A global science project in Sechelt

Allie Nichol / Staff writer
April 1, 2011 01:00 AM

Divers Graham Starsage and Glenn Hafey help install a transducer with the aid of a helicopter.

Working on one of the most important ongoing global science projects is a big title to lay claim to, but Sechelt-based engineering and environmental consulting firm Pelagic Technologies has been able to do just that.

Recently, Pelagic president Glenn Hafey and his team of science divers completed the second phase of work on the NEPTUNE Canada cabled sea floor observatory, an 800 km length of cable linked to various nodes that gather information. Everything from 3D cameras to capture images of ocean life to sensors that measure temperature, plankton, microbes, chemicals and seismic activity make up the project and its ability to stream on-line.

The first phase, initialized in August 2010, consisted of a highly delicate data-collecting instrument frame being laid on the sea bottom, which proved to be challenging.

The second phase of powering up the node proved to be even more difficult. Hafey and his team dove 23 metres to plug in the extension cord connecting the node to NEPTUNE Canada's network platform, located in Bamfield.

"This has been the hardest one for NEPTUNE to be able to [install]. The rest of them had been laid on the sea bottom. This one had to be bolted to the reef itself. First finding an appropriate site, which took two different trips, for a structural thing to be attached to the reef, and then combine that with the science that's necessary and the organisms they were targeting. Combine those three events with that surge and how powerful the water is out there. It was terribly difficult," Hafey explained.

After the team was safely out of the water, they held their collective breath as they powered up the platform.

"No one knew, even after all this effort, if it was actually going to start streaming data," said Hafey.

The lights came on, one by one. The project was a success, and Hafey said the team was ecstatic.

As for future plans, Pelagic Technologies has several projects on the go, including further work with NEPTUNE Canada that will see Hafey and his team dive back down to adjust the underwater cameras to record specific sea life and perform simple maintenance.

Hafey also explained the company is looking at creating a local community event this summer that will involve a demonstration dive. The team will collect various forms of sea and marine life and bring them to the surface for a community "show and tell" in hopes of encouraging kids of all ages to gain an interest in marine studies.

Event details will be released once a date is set.

To view the underwater camera footage, visit NEPTUNE Canada's website at www.neptunecanada.com.

© Coast Reporter


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