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Watch This Robot Livestream From the Ocean Floor Off Canada's Pacific Coast

The annual expedition will service Ocean Networks Canada's undersea cabled observatories and gather new scientific data along the way.

by Matthew Braga
Aug 26 2015, 5:40pm

Image: Ocean Networks Canada/Flickr

Each year, a crew from Ocean Networks Canada sets out to sea for an expedition known as Wiring the Abyss. Each expedition serves as both a servicing mission for ONC's network of underwater cables, platforms and sensors, and a chance to gather new scientific data along the way.

What's notable about this year's expedition is that it's the first time ONC will be sending out two ships: the exploration vessel Nautilus, and research vessel Thompson. This is also E/V Nautilus' first trip to Canada.

ONC, which is part of the University of Victoria, operates a pair of underwater cabled observatories off the west coast—massive, internet connected networks of sensors and instruments, that stream their data live across the internet in real time. NEPTUNE is located off the coast of Vancouver island, in the Pacific ocean, and is whopping 840 kilometres long, with five active deep sea sites. VENUS, which lies between Vancouver Island and the coast of British Columbia in the Salish Sea, was the world's first cabled seafloor observatory when it was built in 2006.

Nautilus is operated by Ocean Exploration Trust (OET), and its president is the well-known oceanographer Robert Ballard.

As of Monday, Nautilus has been streaming live video from each dive to the sea floor, thanks to a camera-equipped, remotely operated underwater vehicle aboard the ship. Nautilus will sail from August 25 to September 2, with a focus on servicing ONC's VENUS network in the Salish Sea. Then, from September 3 to 15, Nautilus will be joined by the Thompson, and the two ships will sail into the Pacific to service NEPTUNE's five deep sea sites.

In both cases, new instruments will be installed, old instruments swapped out, and damaged infrastructure repaired. And if that's not cool enough, the team is even deploying a set of pigs carcasses intended for forensic research in the Strait of Georgia, too.