The Endurance Array is a network of sensors operating off the Pacific Northwest that will bring a wealth of information to fisheries, coastal managers, elected officials, ocean researchers, and the general public about our shared ocean resources. The array is under construction now and is expected to be fully operational by 2015.
The observatory is funded by the National Science Foundation. It is being constructed by implementing organizations including the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Oregon State University, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Washington, and the University of California, San Diego. Oregon State University will operate the network of long-term moorings, cabled sensors and autonomous gliders on behalf of the entire oceanographic community. The Endurance Array will provide a new view into oceanographic phenomena key to Pacific NW coastal zones and the world. The array itself is a testament to over 50 years of research conducted by OSU researchers in the waters of the Pacific Northwest. Their shared vision of sustained research on the physics, chemistry, biology, and geology of the region led directly to the Endurance array.
Researchers are now developing and testing equipment for the Endurance Array. For example, a major development effort is design and deployment of the Benthic Experiment Package (BEP). The BEPs will be placed at a mid-shelf site near 80m and a continental slope site near 500m depth. The sites will be on the cabled Newport Line that provides continuous high bandwidth and power.
Many scientific instruments will be mounted onto a single seafloor platform, to measure episodic, short-lived events as well as subtler, longer-term changes and emergent phenomena.
The package will be expandable, so that new sensors and modules can be added. The package is being designed by CEOAS researchers. Design needs to take into account ease of deployment, recovery, and servicing. Another major consideration is resistance to hazards. BEP sites will be protected by Notice to Mariners and Exclusion Zones, where trawlers and other people should not enter. However the seafloor package needs to be protected from ocean debris such as tangles of fishing line, loose crab pots, and other hazards.
Engineers will build four or more BEPs, so that BEPs at the two sites each have at least one replacement package. Each BEP will remain on the seafloor for a year, gathering and transmitting data.
At the end of a year, researchers would come to the site with a replacement. Using a remotely operated vehicle, the first package would be unplugged from its cabling, raised to the surface, and brought aboard the ship; the replacement package would be deployed and plugged into the bottom cable, to quickly resume data collection and transmission. The first package would be brought back the lab for a complete overhaul, so that it is able to be redeployed as needed.
The preliminary BEP design has a steel frame and a “skin” of high-density polyethelene plates, able to resist corrosion and biofouling. The one-piece design utilizes all of its internal volume, meaning that it can be smaller, so that transport, deployment, and recovery are easier. Doors to a bank of wet-mate connectors, allow an ROV access for plugging/unplugging the entire unit or additional modular packages of sensors.
The unit is now going through preliminary design review; deployment is scheduled for summer 2014.
Article courtesy of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences 2010 Research Highlights.