Also see http://flickr.com/photos/98485129@N00/ (pages 1-4) lots more photos
Gallery: Robotic Sub Installs Deep Sea Webcam
By Alexis Madrigal January 22, 2009
The first deep-sea webcam was successfully installed on the floor of Monterey Bay Wednesday, and Wired Science brought it to you live via Twitter and Flickr.
The Eye-in-the-Sea camera will allow marine biologists Erika Raymond and Edith Widder, pictured, to unobtrusively observe organisms in the deep ocean. In this gallery, you can watch as the system is flawlessly installed in the bay, and within a week, you'll be able to use their camera to peer into the deep.
"That was an extremely rare experience, something that complex working the first time," Widder, a MacArthur "genius award" grantee and founder of the Ocean Research and and Conservation Association. "Murphy took the day off."
The remote monitoring system will take video and various scientific readings 24-hours a day, sending them via the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute's new undersea data network, the Monterey Accelerated Research System, a.k.a. MARS.
At a time when everywhere scientists look in the oceans, they see mounting problems, the Eye-in-the-Sea-MARS combo will provide scientists with much-needed data on how changes in shallower waters are changing the nature of the bottom of the sea.
When we arrived at the dock in Moss Landing, it was still dark, but the bay was waking up. Seagulls flew overhead and sea lions barked in the distance. The expedition left on the Point Lobos research vessel at 7 am, just as the sun rose.
Usually, in order to see sea creatures, humans take manned or robotic submarines into the depths, pouring bright light into the ocean. That scares away some animals and changes the behavior of those that are left. The new camera, pictured at right, however, uses specially tuned red light, which most of the organisms at that depth can't see.
That could provide Widder and Raymond with fascinating with information about the bioluminescent creatures of the deep. They could — and probably will — discover wholly new organisms. At the very least, they'll get better data on just how many living things there are 2,800 feet below the surface.
In years past, Widder would dive in a one-woman submarine into the deep. She'd maneuver into position and then turn off her engines, floating in the deep. When her craft would bump a creature, they'd light up. She called the experience "the most beautiful lightshow in the world."
Now, that beautiful, labor-intensive, and limited process will be replaced by the system that she co-designed. To maneuver it into place, the crew attached the camera to their robotic submarine, the Ventana.