First Mission for New Ocean Floor Observatory

1 June 2012

Source: EurekAlert

Author: Jan Steffan

Up to now marine scientists investigating complex processes on the ocean floor have had limited choices. If they wanted to examine large areas on the ocean floor, they could do it only for short periods of time, because research vessels are expensive to use. If they wanted to examine long term processes, they could use autonomous observatories, but they would get measurements from only one point in the ocean.

Scientists and technicians of the GEOMAR | Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany) have now developed a modular multidisciplinary seafloor observatory, MoLab, which is able to measure biological, physical, chemical or geological parameters over a period of several months and a range of several square kilometres.

On Saturday, 26th May, MoLab set off on board RV POSEIDON on its first scientific mission. "We will install MoLab on a cold water coral reef off the coast of northern Norway. We want to find out why the corals grow at this specific place and what the impact of climate change on the corals will be ", says Dr Olaf Pfannkuche, marine scientist at GEOMAR and chief scientist of the cruise.

MoLab consists of several different devices that can be combined according to the specific scientific question. Among the available modules are single autonomous deep sea observatories (so called "Lander") in different configurations and sizes as well as oceanographic moorings which all have the same basic sensor systems. The core of the MoLab System is a communication module integrated in one of the moorings.

"This module communicates with all other modules in the measuring field using acoustic signals. Thus for the first time we will be getting a synchronized and coherent data record from several measurement devices at the ocean floor", explains Dr Pfannkuche.

For more, go to: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-06/hcfo-fmf060112.php