ONC Antarctic observatory prepared for polar winter
Watch the observatory winterizing operations
March 13, 2024

Staff with the 37th Spanish Antarctic Campaign have been hard at work preparing the Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) Antarctic Ocean subsea observatory for the impending harsh polar winter in the southern hemisphere.

The observatory - which is a partnership between ONC and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) - has been successfully transmitting ocean data since its January 2024 deployment, 25 metres below the surface, in a bay near the Spanish Antarctic Station (BAE), Juan Carlos I, located on Livingston Island.

The research station is staffed during the warmer summer months but inaccessible during the polar winter, so staff have been prepping the observatory to (hopefully) withstand the dramatic seasonal changes ahead. At the height of winter, approximately 15 million square kilometres of sea ice can form at the surface of the Antarctic Ocean (aka the Southern Ocean), that will move with the currents and winds, and collide with each other and the coastline.

Watch this video showing how CSIC has armoured and secured the observatory cables to the shore to minimize potential damage by sea ice impact and rough tides.

CSIC team armouring and securing the ONC Antarctic observatory

The observatory is being managed by the Marine Technology Unit of the CSIC. It will provide year-round, near-real-time data from one of the least observed areas on the planet, the Antarctic Ocean.

Data is now flowing from the observatory that is equipped with an instrument that measures conductivity, temperature, and depth, which are essential physical properties of the sea. Other sensors measure dissolved oxygen and optical properties to monitor seawater chemistry and biology. See the data live here.

The partnership between ONC and CSIC to advance scientific understanding of the Southern Ocean has also seen the deployment of deep sea Argo floats in recent weeks.

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