Research the Ocean from Home

Scientists from the University of Washington are currently 300 miles off the Washington-Oregon coast and diving nearly a mile deep, and you can join them right now.

The UW research project are exploring, mapping and sampling methane ice deposits, an underwater volcano and seafloor hot springs spewing water up to 570 degrees F into the ocean. And thanks to the Enlighten ’10 expedition website you can join in, with images being updated daily, short documentary-style videos and daily logs over the four-week expedition.

The expedition is laying the groundwork for a $126 million seafloor observatory which will see science nodes, moorings and instruments all connected to land by a cable for power and two-way communication which will allow for never before seen interactivity with the research.

“In time, hundreds of sensors on the seafloor and on fully instrumented water-column moorings will be deployed at sea and controlled by shore-based personnel, thanks to the electrical power and high-bandwidth telecommunications capabilities provided by this cabled network,” said Deborah Kelley, UW professor of oceanography and co-chief scientist on the cruise.

The Regional Scale Nodes project is part of the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Observatories Initiative and represents a major investment by the NSF in new approaches to science in the ocean basins.

“By 2014, the 800-kilometer network of fiber-optic and electrical cables and instruments will allow scientists, educators, students and the public to observe and interact with the oceans via the Internet in entirely new ways, 24/7, for decades,” said John Delaney, UW professor of oceanography and chief scientist on the cruise. “The Regional Scale Nodes is one of the first such systems – by 2020 there are likely to be many such installations across the global ocean,” says Delaney, who has recently traveled to more than 10 countries to discuss the project.

While at the site, don’t miss seeing preparations for the ship’s departure “performed” to “Flight of the Bumblebee”, the first dispatch from the chief scientist  and, under the “Arts” heading, the poetry and octopus ballet. Yes, along with all the science topics, there is a section for the arts, celebrating such events as the Bosun’s Poetry Night.

There will be life video streamed from the seafloor which will give viewers a chance to see deepwater life forms or scientists at work on the ship. Visit the Enlighten ’10 expedition page here.

Image Courtesy of UW and Nick Stoermer

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