The Science of Sustainability

Reporter's Notes: Underwater Laboratory

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The Eye in the Sea. Credit: MBARI.

The Eye in the Sea is one of the coolest, gee-whiz scientific projects you'll see. It's part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute's so-called MARS project (that stands for Monterey Accelerated Research System). MARS is an undersea laboratory, set up deep on the sea floor about 30 miles offshore from Monterey.

The Eye in the Sea is one of the first research projects to be hooked up to MARS. It uses a small amount of red light to view what’s happening on the ocean floor, about 3,000 feet below the surface. The images travel through 32 miles of cable and go back to the control center on land, where researchers view real-time video of life at the "benthic" level – that is, a voyage to the bottom of the sea.

And you're going to be able to take that voyage, too.

Schoolchildren, teachers and eventually the general public will be able to see the spindly-legged crabs calle spiny kings, or the eel-like hagfish, or the giant, dark, blob-like Pacific sleeper shark.

The Eye in the Sea becomes operational in January, and researchers expect to have their school program up and running by late January or early February, depending on the success they have hooking up Eye in the Sea to the metal hub out in the middle of Monterey Bay.

All of that means that the public will be able to go to www.mbari.org beginning sometime in February and view video-cam images from half a mile deep on the sea floor.

How cool is that?


Watch video from the Eye of the Sea in the Underwater Laboratory audio slide show online.


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About the Author ()

David Gorn is the former Deputy News Director of KQED Radio, and currently works as a freelancer for National Public Radio. He has worked for three daily Bay Area newspapers, has been Editor-in-Chief of several magazines, and has taught journalism at San Jose State University and San Francisco State University.