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The first cabled ocean observatories demonstrate the challenges, benefits, and opportunities for ocean science and commercial applications. NEPTUNE Canada's 800-km subsea infrastructure and 130 diverse instruments established the world's first regional cabled ocean observatory, northeast Pacific Ocean, off Canada's coast. Introducing abundant power and high bandwidth communications into coastal to abyssal environments allows discrimination between short- and long-term events, interactive experiments, real-time data and imagery, and multidisciplinary teams interrogating a vast database over 25 years. The principal scientific themes addressed through the NEPTUNE Canada infrastructure are: plate tectonic processes and earthquake dynamics; dynamic processes of seabed fluid fluxes and gas hydrates; regional ocean/climate dynamics and effects on marine biota; deep-sea ecosystem dynamics; and engineering and computational research. Resulting data can be applied to important science issues such as ocean/climate change, ocean acidification, natural hazards, and nonrenewable and renewable natural resources. Socioeconomic benefits include many applications in sovereignty, security, transportation, data services, and public policy. The Data Management and Archive System has largely been developed internally. It controls the observatory network and gives transparent access using interoperability techniques within a Web 2.0 environment. The principal challenges encountered during design, installation, and operations involve technical innovations, enlarging the user base, management, securing funding, maximizing educational/outreach, and commercialization opportunities. Cabled ocean observatories are progressively wiring the oceans. Expandable in footprint, nodes, instruments, and scientific questions, they provide testing technology facilities and generate new research opportunities and socioeconomic benefits.
Date of Publication: Jan. 2013