UVic Makes Ocean History Off Vancouver

The first phase of the most challenging ocean observatory installation ever attempted was completed last week in the Strait of Georgia near Vancouver.

The Victoria Experimental Network Under the Sea (VENUS) project, led by the University of Victoria, is the world’s most advanced cabled seafloor observatory. Through a network of scientific instruments and cameras connected to the Internet by power and fibre-optic cable, VENUS provides scientists, educators and the general public with around-the-clock biological, oceanographic and geological data from the seafloor.

The first, 3-kilometre leg of VENUS was installed in Saanich Inlet in February 2006 and continuous data has been flowing ever since. When completed, the Strait of Georgia leg will feature 40 kilometres of cable and two central nodes, to which dozens of ocean sensors will be connected.

Ocean observatories provide ocean monitoring and help scientists understand how ocean environments change over time. The Strait of Georgia leg will support studies on long-term ocean change; tides, currents and mixing; fish and marine mammal movements; seafloor ecology; underwater noise; sediment and slope dynamics; plankton biology, and Fraser River plume dynamics.

The complex installation process is taking place in several stages between now and the fall.

“The Strait of Georgia is one of the most forbidding places to deploy an ocean observatory,” says VENUS project director Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe. “But the high currents, the Fraser sediments, the active seafloor and the busy traffic are all the reasons why we need to be there. We’re pushing the leading edge of technology to establish a foothold on the seafloor. With full connectivity in the fall, we’ll begin to unravel the secrets of the strait.”

This phase of the installation laid the 40 km of cable and two node bases in offshore waters just north of the Vancouver International Airport. Working with the VENUS team were industrial partners Global Marine Systems Ltd., which operates the large cable-laying ship, Wave Venture, and Ocean Works International Ltd. of North Vancouver, which has designed and built the 2.5-tonne nodes.

The cable will come ashore near the Iona Beach Regional Park, where data will travel to UVic over a high-speed network. The connection between the landfall and the existing high-speed network is being built by Telus as an in-kind donation.

“VENUS is a unique project with fantastic educational and research potential, not to mention the insights it will give all of us into the health of our oceans,” says Stuart Turnbull of TELUS Business Solutions. “We’re thrilled our broadband data technology can support this important endeavour.”

Another partner is the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, which will be telling VENUS stories through exhibits, programs and multimedia presentations.

“As an institution devoted to helping the public understand and conserve our oceans, and a partner in the VENUS project, we’re very excited about this installation,” says Aquarium President Dr. John Nightingale. “VENUS is providing incredible opportunities, not just for the research community, but for the Canadian public to learn about our oceans.”

The VENUS project is funded in large part by $10.3 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the BC Knowledge Development Fund. Visit VENUS online at www.venus.uvic.ca.

Link to this news release online at communications.uvic.ca/releases/releases.php for downloadable, high-res photos from the installation.

MiniDV footage shot in standard DEF, NTSC of this installation and the Saanich Inlet installation is available on request.

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Media contacts

Deb Smith (VENUS Communications) at 250-213-6309 or dasmith@uvic.ca

In this story

Keywords: oceans

People: Verena Tunnicliffe

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