Researchers across Canada and internationally are getting an up close view of what the bottom of the Arctic Ocean looks like thanks to a new observatory that's anchored just off the coast of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.
The arctic observatory gives researchers a look at what conditions are like — everything from fish activity, underwater sounds, sea ice levels, water salinity, temperature, oxygen and chlorophyll levels are constantly monitored.
And the beauty of the system is that it can be monitored online, from anywhere in the world.
"When the ice starts forming or breaking up, I find that kind of exciting and I check how thick it is from home in Victoria," says Alice Bui, a scientific researcher with Ocean Networks Canada, who are in charge of the project.
Even when there's no ice on the surface, the ocean floor there has one of the harshest conditions on earth. And they're changing — fast.
"Scientists and the general public wanting to understand what is happening in the north and how climate change is affecting the oceans and the ice flows," says Ryan Flagg, an observatory support engineer with ONC.
This mini-observatory uses similar technology that was developed for Venus and Neptune, two larger cable observatories located on Canada's Pacific Coast. All those pictures and data collected flow though cables to a station on shore in real time where they're then broadcast out on the Internet.
The ability for Arctic researchers to not have to leave the comfort of their labs to check up on the latest information is very helpful. "It's the arctic. It's expensive, remote [and] difficult to access," Bui says.
Even people in Cambridge Bay are getting a closer look at the ocean floor.
ONC are using the information in classrooms, so students like James Gray can learn like never before. New sensors recently installed can track wind levels and even monitor fish.
"I think, 'Wow, there's stuff here that I never even heard of'," Gray says.