Discovery and exploration: Ocean Observatories Initiative takes shape under the oceans

January 26, 2012 via - AUVSI

The Ocean Observatories Initiative: a National Science Foundation-funded program intended to conduct a top-to-bottom study of ocean activities over the span of up to three decades.

The OOI consists of two large arrays of systems, one on the East Coast of the United States, about 80 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., and one on the West Coast, near Oregon and Washington.

The East Coast array, known as the Pioneer Array, is located at the continental shelf break, where water depths drop from about 100 meters to more than 500 meters in a distance as short as 40 kilometers. It’s a boundary region between cool coastal waters and warmer offshore and Gulf Stream waters. The Pioneer Array includes three surface moorings and seven profiler moorings mounted in waters from 95 meters to 480 meters (311 to 1,575 feet) deep. The profilers, each packed with a variety of sensors, will travel up and down the mooring lines to study the vertical columns of water, measuring such things as oxygen content, water velocity and salinity.

The Pioneer Array will also include six gliders traveling in a saw-tooth pattern between the surface and near the seafloor, along the continental shelf waters. Each will carry five instruments, including ones to measure temperature, pressure and photosynthetically available radiation. Teledyne Webb, a pioneer in gliders (see Timeline on Page 28), has been tapped to provide Slocum gliders customized to the OOI mission, with production deliveries scheduled for 2012.

The array will also include three autonomous underwater vehicles that will travel along the shelf break frontal system, also traveling in a saw-tooth pattern and carry similar instruments. Hydroid has been tapped to provide its Remus 600 AUVs for that work; OOI has awarded it a $1 million contract for initial design work for the AUVs, with production contracts to follow.

The West Coast array, named the Endurance Array, is based off the coasts of Oregon and Washington and consists of three fixed platform sites, at 25-, 80- and 500-meter depths. It also has something unique: two cables that deliver power to nodes and instruments under the sea and high-speed data back to land.

Organization: None
  • Slocum Glider
  • Remus 600
Author:Brett Davis
Citation:Davis B, Discovery and exploration: Ocean Observatories Initiative takes shape under the oceans, AUVSI, Mission Critical, Winter 2011
Date Published:January 26, 2012
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