Undersea observatory

Alcatel has signed a contract valued at approximately $33 million with the University of Victoria to deploy an advanced submarine cable and data network for educational and oceanic research activities.


Alcatel has signed a contract valued at approximately $33 million with the University of Victoria, Canada (UVic), to deploy an advanced submarine cable and data network for educational and oceanic research activities.


The contract is part of the NEPTUNE (North-east Pacific Time-series Undersea Network Experiments) project that will serve as a platform for real-time oceanic monitoring and scientific experiments.


A joint US-Canada venture, led in Canada by UVic and funded by $62.4 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the BC Knowledge Development Fund, the NEPTUNE project involves the laying of a total of 3,000 km of powered fibre-optic cable over the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate, a 200,000 sq km region off the coasts of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.


The cable network will feature 30 or more seafloor nodes, spaced about 100 km apart and up to 3 km deep. From these nodes, land-based scientists will control and monitor sampling instruments, video cameras and remotely operated vehicles as they collect data at the sea surface, in the water column, and at or beneath the seafloor.


Alcatel will provide the cables, observatory control centres or “nodes” and associated shore station equipment.


NEPTUNE’s aims are to deliver information regarding the structure and seismic behaviour of the ocean crust, seabed chemistry and geology, as well as information regarding the diversity of deep-sea ecosystems and the effects of ocean climate change on marine life.


Information and images gathered by NEPTUNE instruments will flow instantly via the Internet to a shore station in Victoria, British Columbia, and a future shore station on the West Coast of the US.


The network is expected to begin operation in 2007.