Expedition Sets Sail for Northeast Pacific
May 2, 2014

May 2, 2014

WIRING THE ABYSS 2014-May Expedition

Victoria, BC – At 11:00 AM today, the red and white Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) John P. Tully pulled away from its dock in North Saanich, headed for the open ocean off southern Vancouver Island.

For the University of Victoria’s Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), which operates the NEPTUNE and VENUS cabled ocean observatories, this month-long maintenance expedition will support both long-term research themes and short-term experiments, on the five working sites of the NEPTUNE (Northeast Pacific Ocean) observatory.

Overview map of Ocean Network Canada sites

“On this expedition we’re seeing a shift from observing the ocean to using the power of the observatory to conduct experiments on the seafloor,” says Kim Juniper, ONC’s Director, Science and User Engagement.

“With a total of 175 hours of deep sea diving, we have a very ambitious program of instrument deployments and recoveries as well as in situ maintenance,” adds Adrian Round, Director of Observatory Operations.

Part of the Wiring the Abyss 2014 series, this summer expedition will span coastal, continental shelf and slope, and deeper offshore regions of the Pacific Ocean off southern Vancouver Island—in waters up to 2.7 kilometres deep and almost 300 kilometres west of Victoria.

Highlights of the expedition include: swapping Wally I, the Internet-connected seafloor crawler, with the newly improved twin Wally II and adding new highway signs to keep him on track; and placing vertebrae from a large humpback whale on the seafloor—the first time this kind of experiment will be continuously monitored by a real-time observatory.

There are almost 200 devices and instruments located on the NEPTUNE observatory network. Approximately one third of these are scheduled for maintenance of some kind. Cleaning and adjusting the camera and instruments of the Tempo-Mini multi-instrument platform while hovering two kilometres below the sea’s surface, at the Endeavour hydrothermal vents on the mid-ocean ridge, will be no easy job for the remotely-operated vehicle pilots on board the Tully.

The expedition will consist of two separate ‘legs’, each focusing on different regions. From May 1 to 14, Leg One will work at Folger Passage and Barkley Canyon. Ian Kulin, ONC’s Associate Director of Marine Operations, is Expedition Leader and Island Tug and Barge is providing the remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) Oceanic Explorer for approximately 80 hours of dive time. The CGGS Tully will then return to port for remobilization.

From May 15 to 27, the ship will journey further offshore to Cascadia Basin, Endeavour and Clayoquot Slope. Expedition Leader for Leg Two will be Adrian Round, Director of Observatory Operations for ONC. There will be approximately 95 hours of ROV dive time provided by the Canadian Scientific Submersible Facility’s ROPOS.

A new ONC satellite dish will provide dedicated high bandwidth video, data and voice service to enable remote logging and viewing by researchers, as well as vital 24/7 ship-to-shore communications.

“This will be our only offshore expedition for the summer 2014,” notes Dr. Juniper, ONC’s Director, User Engagement, “and the first time we will have a live link to shore for our science team—and the public—to participate virtually in the ROV dives to the seafloor.” He adds, “after working on many expeditions at sea, I’m looking forward to participating in the expedition from the comfort of our shore ops centre.”

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