Neptune, The World’s Largest Undersea Observatory

24.03.2015 |

Episode #2 of the course “Most ambitious science projects”

Oceans cover close to three-fourths of the surface of the whole Earth and hold 90% of life on the planet. Humans have barely begun to explore ocean life. An ocean observatory network named Neptune is made up of an extensive 530 miles (~853 km) of cable and 130 tools with 400 sensors, and it even connects to the Internet. This massive network will finally give macro data, 24/7 hour monitoring of one ocean system, to include the study of animal life, chemistry, and geology.


Uses for Science

Neptune has a contingency of instruments that lie as far as 220 miles (~354 km) from the coast of British Columbia on the tectonic plate close to Juan de Fuca. These tools render a real-time perspective of the area. An attached flotation device dressed with radiometers, fluorometers, and conductivity sensors travels throughout the 1,300-foot (~396 m) water column from the bed of the sea to the water’s surface. It takes samples of the column’s conditions, both chemical and physical, to observe and record progress and change.

ROPOS, a remotely operated vehicle, puts in the instruments and collects data. On top of that, the vehicle has a high-definition camera that renders photographs and videos of how animals behave. Scientists could use this information to measure how things change in the ecosystem. Hydrophones are located on the vehicle and are used to record dolphin and whale behavior and to track the number of animals and their movements throughout the year. Wally, a remote crawler, drives along the ocean bed to monitor methane deposits under the water. These deposits have the potential to make global climate change worse, but they could also be an energy source.


Uses for Practical Life

Amateur and professional scientists around the world can locate internet feeds to see streaming video footage of Wally the Crawler rolling along the ocean floor, view deep-sea tube worms swaying in the pressure of a hydrothermal vent, or listen to a musical selection from a humpback whale.


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