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MEDIA CONTACT: Nancy Hatch
772-465-2400, nhatch@hboi.fau.edu  

FAU-Harbor Branch Oceanographic Engineering Contributes to First-ever Constant Video Presence in the Deep Ocean

Harbor Branch engineers develop Eye-in-the-Sea video platform for Ocean Research and Conservation Association for use on MARS Observatory in Monterey Bay

BOCA RATON, FL ( February 12, 2009 ) — What started almost a decade ago as a Harvey Mudd College student engineering project, under the mentorship of Harbor Branch engineers and marine scientists, has evolved into a permanent window on the deep sea in Monterey Bay Canyon.   After a successful proof of concept, this project was further funded by the National Science Foundation, which made possible a collaboration between Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University, the Ocean Research Conservation Association and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). Just completed, the goal was to design, fabricate, test, and deploy the instrument that now streams video 24/7 from 2,625 feet below the surface in Monterey Bay Canyon, just off the coast of Monterey, California.  

The original instrument, dubbed Eye-in-the-Sea (EITS), in its earliest incarnation, was battery-powered and deployed from the Harbor Branch research vessel Seward Johnson to unobtrusively capture images of never-before described deep sea life.   The current version is a major redesign and engineering project led by Harbor Branch engineer Lee Frey, and carried out and built by Harbor Branch for use at MBARI.

In addition to being a significant upgrade, the new instrument has taken up permanent residence in Monterey Bay Canyon.   Now instead of batteries, the electricity to power it and the communications umbilical that connects it to the world comes through a 23-mile long permanent connection that runs from the site back to MBARI.   This cable forms the life line of an entire underwater observatory called MARS, the Monterey Accelerated Research System.

From its undersea vantage point, the camera uses a light spectrum that is invisible and undetectable by deep sea creatures to illuminate the space that it films.   The EITS can capture and transmit video of life forms that would likely avoid the bright lights and noise generated by traditional undersea vehicles used by scientists to explore the ocean.   Instead, analogous to terrestrial wilderness cameras that are triggered by an approaching animal and do not require human presence, the EITS relies on bait or an imitation jelly fish lure that gives off light signals to cause curious denizens of the deep to be attracted close enough to the camera to be filmed.  

The science community, and the world at large, will be able to peer into the deep ocean.   The live video stream will soon be carried by the MARS observatory web site at http://www.mbari.org/mars/general/eits.html.   Meanwhile, an animation of EITS can be viewed at http://www.mbari.org/mars/general/images/EITS_MARS2.mov.

  - FAU -

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University is a research institute dedicated to exploration, innovation, conservation and education related to the oceans.   Harbor Branch was founded in 1971 as a private non-profit organization. In December 2007, Harbor Branch joined Florida Atlantic University. Florida Atlantic University opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serv es more than 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses strategically located along 150 miles of Florida’s southeastern coastline. Building on its rich tradition as a teaching university, FAU maintains a world-class faculty and is comprised of ten specialized colleges. For more information, please visit: http://www.hboi.fau.edu

Florida Atlantic University opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serv es more than 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses strategically located along 150 miles of Florida's southeastern coastline. Building on its rich tradition as a teaching university, with a world-class faculty, FAU hosts ten colleges:  College of Architecture, Urban & Public Affairs, Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science, the Barry Kaye College of Business, the College of  Education, the College of  Engineering & Computer Science, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Graduate College,   the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.  

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