The Neptune project, being led by the University of Victoria, is quite a considerable undertaking. The first stage of the plan is to make an 800km loop of fibre-optic and electrical cable and use it to connect five living room sized automated underwater data collection systems called ‘nodes.’ These will track fish stocks and undersea earthquakes, while collecting other kinds of data on an ongoing basis. This will be the first cabled ocean observatory with multiple nodes.
Ultimately, the system will expand to include 3000km of powered fibre-optic cable connecting a larger number of nodes, all capable of returning data in real time. Compared with systematic collection of data (go to a spot at set intervals and check what is happening) or sporadic collection (just use whatever data becomes available from whenever people happen to be in a place), real time data allows for different sorts of analysis and more comprehensive evaluations. The nodes will contain instruments including temperature meters, conductivity meters, pressure gauges, acoustic dopplers and hydrophones, current meters, wave sensors, electrometers, seismometers, cameras, nutrient monitors, sample storage containers, and autonomous robots.
The system should offer some useful data on migratory fisheries and whale movements, as well as the ominous rumblings of the Juan de Fuca plate, extending from British Columbia down to Oregon. It will also contribute to a more systematic understanding of ocean geology and ecology in general.