Regional Scale Nodes Project
An expansive series of inter-connected subsea instrument packages
The University of Washington is leading the Regional Scale Nodes Project for the National Science Foundation (NSF) Ocean Observatory Initiative. The cabled underwater research facility is being constructed off the Oregon and Washington coasts. When completed, it will extend continuous high-bandwidth communications capability and electrical power to a network of instruments widely distributed across, above, and below the seafloor in the northeast Pacific Ocean. It will be the world’s largest ocean observatory to span a tectonic fault. Its western stations will be located on the Juan de Fuca plate, while its eastern stations will be on the North American plate, with cables crossing the Cascadia subduction zone. As a result, it will provide researchers with a unique perspective on a geologically active underwater region. The submarine cables carry up to 10,000 volts of electrical power to operate the numerous instrument packages and are capable of handling up to 240 gigabits of information from those instruments. During the summer of 2013, the research vessel Thomas G. Thompson will lay medium-powered extension cords from the backbone cable to individual study sites. It will also visit the Axial Seamount submerged volcano, approximately 300 miles offshore, to examine previously-installed instrumentation. If the opportunity presents itself, the instrumentation is capable of filming an underwater volcanic eruption and transmitting that data ashore in real time. Further work is planned for the next two summers, with the project scheduled for completion in 2015. The Regional Scaled Nodes instruments are being connected to the internet so that scientists and researchers worldwide can monitor subsea conditions in this important area. A smaller version of this subsea instrumentation initiative, called Neptune Canada, is operated by the University of Victoria in waters off Vancouver Island.