gor' was entered and A L Gordon was selected from the list. The output is shown in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5  List of the two cruises in which A L Gordon was entered as the PI

Return to top

Search for data from a vessel (platform)

Enter the first few characters of the vessel name. In the example on the right, 'mei' (first letters of 'Meiring Naudé', the CSIR's research vessel, was entered.

The drop-down list (Fig. 6) shows Meiring Naudé at the top, plus more vessels listed alphabetically. Click on 'Meiring Naude', and this provides the output in Fig. 7.

From the Table in Fig. 7, '1975' was selected. After selecting the year 1975, the output in Fig. 8 appears

Fig. 6  List of vessels obtained after
entering 'mei' in the search field.


Fig. 7 Years during which the RV Meiring Naudé executed 379 surveys

From the list in Fig. 8, the cruise with the Survey_ID 1975/0043 (Project 'Bathy', Sept. 1975) was the one selected. The final output of the Inventory is shown in Fig. 9a.

Fig. 8 List of Meiring Naudé cruises, starting in 1975. The arrow indicates the 'Bathy'
cruise selected, and portrayed in Fig. 9a

Fig. 9a. Metadata and track chart of the cruise of the 46 Meiring Naudé stations on the
'Bathy' project in September 1975. 'OSD' refers to discrete-level measurements (such as
bottles). Nutrients were sampled on 37 stations, encompassing 310 individual samples.

If the user is registered and logged on, the contents of Fig. 9a appear as shown below (Fig. 9b). By clicking on the 'Extract on-line' button, the data is extracted and the user informed by e-mail where to download the data.

Fig. 9b. Note that an 'extract online' button appears at the bottom left when the user is
logged in. When clicked, the data is extracted on-line without further ado, and the user
informed by e-mail where (= URL) the data can be viewed or downloaded.

Return to top

Search for time series data

Example A: Wave data. By clicking on the 'data types' button, a drop-down menu appears from which the desired data type can be selected (Fig. 10).

If 'hydro' is selected, the process becomes the same as shown above (ship cruises).

Select 'Waves' and a list appears of wave stations of which data is available (Fig. 11).

Fig. 10 Selecting the 'data types' search button (1) and the 'waves' option (2) from
the drop-down menu.

Fig. 11 Wave buoy stations for which data is in SADCO. Note that each 'survey'
covers a number of years.

Selection of Richards Bay from the list, shows the available data (Fig. 12), for the case where the user is logged in. The column on the right indicates that the data can be extracted on-line.

Fig. 12 Wave data available per year for the Richards Bay wave buoy. Also indicated in
the year-month table is the instrument type. If the user is logged in, a column is visible
that indicates that the data can be extracted on-line (arrow)

Example B: weather data. Select 'Weather' on the 'Data types' screen (Fig. 10), and click on Richards Bay Port Control as an example. Fig. 13 shows the relevant outcome. However, the amount of data for some years is now too high for direct extraction. If such a set is selected by the user the request will be routed to a SADCO staff member who will do the extraction and the user is informed by e-mail.

Fig. 13 Weather data available from the Richards Bay Port Control weather station. The
top arrow indicates that the data can be extracted on-line (< 10 000 records) while the
bottom arrow indicates data that can only be extracted off-line (> 10 000 records)

Example C: current meter data. Click on 'Currents' in Fig. 10. The user is required to select a year, the same as in Fig. 3 and 7. '1987' was selected in the present case. The resulting list is shown in Fig. 14.

Fig. 14 List of current meter deployments (moorings) that contained data during 1987.
The mooring indicated with an arrow was selected as an example, to produce Fig. 15.

Fig. 15 Details of the mooring selected in Fig. 14. The table shows that there were 3 instruments
on the mooring (at depths of 210m, 1 512m and 4 011m), the data of each spanning 3 years (the
time series have been partitioned into years, and coloured). Some data (marked 'Extract online')
can be extracted on-line, some will be handled off-line. All three instruments recorded
temperature (T) and velocity (V), and one also recorded pressure (P)

Return to top

Search for data from a Project

If the project name was supplied to the data centre, this could be a very useful search parameter. Because the correct wording and spelling of project names are often not known to outside users, the search according to Project Name compares the entered search characters with the whole string in the 'Project' field, to find a hit (not just the first few characters).

This allows for the possibility that the Project field in the data centre may contain more than one Project name, such as 'ACEP/ASCLME/Agulhas Current System', and any of the projects will be located during the search.

The output of a search for project 'Bathy' shows (Fig. 16) that 49 such surveys were done. Picking a specific cruise from that table will produce a similar output as in Fig. 9a or 9b.

Fig. 16 List of cruises on the 'Bathy' project, on which 49 surveys were
executed between 1968 and 1976.

Return to top

Search for VOS data

The Voluntary Observing Ships’ data comprises weather observations made by ships of opportunity at so-called synoptic hours (0:00, 6:00, 12:00, and 18:00). Parameters include sea surface temperature, wind speed and direction; swell height and direction, wind wave height, cloud cover, etc.

To access VOS data, select VOS from the menu in Fig. 10.

Because VOS data is not stored by survey, the selection is done by lat-long rectangle and years (see Fig. 17). The on-line extraction must be less than 100 rectangle degree-years. i.e. 10x10 degree for 1 year, 3x3 degrees for 10 years, etc. Fractions of a degree is allowed.

Fig. 17 Extraction method for VOS data. Because the data is not collected or stored
by survey, the extraction is done by area and period.

Return to top

Queuing of requests

All requests are handled in tandem (= queued).  If it e.g. happens that a user’s request is #3 in the list, and requests #1 and #2 take a couple of minutes each, request #3 will only start being handled after a few minutes.

In case a given request 'hangs' (for some reason the extraction cannot be executed), the request is removed from the queue after 10 minutes. In such a case, the respective user is informed that the request will be handled off-line and the other users in the queue are informed of the delay.

Return to top

Downloading the extracted data

The e-mail sent to the user when the extraction is complete includes the URL where the data can be downloaded. By (left) clicking on the URL, the data will be listed for viewing. By right-clicking, the user can indicate where the data should be saved.

Return to top

Plotting the data

It is strongly suggested that the user obtain a copy of ODV (Ocean Data View) which is freely available from

This is a powerful graphing programme that can produce figures ready for inclusion in reports. Here is a quick introduction just to get you started with ODV:

As an example, the data in Fig. 8b was extracted.

Opening with ODV

  • Once the extracted data has been saved on your PC, 'open' the file with ODV (right-click on the file, select 'Open file with…' and select ODV from the dropdown list.
  • ODV will automatically import and plot the station positions in one of its windows, and you’re ready to rock and roll. We will show you only one of the many plotting options.

Defining the section (Fig. 18)

  • Right-click somewhere on open space between the graph templates on the screen, and select 'Layout templates' and then '1 section window' (this draws one section only).
  • Right-click on the chart with plotted stations, then select 'Manage section' and 'Define section'.
  • The station chart enlarges (Fig. 18), to allow the section to be defined
  • A straight section can be defined by clicking on the start position and double-clicking on the end position (or press Enter).
  • A curved track can be created by successively clicking along the desired route. Pressing 'Enter' ends the section.
  • The section is not just a single line but an enveloping box. If required, this box can be 'widened' in the left-bottom box called 'Mean width'. Only stations within the envelope will be plotted.

Setting up the graph (Fig. 19)

  • Right-click on the section graph (which has now been plotted) and set X variable (= distance), Y variable (= depth) and Z variable (= temperature)
  • Also select 'Set ranges' and adjust the scales already entered there. E.g. temperature should be between 0 and 30 deg.
  • At this stage, the section shows the depths where measurements were taken (small dots), coloured according to the temperature scale on the right. However, this is still not easy to interpret.

Fig. 18 Defining the section. The width of the section can be widened by the
box indicated with the arrow

Fig. 19 On the same panel, the 'Draw marks' (this indicates the depths where
measurements were taken) can be toggled (they are visible in Fig. 20c) and the
size of the dots enlarged to be visible.

Fig. 20a  Setting the contouring options. This is the default screen for 'Display style'.The
measuring points are colour-coded according to the temperature scale.

Fig. 20b  Setting the contouring options. In the 'Display style' tab the 'Gridded field' has been
selected, and the gridding options set to 'VC gridding' and the X/Y scale length modified.
The 'Draw marks' option is toggled, and the dot size enlarged

Fig. 20c  Setting the contouring options: In the 'Contours' tab, the contour intervals
(which were automatically created) have been transferred from right to left with the
'<<' button. They are now visible on the graph.

Return to top

CSIR - Copyright 2008 © All Rights Reserved