neptune canada victoria Canada soon to complete worlds largest ocean observatoryIf everything goes according to plan, the world’s largest ocean observatory will be ready for use by late September, except for the instruments at one node which won’t be installed until next year.

“Scientists and staff at NEPTUNE Canada are delighted to begin the final phase of installation following a decade of planning,” says Dr. Chris Barnes, director of NEPTUNE Canada.

NEPTUNE Canada, the world’s most advanced cabled ocean observatory, consists of five 13-tonne nodes and more than 400 instruments and sensors that will be placed on the seafloor off the coast of British Columbia with the aid of three ships, one Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), and a team of scientists and marine engineers. The observatory will be attached to a loop of powered fibre-optic cable which was put in place in 2007.

NEPTUNE Canada will use the Internet to transmit information to land-based scientists across the world, thus making it possible for researchers to experiment and investigate the deep sea without having to get their feet wet (or die from the immense pressure). NEPTUNE Canada will also carry out long-term monitoring of ocean processes and events.

“This is truly transformative science,” says Dr. David Turpin, president of the University of Victoria. “At a time when our understanding of the oceans is clearly becoming more essential than ever, NEPTUNE Canada will play a leadership role in advancing our knowledge of the oceans in ways not previously possible. We are launching a new era of ocean exploration.”

NEPTUNE Canada has been designed to withstand the intense pressure and cold of the deep sea as well as trawlers and corrosive saltwater.

“Working with industry partners, we’ve developed a host of novel science experiments, advanced engineering and sensor technologies and innovative data management systems”, says Dr. Barnes. “This is a very exciting time for ocean science.”

A lot of the technology fitted to the observatory is cutting-edge solutions that are now being deployed for the very first time.

Much of the infrastructure for NEPTUNE Canada is being designed, manufactured and installed by Alcatel-Lucent and its main subcontractors. Other main partners are the University of Victoria, the research ship Atlantis operated by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the research ship Thompson operated by the University of Washington. The project is funded chiefly by the Government of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, CANARIE, and the Government of British Columbia through the BC Knowledge Development Fund.