Will Glatt and Dirk Brussow

Will Glatt and Dirk Brussow

VIDEO: Live data under the sea

The underwater world in the Prince Rupert harbour is about to become a bit clearer.

The underwater world in the Prince Rupert harbour is about to become a bit clearer.

With ports and industry continuing to grow on the West Coast, Ocean Networks Canada installed three community observatories in March 2016 to provide real-time information for future observations on the marine environment, for decision makers, researchers and educators.

One year later, Ocean Networks Canada paid its first visit to the observatories in Kitamaat Village, Campbell River and Prince Rupert, where there are two stations set up on Digby Island and Ridley Island.

“Following all installations we have what we call a ‘commissioning’ period where we check the data to ensure it’s accuracy and that all sensors are working as expected before we release ‘live data’ to the public,” said Leslie Elliott, communications manager for Ocean Networks Canada.

Since the instruments were installed, field service manager Paul Macoun said there have been a few glitches in the system, which they intend to improve on. When crew pulled the Digby platform from the water, they discovered an octopus had made a home on the barnacle infested instrument. This particular transformer has been malfunctioning due to the build up of organic matter.

“We’re hoping to outfit this platform with a suite of new instruments that are ready to go and recently calibrated. We are also improving the hydrophone situation, which is the acoustic instrument that listens,” Macoun said on April 7, as his crew worked away on the instrument in the Cow Bay marina.

The Digby Island station is focused on examining the underwater world and monitoring the currents. The station on Ridley Island has two different radar technologies – for monitoring currents and waves, which improves shipping safety for the area.

Macoun said the Ridley station is about “Understanding the immediate area for how it will impact shipping and also the baseline stuff from the underwater observatory including the sounds of ships and the sounds of whales, what the seabed looks like and what the ocean properties are like.”

While the Ridley station has been providing data over the past year, the Digby station has not — but that should change soon after this month. There was a power issue with the transformer and then for the first few months the instrumentation was not powered. When the transformer finally powered up, ocean life covered the instruments and it wasn’t recording much data, except for temperature.

After the maintenance visit, all is working as it should and the Digby station is set to observe the ocean environment to determine changes over time and to better inform municipalities and the public how to manage the area.

“This is a foray for us into the community observatories. It’s only been a year now since we started doing this. The intent is to be able to provide environmental background information on the local waters in these different communities,” Macoun said.

Ocean Networks Canada is an initiative by the University of Victoria that was created as a notfor-profit society in 2007 to improve the country’s ocean observing systems. The society has been improving its ocean technology for the past 10 years, and has been installing observatories along remote and coastal environments for five years.

To check out the data from the Digby and Ridley installations visit the website.