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1999 Projects

Current Projects

Green_Ball.gif (257 bytes) Benthic processes
Green_Ball.gif (257 bytes) Midwater research
Green_Ball.gif (257 bytes) Upper ocean biogeochemistry
Green_Ball.gif (257 bytes) New research platforms
Green_Ball.gif (257 bytes) ROV improvements
Green_Ball.gif (257 bytes) Mooring improvements
Green_Ball.gif (257 bytes) New in-situ Instruments
Green_Ball.gif (257 bytes) Information management and archiving
Green_Ball.gif (257 bytes) Education and outreach
Green_Ball.gif (257 bytes) 1998 Projects
Green_Ball.gif (257 bytes) 1997 Projects


1999 Projects: New research platforms

Cabled Observatory of Monterey Bay (COMB)

Project lead: Gene Massion
Project manager: Steve Etchemendy
Project team: Bruce Robison

Most of MBARI’s benthic research is supported either by ROVs or by autonomous instrument packages with their own power and data-recording devices. For a wide variety of scientific questions, it is desirable to make observations on the seafloor for longer periods of time than is practical using an ROV, but the power and data rate requirements make it impractical to design a stand-alone instrument. For example, the seismometers MBARI uses, which function very effectively autonomously, would require lithium batteries worth tens of thousands of dollars for a yearlong deployment, whereas a comparable amount of energy from a wall socket costs less than $1. For this reason, MBARI researchers and their counterparts elsewhere have been considering the possibility of installing marine cables to power and record data from instruments offshore. MBARI’s philosophy in this area is that our greatest contribution to the scientific community will be in developing the operational capabilities to install and service instrument packages on submarine cables using ROVs. We view the submarine cable observatory, COMB, as the equivalent of a "parked" ROV, or an ROV without thrusters that is serviced and moved when necessary by Ventana or Tiburon.

To leverage technology already developed at MBARI,  the communications and control software of the COMB will be patterned after that of Tiburon. This will allow two-way communications between shore and the observatory for controlling and powering instruments, as well as retrieving data in real time. The initial "mission" planned for COMB is a video camera deployment for monitoring events in the benthic boundary layer in the waters off Monterey. The video camera will "push" the system in terms of power requirements (for light) and data return, without necessitating substantial design changes to the system already developed for Tiburon. In order to help interpret the video images, a current meter and CTD will also be installed. In future years, the suite of sensors on the observatory will be greatly expanded.

Undersampling of the ocean is a widespread deficiency in oceanographic research, largely because the costs of conducting representative or in-depth sampling are prohibitive for all but the most fundamental of research programs. The goal of this project is to provide the infrastructure for a significant advancement in continuous, in-depth sampling in Monterey Bay: a sub-sea scientific observatory, located at a scientifically relevant site and equipped with a reliable power source and telemetry for continuous data transmission and control of in-situ experiments. We will deploy a cabled system with a "wet-end" node supporting a video camera and lighting system along with a standard CTDO (conductivity, temperature, depth, and oxygen) instrument unit. The cable will transmit continuous, real-time data from the camera and the CTDO to shore convey electric power to the system components, and allow real-time control of the instruments from shore. Key features of the system design will be the versatility to maintain a wide variety of experiments and the capacity to support multiple experiments simultaneously. The design will incorporate a modular approach, such that every node can be expanded to support additional nodes and instrument packages for various experiments can be added or removed using an ROV. The system design also could support more remote experiments by enabling ROV-laid cables to branch out from the primary node in a network up to about 40 kilometers in radius. The design envisioned will provide telemetry in the range of hundreds to thousands of megabytes per second and electric power on the order of 1,500 watts.

Last updated: 07 October 2004