Ocean Networks Canada’s VENUS coastal observatory located in the Salish Sea was the world’s first cabled seafloor observatory to enable researchers anywhere to connect in real time to undersea experiments and observations. Operations began in early 2006 with a short array in Vancouver Island’s Saanich Inlet, a seasonally anoxic fjord. Saanich Inlet hosts a single node in 100m water depth. VENUS expanded into the Strait of Georgia, which lies between the city of Vancouver on the mainland and Vancouver Island. It has nodes at 300m and 170m water depth and a special extension into the Fraser River delta. About 50 instruments are reporting seafloor and water column conditions on a 24/7 basis. Ocean Networks Canada is extending VENUS seafloor instrumentation and integrating roving and shore-based platforms, including gliders, ferries, and CODAR surface currents. These systems will transitioned to operations in 2014.

NEPTUNE, the largest cabled ocean observatory, is located in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. NEPTUNE developed deployment requirements spanning a wide range of ocean environments, from the wave-dominated coast, to gas-venting seafloor areas, to deepwater hydrothermal vents. In 2007, an 840 km long seafloor cable was installed from Vancouver Island across the continental shelf into the deep sea. Observatory Nodes were instrumented on the continental shelf at Folger Passage (at 20 m and 100 m water depth), the continental slope at Clayoquot Slope (previously called Ocean Drilling Program [ODP] Site 889) and Barkley Canyon, mid-plate at Cascadia Basin (previously called ODP Site 1027), and on the crest of the Endeavour Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. A sixth site at Middle Valley is cabled for future development. A shore station at Port Alberni on Vancouver Island relays data via fibre optic cable to the University of Victoria. Operations began in 2009 and over 130 instruments on the NEPTUNE observatory are now providing real-time data over the Internet.

In 2009, Ocean Networks Canada was awarded funds to establish a Federal Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research—the ONC Centre for Enterprise and Engagement—to develop the commercial and outreach opportunities created by the subsea networks. The Centre, now renamed the ONC Innovation Centre, expanded ONC’s reach in 2012 with the successful installation of a Community Observatory in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Further expansion to other areas of the Arctic is anticipated.