VISIONS13 Bringing the Internet Into the Ocean

During VISIONS'13, we deployed and tested 22,000 meters of extension cables that will be connected in 2014 to the myriad of sensors on the cabled observatory. Four subnets of instruments were also deployed and tested.

When fully operational, the system will provide a global audience with direct access to data from the Internet from an array of geophysical, chemical, and biological sensors on the first U.S. high-power and high-bandwidth underwater cabled observatory that is funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the Ocean Observatories Initiative. As part of the cabled observatory effort, 870 km of submarine fiber optic cable were installed in 2011, and in 2012 seven large electrical outlets on the seafloor (called Primary Nodes), were connected to the cable, deployed, and powered up for testing.

During the VISIONS '13 four-leg, 47-day expedition using the University of Washington's R/V Thompson and the Canadian remotely operated vehicle (ROV) ROPOS, the primary goal was to install and test extension cables. Key experimental sites that will be connected to the network when the system is fully operational in 2015 include: 1) Slope Base, Primary Node (PN) site PN1A ~ 125 km east of Newport OR, at a water depth of 2900 m. This site is highly influenced by the California Current and is at the base of the Cascadia Subduction Zone; 2) methane seep and gas hydrate sites at Southern Hydrate Ridge (PN1B); 3) the Endurance Offshore (PN1C) 600-m deep site east of Hydrate Ridge, which in 2014 will host an array of moorings to monitor processes that include hypoxia and ocean acidification; and 4) Axial Seamount (sites PN3A and PN3B), which is the most magmatically active volcano on the Juan de Fuca spreading center, and is located > 400 km off shore. Axial hosts numerous hydrothermal vent sites. Open ocean currents at this site are impacted by El Niño events and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.