Ocean scientists are planning for the first time to use ahigh-definition (HD) television camera for live views of an area of thesea floor that has been twisted by earthquakes and volcanic eruptionsand is dotted with eerie spires and chimneys venting water as hot as700 degrees Fahrenheit.
On Sept. 28 and 29, the team will broadcast images from theEndeavour Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge on the sea floor 200 milesoff the coast of Washington state and British Columbia. Thetransmissions are the first from the sea floor anywhere in the world tobe broadcast live in HD video, which gives seven to 10 times theclarity of standard definition.
Called VISIONS '05, for Visually Integrated Science for InteractiveOcean Networked Systems, the expedition is studying how tectonic-plateinteraction can support exotic and ancient microbial life forms deepwithin the sea floor. Instruments, cameras and robots are being used tostudy the unusual microorganisms that flourish there.
The expedition is funded by the W.M. Keck Foundation, the NationalScience Foundation (NSF) and UW, and is using the research vesselThomas G. Thompson and two remotely operated submersibles from theWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Plans call for real-time, HD video from the sea floor to betransmitted from the remotely operated vehicle, Jason II, back to theThompson through a 6-mile-long electro-optical tether. Weatherpermitting, an onboard engineering-production crew from theResearchChannel will produce a high-definition program on Sept. 28 and29, 2005, using shipboard and live, sub-sea HD imagery. Scientists fromthe ship and in a Seattle studio plan to narrate the live broadcastsfrom 2 to 3 p.m. PDT (5 to 6 p.m. EDT) on those days.
"These broadcasts will give students and the general public a rareglimpse of the wonders of the ocean depths," said Marge Cavanaugh,deputy assistant director for geosciences at NSF, "and allow them todiscover what draws oceanographers, geologists and biologists tocareers in the geosciences."
The Endeavour Segment is one of the most geologically andbiologically active sites in the global network of mid-ocean ridges andrepresents one of the most extreme environments on Earth, sayUniversity of Washington (UW) oceanographers John Delaney and DeborahKelley, chief scientists of the Sept. 1-to-Oct. 4 expedition.
While the public broadcasts are available only instandard-definition--the same quality as regular television--UWTV andNSF are pioneering the broadcast of live high-definition video from thesea floor to selected research groups and sites in six countriescapable of handling the high-bandwidth Internet data, said MichaelWellings, director of engineering at UWTV.
"This crisp resolution dramatically enhances a scientist's abilityto operate in remote environments," Kelley says. "The incrediblequality of the video will soon allow the public to connect withscientists online as they conduct their experiments in the deep sea"
Television viewers can see the hour-long broadcasts on UW'sResearchChannel (channel 9400 for subscribers of Dish Network). Thelive broadcasts, sponsored by NSF, ResearchChannel and UWTV, areweather-dependent because storms could prevent the launch of theremotely operated vehicle that carries the underwater camera to the seafloor.
"This broadcast provides an example of how the excitement ofscientific discovery can be shared with a global audience," saidDelaney. "Even 2 years ago, we could not have transmittedhigh-definition quality imagery via satellite from a ship."
Daily updates about the expedition are posted at http://www.visions05.washington.edu/.
Computer users can see the live webcast on:
NSF's web site (http://www.nsf.gov/)
UW's ResearchChannel web site (http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/goodbye?http://www.researchchannel.org/visions05/multimedia.asp)
UWTV's web site (http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/goodbye?http://www.uwtv.org)
Cite This Page: