Like a deep-sea bloodhound, Sentry the newest in an elite group of unmanned submersibles able to operate on their own in demanding and rugged environments has helped scientists pinpoint optimal locations for two observation sites of a pioneering seafloor laboratory being planned off Washington and Oregon.
Successful selection of the two sites is a crucial step in developing an extensive sensor network above and below the seafloor on the Juan de Fuca Plate, according to John Delaney, University of Washington oceanographer and chief scientist for a two-week mapping expedition.
The network, which will be connected to land by underwater cables from locations near Warrenton and Pacific City, Ore., will help unlock secrets about such things as the ocean's ability to absorb greenhouse gases and help scientists learn how seafloor stresses cause earthquakes and tsunamis. The network is one component of a wider project being overseen by the Consortium for Ocean Leadership as part of the National Science Foundation's Oceans Observatories Initiative.
"The ocean community is on the threshold of a new era in which an ensemble of novel technologies will provide us with an increasingly powerful capacity for exploring and interacting with the global ocean system," Delaney said. "The cruise itself is an example of the coming generation of systems, where highly capable autonomous underwater vehicles like Sentry will be integral components. Today's AUVs are helping us develop the power and high-speed communications network we'll need to explore powerful and potentially dangerous processes at underwater volcanoes, within powerful tsunamis or in the wake of large storms and hurricanes."
In plans thus far, cables from two places on land will extend to five primary nodes each about the size of a large dinner table. Like underwater extension cords, the nodes will supply power to and communicate with instruments, robots and smaller secondary n
|Contact: Sandra Hines|
University of Washington