Deep-sea underwater observatory goes live in Monterey Bay

Creating a deep-sea underwater observatory may seem like science fiction, but researchers and engineers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing have made it a reality and are monitoring the deep-sea like never before.

The Monterey Accelerated Research System — called MARS — went live on Nov. 10 and is actively delivering data from the rim of the Monterey Canyon, 3,000 feet below the waves.

“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,” said Marcia McNutt, president of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

But six years of hard work and 13.5 million dollars later, the first deep-sea ocean observatory off the continental United States is up, running and grabbing the attention of scientists and engineers around the world.

A deep-sea underwater observatory conjures images of scientists wearing aquatic helmets and living in a deep-sea laboratory. MARS is no such place. The observatory, a bright orange metal pyramid about the size of two compact cars, was not designed for human occupation. Scientists operate it via remote control from shore.

MARS is connected to land by a 52-kilometer long cable that provides both power to keep the instruments going and a high-speed Internet connection for delivering data to the research institute.

Cassandra Brooks, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 23 November 2008. Article.

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