By Lisa J. Huriash
DANIA BEACH | Some international intrigue, Soviet-style with a Cuban twist, has kicked up along the shores of South Florida.
A 1,200-pound Soviet buoy that surfaced off Dania Beach looks like it belongs in a James Bond movie. Script — which the Library of Congress says is Russian for Hydrometrical Service of the USSR — is painted in black on its side.
Exactly where the rusty, Cold War-era relic came from and what it was used for remain a mystery.
Workers at Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park pulled it off the beach just days after Hurricane Irma swept through town.
They think it floated 350 miles from Cuba, given Cuba’s historically close ties with the Soviet Union.
Bill Moore, the park’s maintenance mechanic, locked eyes on the 12-foot buoy at the same time Coast Guard members did. He marveled at it, thinking, “You don’t find that too often.”
The Coast Guard’s administrative offices are next to the park’s headquarters. “They came running down here with their dog,” he said. “They tried to confiscate it.”
But Moore retrieved it before the Coast Guard could, he said. The buoy was too heavy to budge, so Moore tied a rope around it and with a skid-steer loader dragged it up the embankment and then brought it to the park office’s parking lot.
The buoy has brownish-orange stripes. Filled with water and sand, it weighs at least 1,200 pounds. A tear in the side shows it is stuffed with foam inside.
The pointy tip with ropes appeared to be the part anchored into the sea. The damaged top looks like it once had something affixed to it, perhaps a light used as a channel marker for ships.
Robert Molleda, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the buoy could have come from Cuba, given the geographical proximity.
“In Irma, the storm came from the south-southeast. And in a storm like that, something could get dislodged,” he said. “It could go adrift and easily wind up in Florida.”
The writing means Hydrometrical Service of the USSR, said Harold M. Leich, the Russian Area Specialist of the European Division of the Library of Congress.
The first word is an abbreviation for “Gidrometricheskaia,” which means “water-measuring,” like an instrument that measures water temperature, movement and depth, he said. Some Russian-language experts translate it as “Hydrometeorological,” referring to a branch of meteorology involving the study of water in the atmosphere.
Molleda said such buoys often are used to measure wave height, and weather variables like temperature, wind speed, direction, or atmospheric pressure.
Others only report water temperature, or water levels to monitor for tsunamis.
But what if this wasn’t REALLY for the weather at all, or if it had a dual purpose?
Leich has his suspicions, based on history.
The Soviets were Cuba’s chief ally and supporter from Fidel Castro’s rise to power in the 1960s until the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991.
So “my best guess is the buoy, and probably many others just like it or similar to it, were placed by the Soviets as an aid to navigation for Soviet vessels bringing materials to Cuba or returning back to the USSR,” he said.