Engineering the Observatories
At Ocean Network Canada's engineering facility, the Marine Technology Centre (MTC) in Sidney, BC, a team of engineers and scientists work together to prepare instruments for deployment on the seafloor for the NEPTUNE, VENUS, and Cambridge Bay Arctic observatories. The decision of what instruments to deploy and where is determined by the research scientists with the assitance of Ocean Network Canada's staff scientists. The engineering teams then source the instruments and determine not only how they will sit on the seafloor but how to get them from the deck of a ship to the seafloor, at some locations nearly 3 km deep. You can learn more about the various instruments deployed on the observatories here.
Photo Caption: Through one of the instrument platforms, Marine Research and Project Analyst (Engineering), Clio Bonnett can be seen photographing the connector panel of an instrument platform.
When an instrument arrives at the Marine Technology Centre (MTC) it is paired with the cable that will be used to connect it to the observatory on the seafloor. The pair undergo rigorous testing to confirm that neither the instrument nor the cable are faulty. Testing occurs primarily in the large test tank on the grounds of MTC. The tank is large enough to test any instrument platform, instruments, and even node pods. During the testing period in the tank, the engineering team confirm that the instrument and cable are functioning as expected and make adjustments as necessary. The Digital Infrastructure team makes sure all the appropriate drivers are prepared and functioning so the instrument can send data back through the network while the data specialists make sure the data the instrument is collecting is accurate and error free.
Testing is essential since the instruments will be placed in saltwater at depths which exert enormous pressure on the instruments. It is important to make sure instruments and and housings are leak-free, able to sustain the high pressures, and will not corrode in the saltwater. Since there is only a limited amount of time each year to install the instruments, it is important to make sure the instruments are working before they get to the seafloor. Engineering tests anything that will be going into the ocean and deployed on the observatories; this includes everything from conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) instruments to cameras to node pods.
Photo Caption: Ocean Networks Canada's spare node pod on the bottom of the test tank. Jonathan Zand, Martin Hofmann and Jonathan Miller.
Designing and Building
The instruments are placed either on instrument platforms or attached to stands so they're able to remain standing on the seafloor. Unfortunately, the engineering team cannot simply go to the store and purchase the necessary stands and mounts. Most of stands and mounts are custom designed and built by the engineers or manufactured by external companies. This includes items as small as a mount to hold a CTD to a platform and as large as 4 m tall tripods holding a sonar. The engineering team also participates in the installation and maintenance cruises, designing and building items required at sea day and night. These even include building platforms on the fly in order to carry large numbers of instruments to the seafloor as shown in the image below.
Photo Caption: An unidentified octopus catches a ride with a CTD on an instrument package as it arrives on the floor of Cascadia Basin. June 23, 2013.
Deployment and Recovery
The engineering team carefully plans every deployment of each instrument going to the seafloor. This may include deployment and/or recovery of an individual instrument, a package of instruments, a stand or tripod, large spools of fibre optic cable and instrument paltforms. This involves many calculations and calling on previous experience to determine how much weight (or buoyancy, for that matter) is required to get an instrument to the seafloor gently or where to attach an instrument to the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) so that it is both easily accessible and easy to remove by the ROV on the seafloor.
Photo Caption: A tripod to hold a sonar that was designed, built and rigged for deployment is lowered over the side of the CCGS John P. Tully in May 2013.
The following console tools are primarily used by systems staff for observatory operations:
- Device Console
- Device Sync
- Junction Box Alarm Settings
- Relay Controls:
- System Console
- Status Console
- Task Monitor
- User Management
- VPS View
(For internal use):