December 11, 2009—Nearly 500 miles of data-transmitting cable will make NEPTUNE Canada's new Pacific Ocean observatory the largest of its kind. Underwater cameras will also capture seafloor wildlife.
© 2009 National Geographic; Video from the University of Victoria & NEPTUNE Canada
This week, scientists in Canadas British Columbia began collecting data from hundreds of scientific instruments on the seafloor of the Pacific Ocean using the largest and most advanced cabled ocean observatory in the world.
While data collection is its primary goal, underwater cameras add to the allure of this project, so scientists can see the animals living on and near the ocean floor.
Nearly 500 miles of looped cable carries both electricity and fiber optic lines for data transmission in both directions for the project known as NEPTUNE Canada. NEPTUNE is an acronym for North-East Pacific Time-series Underwater Networked Experiments.
The observatory, with 6 sites for data collection, stretches from Vancouver Island, over the Pacifics continental shelf, and into deep ocean.
The projects data collection is available to the public- scientists and students can log onto the internet to see the information.
NEPTUNE Canada, and its sister program VENUS, is coordinated by the University of Victoria with funding from the Canadian and British Columbia governments. Its intended to enhance scientists abilities to gather ocean data allowing 24/7 collection, rather than data from infrequent voyages and dives.
One oceanographer using NEPTUNE Canada is 3,000 miles away on the countrys east coast in St. Johns, Newfoundland.
SOUNDBITE: Paul Snelgrove, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Ship costs are quite extensive, and were also very lucky if were able to get out there for even a week or two per year. So for the rest of the year, we have to try and guess whats going on. This is problematic because we think that unpredictable events like storms and underwater landslides can be very important. /With VENUS and NEPTUNE, our team can be there any time, to see whats happening on the sea floor and making decisions on how to sample, even though our group is scattered between Victoria and St. Johns.
Part of NEPTUNE Canadas aims include applications in the areas of climate change, earthquake and tsunami research, ocean productivity, non-renewable marine resources, and marine animal studies.
NEPTUNE Canada has been in the making for a decade, and its expected to provide information about the ocean floor for the next 25 years.