Citizens, sailors, and scientists have observed the seas for
centuries. First from the shore, then from ships and submersibles, and
recently from satellites.
Along the way, scientists and engineers learned that they could
instruments in the ocean, secured by wires, buoys, weights, and
known as the moored observatory. Each approach has advanced our
understanding of the oceans and their interaction with the Earth and
The next big leap will be ocean observatories--suites of instruments and sensors with long-term power supplies and permanent communications links that can feed data to scientific laboratories and the Internet.
Spurred by advances in computing, telecommunications, and marine architecture, researchers no longer want to just observe the ocean for short periods in small places. They are thinking bigtectonic plate big, ocean basin big, global system bigand long-term--with decades of studies. They will do this by building an infrastructure that provides a continuous flow of information and electrical power while allowing researchers to adapt and adjust their experiments remotely as conditions warrant.
Ocean observatories are designed to ask fundamental
questions about how the planet works. They will use novel technologies and
techniques such as satellite communications, acoustic modems, and fiber-optic
cables stretching hundreds of miles across the seafloor to ask questions of the
planet that cannot be posed by short-term expeditions.
Ocean scientists would like to sustain their observations
over months and years to see how the Earth, ocean, and atmosphere evolve. They want
to ask questions that cross scientific boundaries, such as how does ocean chemistry
affect biology or how does the geology on the seafloor affect the physics of