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Special Series

Alan D. Chave



Seeding the Seafloor with Observatories

Seeding the Seafloor with Observatories

Scientists extend their reach into the deep with pioneering undersea cable networks

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.

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NEPTUNE: A Fiber-Optic ‘Telescope’ to Inner Space

NEPTUNE: A Fiber-Optic 'Telescope' to Inner Space

NEPTUNE is a proposed system of high-speed fiber- optic submarine cables linking a series of seafloor nodes supporting thousands of assorted measuring instruments, video equipment, and robotic vehicles that could upload power and download data at undersea docks. Unlike conventional telephone cables, which supply power from shore in a straight line, end to end, NEPTUNE would operate like a power grid, distributing power simultaneously and as needed throughout the network. Working much like a campus data network (with nodes analogous to buildings and each instrument like a workstation), NEPTUNE would provide real-time transmission of data and two-way communications.

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Putting H2O in the Ocean

Putting H2O in the Ocean

A major obstacle impeding our ability to understand many of the earth’s fundamental, ongoing dynamics–quite frankly–has been a dearth of electrical outlets and phone jacks on the seafloor.

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ALISS in Wonderland

ALISS in Wonderland

In 1985, Cindy Van Dover, then a graduate student in biology in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program, discovered a novel light-sensing organ on a unique species of shrimp that lives at high-temperature, black smoker chimneys on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. If this photoreceptor were indeed some sort of primitive “eye,” the question instantly arose: At depths of some 3,600 meters, where sunlight cannot penetrate, what are these shrimp looking at? The search for a source of light in deep-sea hydrothermal environments began.

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