Vessel-based observations of the oceanic surface layer during the 14-day 2004 SAGE ocean fertilization experiment were conducted using ADCP, CTD and temperature microstructure in a frame of reference moving with a patch of injected SF6 tracer. During the experiment the mixed layer depth z(mld) ranged between 50 and 80 m, with several re-stratifying events that brought z(mld) up to less than 40 m. These re-stratifying events were not directly attributable to local surface-down development of stratification and were more likely associated with horizontal variation in density structure. Comparison between the CTD and a one-dimensional model confirmed that the SAGE experiment was governed by 3-d processes. A new method for estimating z(mld) was developed that incorporates a component that is proportional to density gradient. This highlighted the need for well-conditioned near-surface data which are not always available from vessel-based survey CTD profiles. A centred-displacement scale, L-c, equivalent to the Thorpe lengthscale, reached a maximum of 20 m, with the eddy-centroid located at around 40 m depth. Temperature gradient microstructure-derived estimates of the vertical turbulent eddy diffusivity of scalar (temperature) material yielded bin-averaged values around 10(-3) m(2) s(-1) in the pycnocline rising to over 10(-2) m(2) s(-1) in the surface layer. This suggests transport rates of nitrate and silicate at the base of the surface layer generate mixed layer increases of the order of 38 and 13 mmol/m(2)/day, respectively, during SAGE. However, the variability in measured vertical transport processes highlights the importance of transient events like wind mixing and horizontal intrusions. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.