August 16, 2005
MARS ocean observatory update—Preparing the main science node
During the spring and summer of 2005, MBARI has been working on a key element of the first deep-sea ocean observatory in North America—the Monterey Accelerated Research System (MARS). Like the Hubble Space Telescope, the MARS observatory will be located in an almost inaccessible location, about 35 kilometers (20 miles) from shore and 900 meters (3,000 feet) below the sea surface. For this reason, the observatory will not house any people, but will be operated remotely through an undersea data and power cable. One of the most important parts of this system is the main “science node,” which will sit at the end of the cable, serving as a network hub and an electrical substation on the deep seafloor.
A variety of scientific equipment will be attached to the MARS science node, using extension cables that could be up to 4 km (2.5 miles) long. This scientific equipment might include video cameras, sea-bottom seismometers, current meters, and even undersea robots. After attaching their instruments to the science node, scientists from around the world will be able to obtain data from these instruments through the internet.
Three years after receiving funding from the National Science Foundation, the MARS project is currently undergoing environmental impact review by state and federal agencies. If these agencies approve the project, the main MARS cable will be installed in late 2005 and the first scientific instruments will be attached in 2006.
Over the last four months, MBARI staff have been busy testing and preparing the MARS science node for its deployment in Monterey Bay. The following photos illustrate some highlights of this process.
For additional information or images relating to this article, please contact: Kim Fulton-Bennett