An Ocean Observatory on the Juan de Fuca Tectonic Plate

NEPTUNE (; www. is a planned US/Canadian ocean observatory that will be built on the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate. A heavily instrumented network of 2,000 miles of fiber-optic/power cable will allow researchers to conduct real-time, interactive observations of and experiments within the ocean, seafloor, and subseafloor, as well as the biological communities that thrive there. Installation of NEPTUNE is scheduled to begin in 2007.

Interactive Remote Control
Once completed, the NEPTUNE network will make possible interactive remote control of instruments, underwater robots, and cameras. For example, robots on the seafloor will be able to recharge their batteries and continue remote work with signals sent from laboratories hundreds of miles away on land.

Overcoming Ship-Based Limitations
The network will also enable continuous transmission of real-time images of ocean and seafloor environments to shore via the Internet. These developments are important because they enable entirely new approaches to studying and understanding the oceans. Many of the limitations of ship-based oceanography—including infrequent expeditions, battery-powered instruments and low-bandwidth satellite transmission capability--will be overcome with NEPTUNE. These limitations.

Data on Many Natural Phenomena
Using NEPTUNE, scientists will collect data on erupting volcanoes, large storms, fish and whale migration patterns, and many other natural phenomena. Vertical moorings attached to the cables will stretch upwards, allowing scientists to gather data simultaneously from levels above the seafloor.

Studies on Other Planets
Extensive instrumented networks such as NEPTUNE will transform the quality of ocean research and have applications to a wide variety of remote and hostile environments. The remote exploration of the deep ocean here on Earth could provide a template for studies on other planets such as Europa, one of Jupiter's moons.

Europa: A Water Ocean and Volcanoes?
On Europa, the blanket of ice covering the planet's surface suggests that there could be a trapped ocean beneath the surface of the planet. The possibility of liquid water and volcanic systems on Europa leads to the question of whether life might be found there. As we explore the relationship of volcanoes and the life they support here on Earth, it may be possible to use the similar approaches to explore and search for signs of life in on other planetary bodies.

New Opportunities in Science Education
The NEPTUNE approach also offers exciting new opportunities in science education for schools, universities, science centers, aquariums and museums. Via the Internet, students and teachers will be able to make their own observations and contribute to data gathering. NEPTUNE will bring the beauty and wonder of the harsh and sometimes dangerous environment of the deep oceans into homes and classrooms around the world.