The Ocean Science Division of the National Science Foundation has supported a Major Research Equipment Facilities Construction effort to build an integrated set of instrumented sensing systems in portions of the ocean proximal to the Western Hemisphere. (see figure) The OOI program establishes an enduring presence within the ocean to make long-term measurements of fundamental multi-disciplinary variables that can inform scientists and the public about essential ocean processes that are ever-changing. Most of these installations will be linked to land-based users by satellite, with realtime flow, but limited bandwidth. However, one OOI installation, off the coast of Washington and Oregon, is linked to users by submarine electro-optical cables providing unprecedented high speed, two-way communications and abundant electrical power to selected sites deemed scientifically important by large sectors of the ocean science community prior to the onset of construction in 2009. The National Science Board, that oversees NSF, approved the OOI approach in May of 2009, and indicated that the assets produced should be operational and should evolve over a 25-year period.
To optimize logistics and economize on early at-sea operations, the new cabled sensor system was conceived and implemented to be located within one day of steaming from three major ports: Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, and Vancouver (Victoria) BC. The at-sea portion of the Cabled Component of OOI was completed in the Autumn of 2014; and data from most of the instruments has been flowing ashore since October, 2014. That data is being archived at the University of Washington, pending completion of the Cyber-infrastructure component of OOI after which all data will be routed through Rutgers University to an eclectic community of users defined broadly as those with access to the Internet.
Portions of NSF’s OOI are still being completed, and are scheduled for delivery in June, 2015. When the full cyberInfrastructure capabilities become available, all data from all instruments on the entire OOI system-of-systems are intended to be available to all interested users who have access to the Internet, in very nearly real-time. At this point (early April, 2015), all seismic data from the OOI cable off the North American west coast are accessible (IRIS Web site), and additional data from Axial will be made available as the program matures. As initially planned, NSF indicated that the OOI assets will be maintained and operated for up to 25 years, as funding permits. Lively current discussions involving on-going logistics support of Ocean Science Infrastructure (Research Ships, Ocean Drilling, and OOI) are underway across the country (see Decadal Survey of Ocean Science Report - http://nas-sites.org/dsos2015/). One objective of this workshop is to demonstrate the high quality of scientific inquiry and implementation implicit in the use of OOI assets for conducting next-generation ocean science.
Figure 1 indicates the location of the cabled system off the North American west coast, as well as the actual experimental sites (Primary Nodes (PN)-red boxes) that were established with wide-ranging input from a spectrum of marine scientists for multi-disciplinary purposes [REFERENCE to science plan here]. Figure 2 shows an enlarged map of Axial Volcano with known vent fields and spreading centers indicated. The primary backbone cable from land connects the shore station to PN3A, at the base of Axial, and to PN3B on the top of Axial. Also depicted is the extent of the lava flow produced during the 2011 eruption. Figures 3 and 4 show details of the current configuration of the Secondary Infrastructure and instruments.
Design, construction, and early operation of the OOI Cabled System was handled by oceanographers and engineers at the University of Washington. A major contract with L3-Maripro resulted in the Primary Infrastructure - shore station, major cable and primary nodes or switching stations be delivered during at-sea construction operations which were completed between 2011 to 2014. Close to 140 instruments and moorings were directly connected to land-based communication networks, and data is flowing ashore now from nearly 85 % of of the instruments deployed. Annual maintenance cruises will refurbish and service the cabled network for the coming decades as scientists, educators, and the public learn to use this novel capability of being “present throughout entire volumes of the ocean, without actually being there.” Sensor-robot systems may be operated from land, cameras will provide visual contact with actual processes unfolding offshore, and, as the approach matures, complex experiments will be conducted using remotely operated robotic-sensor systems. All these systems may be controlled from land.