Admiring the view off Vancouver Island - undersea style

by Eve Savory, CBCNews.ca

Barring some intervention by the sea-gods, in about a year the world will be able to see
beneath the surface of the Pacific ocean off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Live. In real time.

Neptune Canada – the world’s first regional cabled Ocean Observatory - is taking shape. This week, the vessel Ile de Sein returned to harbour in Port Alberni after a marathon nine weeks of laying 800 kilometres of cable. The cables make a large loop, running down the Alberni Inlet, extending across the continental shelf to depths of 2,600 metres, and back to Port Alberni.

By late 2008, those cables will be part of a much bigger system busily collecting data and images from the surface to beneath the seafloor, and sending them back, not just to scientists at the University of Victoria, but to anyone, anywhere with an internet connection.

Before then however, the project managers for Neptune - the North-East Pacific Time-series Undersea Networked Experiments – have a huge job ahead. They‘ve got to install five 6.5 tonne nodes, or power transformers,more than 200 interactive sampling instruments and sensors, as well as video cameras. That will take up most of next summer.

When it’s fired up, we’ll all learn more about earthquakes and tsunamis, sea life,gas hydrate deposits, and how a changing climate is altering the oceans.