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Expeditions Recap 2022: #ONCAbyss
Revisit highlights of our ONC-led or supported undersea coastal and deep-ocean exploration during the 2022 expedition season.
December 16, 2022

Revisit highlights from our 2022 #ONCAbyss expeditions to maintain and service ONC’s cabled ocean observatories located up to 300 kilometres offshore and at depths ranging from 100 to 2,660 metres off the east and west coasts of Vancouver Island.

During these expeditions aboard the Canadian Coast Guard Vessel John P. Tully, engineering and technical staff utilized Pelagic Research Service’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Odysseus to recover, install, and connect instrument systems to our underwater networks, and to collect samples for scientific research and calibration purposes. Our three 2022 expeditions were live-streamed from the ship on ONC website. Highlights were shared on social media, enabling people from all around the world to join our deep-sea exploration.

ONC also supported additional research expeditions this year – exploring the underwater mountains that rise more than 1,000 metres from the seafloor in the Northeast Pacific, through to the earthquake-prone zone of the Cascadia Margin off Vancouver Island.

Take a step back through time with these expedition highlights.

#ONCabyss Expedition - Spring 2022

The three week spring expedition (May 17 to June 7) serviced ONC’s underwater cabled NEPTUNE observatory located off the west coast of Vancouver Island. The observatory comprises hundreds of kilometres of subsea fibre optic cable that provide power and Internet connectivity to thousands of sensors which in turn deliver continuous, free, and open data, accessible via ONC’s digital infrastructure Oceans 3.0.

Highlights from the voyage included the recovery of Wally, the benthic crawler whose sensor measurements include temperature, pressure, and currents, and the Vertical Profiler System which returned from its last tour of duty of measuring water quality at multiple depths throughout the 400 m water column. Its work is being taken over by new tech, special Argo floats outfitted with a Rockland Scientific sensor.

The team also deployed a DIDSON sonar, an acoustic camera, which will play a critical role in a Fish Acoustics Experiment that studies fish behaviour and biodiversity by combining video, images and sound with acoustic imaging. At Endeavor, the Regional Circulation North location the team connected moorings and worked among hydrothermal vents - one of the most hostile environments on Earth. Crucially the team successfully reconnected cable instrumentation at the Main Endeavour Field cable–bringing the site back online since it was disconnected in August 2021!

Twitter highlights - Spring 2022

Video and image highlights - Spring 2022

Northeast Pacific Deep-Sea Diversity Expedition

Researchers on the Northeast Pacific Deep-Sea Diversity Expedition explored the remarkable and fragile deep sea ecosystems within several existing and proposed Marine Protected Areas. The main goal was conservation through protection and recovery, but the expedition also supported research that will ensure healthy oceans for all. The expedition, led by Fisheries and Oceans Canada with partners that include the Council of the Haida Nation, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, and ONC, will advance our understanding of these remarkable and unique ecosystems.

Northeast Pacific Deep-Sea Diversity Expedition Wrap-up

#ONCabyss Expedition - Summer 2022

In summer (July 26 to August 7) we returned to NEPTUNE observatory. Our live video stream from the ROV Odysseus took viewers to the abyssal plain region of Cascadia Basin, the diverse habitat of Barkley Canyon–also the site of a new cold-water coral communities study–and the chimneys of superheated and mineral-rich-fluids of the Endeavour hydrothermal vent field.

ONC expanded its seismic network of sensors at the Endeavor Node and Barkley Upper Slope. ONC has been testing its network for several years, and is currently working with partners to launch an earthquake notification system so that operators of critical infrastructure can activate safety and emergency response measures and notify those in harm’s way before groundshaking arrives after an earthquake occurs. The team also deployed a new sediment trap at Endeavor and a new camera system at Barkley Canyon.

An instrument swap at the Folger Deep site–an important site which can be an early indicator of marine hypoxia–didn’t go as planned. After two attempts to swap the Conductivity, Temperature, Depth (CTD) instrument, the team had to move on and then return to try again at the end of the voyage. Once the issue was identified–a compromised port–they built a solution with materials onboard. One quick test and one quick dive later, and the CTD was back online.

Such challenging conditions in the deep-ocean often require complex solutions - but sometimes the most popular with our online audiences are the most simple. The Toilet Brush of Science (TBOS) for biofouling cleanup is consistently one of our most popular posts on social media.

Among the creatures of the deep are two bobble heads–affectionate treasures left behind by our expedition teams to recognize important members of the ONC community. The first was placed in honour of Adrian Round, executive director of observatory operations, when he retired in 2020. A second one joined him this year to recognize Roy Hyndman–one of the leading proponents of the NEPTUNE Observatory who served as chair of the Ocean Observatory Council for more than six years–in addition to being an inspiration for a new oceans research award for graduate students.

Video and image highlights - Summer 2022

#ONCabyss Expedition - Fall 2022

In the fall expedition (September 20 to 30) we visited the deep, offshore NEPTUNE locations of Cascadia Basin, Endeavour, Barkley Canyon, and the shallow VENUS observatory locations of Strait of Georgia and Saanich Inlet.

The team recovered Venus’s Delta Dynamics Laboratory (DDL) about 90 metres from its original location–it was deployed in March but was damaged and moved by a strong turbidity current during the summer. The DDL provides data for long-term studies of underwater landslides at the mouth of the Fraser River and their effect on BC’s coastal waterways and communities.

Video and image highlights - Fall 2022

CLOCKS

Research Vessel Sonne. Credit: Jens Klostermann

Researchers investigated the earthquake-prone zone of the Cascadia Margin off the coast of Vancouver Island on the CLOCKS expedition, aiming to better prepare local communities for future earthquake and tsunami risks. The expedition (Sept. 13 - October 27, 2022) was led by GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and used the German research vessel SONNE. Partners include ONC, University of Victoria, Geological Survey of Canada, and Japan Agency of Marine Science and Technology.

We gratefully acknowledge the support from our funders that enable the operation and maintenance of our physical and digital infrastructure: Canada Foundation for Innovation, University of Victoria, Canada's Advanced Research and Innovation Network, Government of Canada, and Government of British Columbia.

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