New deep-sea observatory goes live

Off the coast of Central California, in the inky darkness of the deep sea, a bright orange metal pyramid about the size of two compact cars sits quietly on the seafloor. Nestled within the metal pyramid is the heart of the Monterey Accelerated Research System (MARS)—the first deep-sea ocean observatory offshore of the continental United States. Six years and $13.5 million dollars in the making, the MARS Observatory went “live” on Monday, November 10, 2008, returning the first scientific data from 900 meters (3,000 feet) below the ocean surface.



Construction of the observatory was coordinated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). According to Marcia McNutt, MBARI president and CEO, “Getting all of the components of the observatory to work together perfectly in the remote, unforgiving, inhospitable environment of the deep sea was no easy task. But the tougher the challenge, the greater the glory when it is finally achieved. Some day we may look back at the first packets of data streaming in from the MARS observatory as the equivalent of those first words spoken by Alexander Graham Bell: ‘Watson, come here, I need you!'”

One of the first experiments that will be hooked up to the MARS observatory is the FOCE project. Led by MBARI chemist Peter Brewer, this experiment will allow researchers to find out how the increasing acidity of seawater is affecting deep-sea animals. Seawater is becoming more acidic in many parts of the ocean as human-generated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere dissolves into the oceans.

Source: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, http://www.physorg.com, 17 November 2008. Article.

[Comment from Jean-Pierre Gattuso: the terminology used in this article is not scientifically accurate. The definition of “acidic” in the Oxford English dictionary is “having the properties of an acid; having a pH of less than 7”. This definition does not apply to un-manipulated seawater now nor in the foreseeable future. Hence, the adjective “acidic” should not be used. Note that there are very few exceptions, for example in the immediate vicinity of CO2 vents.]

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