On 13 August 2012 the University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) was granted a research license from the Nunavut Research Institute, with approval from the Nunavut Impact Review Board, to install and maintain a small, cabled seafloor observatory for five years in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Installation was completed by the end of September 2012.
This community observatory, a scaled-down version of UVic’s seafloor networks, is the first location in Canada’s Arctic for year-round, continuous undersea monitoring of the northern environment. Its purpose is to offer science-based support for greater understanding and protection of fragile arctic marine ecosystems. Data streaming from the instruments support cutting-edge research as well as educational and community purposes. Additionally, the project intends to create some local employment opportunities associated with the maintenance of the observatory infrastructure, as well as future technical and educational training opportunities. Funding is provided by Ocean Networks Canada.
Why Cambridge Bay?
An Arctic feasibility study prepared in March 2011 for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development highlighted Cambridge Bay as an example site for an ocean observing system. Led by ONC, a team of industry experts completed this detailed study using technologies developed on the VENUS and NEPTUNE Observatories to establish a year-round, 24/7 monitoring capability in Canada's High Arctic. The Cambridge Bay site was chosen for several factors including: the existing community and infrastructure (power, airstrip and accessible wharf); the protected location in the bay; the opportunity for science education at the local school; and the outreach potential both to the local community and seasonal visitors.
Offering Canadian ocean observing expertise
ONC manages the world’s largest cabled deep ocean observatory network offshore Canada’s west coast. In the fall of 2011, an observatory was installed at Brentwood College School on southern Vancouver Island, where high school students are now using data collected by underwater instruments for their science classes. The community observatory was developed through funding from Canada’s Advanced Research and Innovation Network (CANARIE), and with support from the ONC Centre for Enterprise and Engagement (ONCCEE). Cambridge Bay has a similar system, where the data and underwater video feeds are available to the local school and library, via the Internet. This data is also archived at UVic, for long-term study of the changing ocean environment in the Arctic.
What is included in a community undersea observatory?
The underwater instrument platform is located on the ocean floor at a depth of approximately six metres, and linked by cable to a wharf connection. The instrument platform hosts an HD Video underwater camera and underwater microphone, a suite of sensors to measure seawater properties, plus an instrument to measure ice thickness. On the wharf, a second camera monitors surface ice formation and a small weather station provides information on current atmospheric conditions. From the wharf, data is transmitted over a wireless link to the school. An Internet connection is required to make data available beyond Cambridge Bay. ONC would like to thank the Nunavut Government for hosting observatory equipment at their facility in Cambridge Bay.
Benefits of the community observatory
Canada’s coastline—the longest of any country in the world—spans 3 ocean systems: the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Arctic, where we are witnessing the most rapid and profound impacts of global environmental change. Cabled ocean observatories offer continuous near real-time monitoring and measurements throughout the year, to complement existing marine research activities. This continuous presence is essential for providing baseline environmental information on the ocean ecosystem as well as assessing environmental impacts (and allowing for quick response) related to arctic shipping, security and sovereignty. The information streaming from the community observatory is also available, via the Internet, to the Cambridge Bay community for educational and other purposes.
About Ocean Networks Canada
The world’s largest and most advanced cabled ocean observatories—NEPTUNE in the northeast Pacific and VENUS in the Salish Sea—are changing the way we study the oceans, providing scientific evidence on a wide range of critical issues, and developing new world-leading technologies. Located off the coast of BC, the observatories stream live data 24/7 to scientists, policy-makers and the public around the world. It supports studies on ocean change, growing dead zones, fish abundance, acoustic pollution, plate tectonics and tsunamis, geochemistry of the ocean crust, deep-sea ecosystems, and ocean engineering. An initiative of UVic, the observatory is a national facility supported through funding from the Governments of Canada and British Columbia.