What are Kemmerer bottles?

Based on a 1927 design by Dr. George Kemmerer, University of Wisconsin, the Kemmerer bottle has long been favored by limnologists and fishery biologists. With few moving parts and a foolproof trip, it offers a trouble-free life.

Clear acrylic cylinders have the advantage of being transparent: you can see the sample before removal. You can also install thermometers inside acrylic samplers. Because acrylic scratches, cases are recommended.

Kemmerers come in durable stainless steel, unlike Alpha and Beta™ samplers, which have plastic main tubes only.

A key feature in the Kemmerer is the automatic lock which keeps stoppers open before the sampler is lowered. The seals close by dropping a messenger. When the sampler is closed, the entire weight of the sampler and contents is carried upon the lower valve. This forces the sampler to sit securely on the lower valve and prevents water leakage. A drain in the bottom stopper draws off water for analysis.

The distinctive patented trip head works reliably with air drops 1 m (39”) to 15 m (50 feet). We call it the All-Angle™ because, as the name implies, you can strike it up to 90°. It is particularly useful in fast flowing streams where the current may push the messenger. This trip works only if your sampler is on a taut line. Otherwise the messenger may not slide down fast enough to close the bottle.

The All-Angle™ trip head comes in four forms: our standard polyurethane; stainless steel; machined teflon for our top-of-the line teflon sampler; and a special size for our well samplers. A special variant of the polyurethane (PU) All-Angle™ is used with our 1500 series Kemmerers on page 32. Delrin plastic fasteners and an O-ring replace the stainless steel garter spring in the trip head on these bottles.

The All-Angle™ is not all things to all samplers, however. It is not suitable for long air drops. When sampling from an elevation such as a bridge, we suggest the 1270-l40 Tugger™ trip, which does not need a messenger. (Page 32.)

The stainless steel or teflon trips and bottles are used when solvents, high temperature or other conditions preclude the use of a polyurethane trip. In these cases, you will also need silicone or teflon seals to avoid organic compounds or withstand high temperatures. Teflon, for instance, can be used in temperatures up to 230° C (450° F).

Materials used in Wildco Van Dorn bottles

Metal parts are 304 or 316 stainless steel and are rugged, durable and lack contaminating organics. Nonmetals are flexible, blue polyurethane; rigid, white ASA plastic with silicone gasket; transparent acrylic; and opaque PVC. Internal parts are nonmetallic. Plastic samplers may use some external metal parts for durability and rigidity.

Alpha™ seal – Blue, flexible polyurethane that can leach and contaminate samples. Because it may leach slight traces of mercury and phosphorous (among other potential contaminants), do not use for trace metal or chemical sampling. Durable, long lasting and flexible.

Beta™ seal – White, rigid inert ASA plastic with a silicone gasket specifically for trace metal sampling. It does not leach mercury but is not as durable.

How to maintain your water bottles

1. Store hung from a hook, upright, with all valves open. Storing when closed may damage valves.
2. Guard the sampler from blows on the cylinder ends (this may knock them out of round), a common cause of leakage.
3. Worn or age-hardened seals should be immediately replaced to prevent leakage.
4. To avoid damage during use, the sampler should always be carried in a carry case.

How to maintain Kemmerer bottles

1. To avoid damage, use the case during transport or storage.
2. Store hung from a hook in a vertical position with all valves open. Storing closed many damage the valves.
3. Guard the sampler from blows on the cylinder ends (this may cause them to be knocked out of round), a common cause of sampler leakage.
4. Leakage may also occur from a bent central shaft. When this happens, it is best to replace the shaft.
5. Worn or age-hardened stoppers should be replaced to prevent leakage. Never remove seals when dry. Moisten first, then grasp with a side-to-side motion. Never attempt to remove seal in wet or dry conditions with a direct pulling motion. This will shorten stopper life dramatically.

How do I use my Kemmerer bottle?

1. Lower the bottle on a line to the desired depth.
2. All-Angle™ and Tugger™ trip heads lock the seals open before lowering into the water. In the open position, water flows smoothly around the bottom seal and into the cylinder, thereby obtaining an accurate and representative water sample to the microgram (mg/L) level
3. If using a Tugger trip, you need to know when your sampler is at the correct depth for closing. Tie a small float on the line above the sampler at the desired sampling depth. When the float sinks, tug the line to close the bottle.
3. Drop a messenger or tug on the Tugger™ trip head
4. The 2 ears open and top seal falls, closing both ends.

How do I select the right Kemmerer?

For general sampling:
1200, 1204, 1220, 1230 – E32 kits: These range from 0.4 – 3.2 L and are constructed of 316 SS with polyurethane seals.
1200-C12 kits: 1.2 L and is constructed of transparent acrylic with polyurethane end seals.
For drum sampling and confined areas:
1204-E32, 1204-E42 kit: Small, compact bottles only 7.4” (187 mm) in length, designed especially to fit in small areas.
For trace organic sampling:
1204-E42, 1200-E42, 1200-G32, 1295-B32 kit: 1.2 L, 316 SS with teflon or silicone end seals; or all-Teflon bodies and seals. These can sample industrial solvents, strong acids and bases and other corrosive chemicals at temperatures to 450°F. Includes cable.

How do Beta bottles and Alpha bottles differ?

These bottles are very similar in use and appearance. Both are Van Dorn samplers that come in the same sizes and in PVC and transparent acrylic. The only differences are in the end seals and latex closing tubing. These differences are enough, however, to make the Beta™ better suited to sampling trace metals.

The blue polyurethane seal used in Alpha™ bottles may leach some mercury and phosphorous (among other contaminants). However, it is durable and long-lived. The white ASA plastic seal used in Beta™ bottles does not leach mercury. However, it is not as durable.

The black latex tubing on Alpha™ bottles is highly resistant to decay from sunlight and water. However, it may leach a very few heavy metals. The amber latex tubing on Beta™ bottles is less resistant to sun and water but does not leach contaminants.

How do 1200 and 1500 Kemmerers differ?

The 1200’s last longer because they have stainless steel parts (and sometimes stainless steel bodies). However, the 1500’s are more versatile because there are no metal parts to touch the sample.

1500’s come in acrylic and PVC; 1200’s come in stainless steel or acrylic only (no PVC). 1200’s have a wider variety of materials than 1500’s. Both come with silicone seals for trace metal sampling or polyurethane seals for general sampling.

Can I use my sounding line with a Kemmerer bottle?

Caution! Sounding line will not thread through center tubes of 1200 Kemmerer bottles. If you wish to use with Kemmerers, simply attach 50-L10 Kemmerer adaptor kit to the bottom link and thread through the center shaft of the Kemmerer bottle. Be sure to secure the end of the adaptor kit with the supplied cable clamps!

About Beta bottles

Beta™ Van Dorn-style bottles have rigid, white ASA plastic end seals with silicone gaskets. Amber latex tubing is used to close the bottle because it leaches fewer contaminants than the black latex tubing used on our Alpha™ bottles. It is not as durable, however. The Beta™ sampler is excellent for trace metal sampling, as there are no metal parts to touch your sampler.

When tripped by a messenger, their ASA plastic end seals snap tightly onto each end of the cylinder, producing an almost leakproof seal. A small amount of sample is always lost until a slight vacuum forms inside as the sealed sampler is lifted out of the water.

As with our Alpha™ bottles and Ekman grabs, Beta™ bottles feature a 316 stainless steel trip head mechanism for durability and high performance. They also feature a nylon safety line connecting the end seals, so if the latex tubing breaks, the end seals often remain with the bottle.

Choose between completely transparent acrylic or the more durable, less costly opaque PVC main tubes. Acrylic allows full view of the contents during your field work.

Warning: These seals close with considerable force and could cause injury. Do not operate out of the water!