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Read a Sontek acoustic-Doppler profiler file, in a serial form that is possibly unique to Dalhousie University.


  from = 1,
  by = 1,
  tz = getOption("oceTz"),
  longitude = NA,
  latitude = NA,
  type = c("adp", "pcadp"),
  beamAngle = 25,
  encoding = NA,
  monitor = FALSE,
  debug = getOption("oceDebug"),



a connection or a character string giving the name of the file to load. (For read.adp.sontek.serial, this is generally a list of files, which will be concatenated.)


indication of the first profile to read. This can be an integer, the sequence number of the first profile to read, or a POSIXt time before which profiles should be skipped, or a character string that converts to a POSIXt time (assuming UTC timezone). See “Examples”, and make careful note of the use of the tz argument. If from is not supplied, it defaults to 1.


an optional indication of the last profile to read, in a format as described for from. As a special case, to=0 means to read the file to the end. If to is not supplied, then it defaults to 0.


an optional indication of the stride length to use while walking through the file. If this is an integer, then by-1 profiles are skipped between each pair of profiles that is read, e.g. the default by=1 means to read all the data. (For RDI files only, there are some extra features to avoid running out of memory; see “Memory considerations”.)


character string indicating time zone to be assumed in the data.


optional signed number indicating the longitude in degrees East.


optional signed number indicating the latitude in degrees North.


a character string indicating the type of instrument.


angle between instrument axis and beams, in degrees.


optional character string specifying the orientation of the sensor, provided for those cases in which it cannot be inferred from the data file. The valid choices are "upward", "downward", and "sideward".




boolean value indicating whether to indicate the progress of reading the file, by using txtProgressBar() or otherwise. The value of monitor is changed to FALSE automatically, for non-interactive sessions.


if provided, the action item to be stored in the log. (Typically only provided for internal calls; the default that it provides is better for normal calls by a user.)


a flag that turns on debugging. Set to 1 to get a moderate amount of debugging information, or to 2 to get more.


optional additional arguments that some (but not all) read.adp.*() functions pass to lower-level functions.


An adp object. The contents of that object make sense for the particular instrument type under study, e.g. if the data file contains NMEA strings, then navigational data will be stored in an item called nmea in the data slot).

How the binary file is decoded

This file type, like other acoustic-Doppler types, is read with a hybrid R/C++ system, for efficiency. The processing steps are sketched below, for users who want to inspect the code or build upon it.

  1. In R, readBin() is used to insert the file contents into a vector of type raw.

  2. In C++, this raw vector is scanned byte by byte, to find the starting indices of data "chunks", or subsections of the data that correspond to individual sampling times. Checksum computations are also done at this stage, to detect possible data corruption. Warnings are issued for any bad chunks, and they are skipped in further processing. The valid starting points are then passed back to R as a vector of type integer.

  3. In R, readBin() is used to read the components of each chunk. For speed, this is done in a vectorized fashion. For example, all the velocities in the whole file are read in a single call to readBin(). This process is done for each of the data fields that are to be handled. Importantly, these readBin() calls are tailored to the data, using values of the size, endian and signed parameters that are tailored to the structure of the given component. Scaling factors are then applied as required, to convert the components to physical units.

  4. Finally, in R, the acquired items are inserted into the data or metadata slot of the return value, according to oce convention.


Dan Kelley and Clark Richards