Doing research in the ocean can be a difficult, to say the least. You often need a boat or ship to get to your research site, and that research site is underwater in sometimes hundreds of feet of water. On top of that, a scientist’s ability to spend time out at sea is limited—operating ships can be expensive and there’s usually demand for that ship to come back to shore to get going on its next mission.
The vision and capabilities of the of the newly minted cabled underwater observatory off the coast of the Pacific Northwest aims to change all that. With a wired set of instruments on the seafloor, scientists and others have a continuous presence in the ocean. University of Washington researchers and their partners have permanently set their instruments atop an underwater volcano and the surrounding seafloor, measuring everything from the lifecycle of ocean organisms to the impact of underwater volcanic activity on global climate.
The cabled observatory is the culmination of years of work by the National Science Foundation’s Ocean Observatories Initiative and UW School of Oceanography faculty and students, including professor John Delaney, originator and longtime champion of the project, and Deborah Kelley, professor and director of the American section of the observatory.