Divers from Pelagic Technologies recently revisited the platform they installed as part of NEPTUNE Canada’s cabled sea floor observatory, to fix some problems and add new cameras.
The local diving company was contracted by NEPTUNE Canada to install and care for the platform, which holds a multitude of cameras and sensors constantly streaming information about the underwater area to the web. There researchers and lay people alike can access it.
The platform sits about 23 metres underwater in Folger Passage, just off the coast of Vancouver Island near Bamfield. It is one of six such platforms connected by cables that stretch out across the Juan De Fuca plate and back to a shore station in Port Alberni.
Pelagic installed their platform by first bolting a frame to a sheer underwater rock face in August of 2010. The company then attached the platform to it, which held about a half million dollars worth of scientific instruments.
The underwater science observatory was powered up and connected to the NEPTUNE Canada network in early 2011.
“The NEPTUNE Canada project is one of a kind. There are other countries I believe that have tried to do it and have failed, so it’s the first successful underwater cable observatory,” said Pelagic president Glenn Hafey.
The project allows researchers a fish-eye view of the underwater world at depths up to 2,660 metres below the surface.
“The biggest thing about this whole idea is the fact that researchers have a very hard time coming up with the budget and booking time to get on research ships so now what they can do is they can tap into these instruments on-line,” Hafey said.
The instruments range from three-dimensional cameras to sensors that measure things like temperature, plankton, microbes and even seismic activity.
Some of the cameras on the platform Pelagic installed malfunctioned, however.
“There was an Internet controlled camera that was a pan-and-tilt camera, so it was designed to be able to look around in all conditions, rough and calm conditions, and there was a deep camera of the same make and they both failed,” Hafey said. “I don’t know the details on why it failed, but it didn’t work right from the beginning, but the 3-D camera was getting good images and then it failed as well.”
The instruments couldn’t be fixed underwater, he said.
“Originally it was made to not have an underwater disconnection, it was all hard wired in, so we as divers couldn’t get into the guts of the power source so it had to be pulled up,” Hafey said.
The platform was pulled from the water this summer, fixed and lowered back into place last month by the team at Pelagic.
“The instrument technicians have made what they call wet connections in case we have to do anything in the future,” Hafey said.
His team is proud to be a part of the NEPTUNE Canada project, which is massive in scale but limited in publicity.
“Interestingly for such a big and successful science project not many people know about it. I think CBC ranked it four out of the top ten and Popular Mechanics ranked it eight out of ten internationally. I think it even beat the Mars program on the CBC rating,” Hafey said.
To find out more about the project go to www.neptunecanada.com.