Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

The MARS Ocean Observatory Testbed

Why Build a Cabled Observatory?

Cabled observatories are part of the future of ocean science. The ocean is big, dark, cold, and complex. For centuries, oceanographers have dreamed of instruments that would let them see and monitor what was happening in the deep waters of the ocean. MARS is helping to bring that future about.

3-d view of MARS and Monterey Bay
A 3-D perspective of the MARS observatory site on Smooth Ridge, at the edge of Monterey Canyon. MBARI sits at the head of the canyon, about 23 miles away from the MARS site. This deep-water site is close enough to shore so that scientists can install or modify test instruments without spending days or weeks at sea. Image: David Fierstein ©2004 MBARI.

Conventional seafloor sensors are cut off from the surface, so they have to run on batteries and store their own data. Scientists don't even know if their instruments are working properly until they try to recover their equipment at the end of an experiment. Using a cabled observatory, scientists can see their experimental results every day, change their sampling routines at will, and keep their instruments running indefinitely.

MARS is a proving ground for instruments of the future. Scientists and engineers working on MARS have the freedom to design power-hungry sensors for future ocean observatories that may span entire geologic plates. As they test brand-new technologies or sampling programs, the data connection lets them know immediately how things are going. If there are any surprises, a maintenance ship and ROV can get to MARS in only a couple of hours. There's no better place to try out new equipment.


Last updated: Oct. 08, 2009