NEPTUNE: New hope for chronically
seasick oceanographers

G. Ross Heath, Ph.D.
University of Washington

Wednesday, November 8, 2000
3:00 p.m.—Pacific Forum

For more than a century, the geology and geophysics of the ocean basins have been studied by oceanographic expeditions. In recent times, these "drive-by" observations have been supplemented by brief (months to a year or so) deployments of autonomous seismometers, cameras, and samplers.

Recent developments in undersea fiber optic cables, data management tools, and sensors now make it possible to provide hard-wired observatory systems with kilowatts of power and bandwidths up to gbits/s to multiple nodes across an entire lithospheric plate. Project NEPTUNE is a plan to instrument the Juan de Fuca plate and its boundaries, off the Pacific Northwest, to allow reliable real-time observations and control of seafloor and water column experiments for a period of 20 to 30 years.

This project will provide internet-accessible research and educational opportunities in topics as diverse as ridge-crest hydrothermal systems, deep-sea biology, clathrate formation, seismology and plate geodynamics, sediment transport across the continental margin, carbon cycling, and sub-seafloor geohydrology.

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