On the surface, it would seem that new frontiers have been just about exhausted on Earth… but sometimes you just have to look deeper. The world’s oceans are vast, covering 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and containing 97 percent of the water… yet only about 5 percent of the ocean and its depths have been explored. The Neptune Canada project is aiming to change that. By filling us in with real-time video and data direct from the far reaches of the sea floor, the project launched in 2009 is already helping scientists understand mysteries of the deep – and they’re doing it with the help of people like you.
Neptune, an acronym for North-East Pacific Time-series Undersea Networked Experiments, is situated around the Juan de Fuca plate – the smallest of Earth’s 12 tectonic plates. The system is comprised of hundreds of observation instruments – from 3D cameras and remotely operated undersea rovers for observing the sea floor, to microphones for picking up whale and dolphin communication. Perhaps the most exciting element is the 530 miles of cable that have been laid down to pipe back live video streams that the public can view online. In fact, the public is a big part of this project, needed as observing eyes to catch the rare moments when something new and unexpected happens beside the cameras. In January a teen living in Ukraine observed an elephant seal gulping down a hagfish – the first time an elephant seal has been observed in seafloor footage, and at an astounding depth of 894 m (2944 feet)!
The project, which is slated to run for 25 years, is one of the most exciting oceanic explorations to date – and it’s available to all of us.