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Images: Seeding the Seafloor with Observatories

H2O (Hawaii-2 Observatory)—In 1998, scientists used the remotely operated vehicles (ROV) Jason and Medea to create the pioneering long-term seafloor observatory called H2O (Hawaii-2 Observatory). They spliced an abandoned submarine telephone cable into a termination frame. The frame relays power and communications to a junction box, which serves as an electrical outlet for scientific instruments. (Illustration by Jayne Doucette, Woods Hole Oceasnographic Institution)

In 2003, H2O got its first renovation. ROV Jason's manipulator arm plugs in an instrument to the deep-sea observatory's junction box. (High-definition image copyright Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the BBC Natural History Unit, courtesy of the WHOI Advanced Imaging and Visualization Laboratory and Johnson-Sea-Link submersible, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution. )

Jason?s arm pours glass beads into a container used to bury a seismometer beneath seafloor sediments.

MARS (Monterey Accelerated Research System)—The next step for deep-sea observatories will be MARS, a test bed using a fiber-optic cable that allows high-speed, high-bandwidth communications and data transfer. MARS will have a 40-mile cable along the north side of the Monterey Canyon, connecting a shore station to an undersea node that serves as a power and data-transfer station for instruments.

VENUS (Victoria Experimental Network Under the Sea —The University of Victoria is developing a shallow-water undersea observatory called VENUS in the Strait of Georgia between Victoria and Vancouver.

NEPTUNE (North East Pacific Time-integrated Undersea Networked Experiments)—The NEPTUNE project aims to establish an earth/ocean observatory across the Juan de Fuca Plate off the US West Coast. Researchers propose to lay 1,865 miles of fiber-optic submarine cables linking 30 seafloor nodes that support assorted instruments and robotic vehicles