A Deep-Ocean Observatory with Near Real-time Telemetry

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 9:30 AM
John A Orcutt1, Jonathan Berger1 and Gabi Laske2, (1)University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States, (2)Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States
We describe an autonomously deployable, deep-ocean observatory designed to provide long term and near-real-time observations from sites far offshore. The key feature of this new system is its ability to telemeter sensor data from the seafloor to shore without a cable or moored surface buoy. In the future the observatory will be deployable without a ship.

The first application of this system is seismology. While permanent ocean seismic stations on the seafloor have long been a goal of global seismology, today there are still no ocean bottom stations in the Global Seismographic Network, mostly for reasons of life-cycle costs. Yet real-time data from stations in oceanic areas are critical for both national and international agencies in monitoring and characterizing earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear explosions.

The system comprises an ocean bottom instrumentation package and a free-floating surface communications gateway, which uses a Liquid Robotics wave glider. The glider consists of a surfboard-sized float propelled by a tethered, submerged glider, which converts wave motion into thrust. For navigation, the wave gliders are equipped with a small computer, a GPS receiver, a rudder, solar panels and batteries, and an Iridium satellite modem. Wave gliders have demonstrated trans-oceanic range combined with long-term station holding.

The ‘communications gateway,’ which provides the means of communicating between the ocean bottom package and land comprises a wave glider and a towed acoustic communications ‘tow body'. Acoustic communications connect the subsea instruments and the surface gateway while communications between the gateway and land is provided by the Iridium satellite constellation. Tests of the surface gateway in 4350 m of water demonstrated the ability to send four channels of compressed 24-bit, 1 sample per second data from the ocean bottom to the gateway with an average power draw of approximately 0.2 W.