Ocean observatory proposed

A hydrophone attached to a kit on the sea floor would allow researchers and visitors to listen to whales and ships as they go by

A team of researchers want to know what’s going on under the sea near the Discovery Fishing Pier.

Roe Markham from Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a non-profit society established by the University of Victoria, told city council last week that it wants to install an ocean observatory near the pier.

He told council at its Feb. 23 meeting that the cable observatory would allow researchers to view what’s going on under the ocean from their lab at UVic.

“It feeds data from real time instruments on the sea floor to UVic,” Markham said. “It’s a robot that runs around the ocean floor.”

A hydrophone attached to a kit on the sea floor would allow researchers and visitors to listen to whales and ships as they go by.

Markham said Campbell River is a good candidate for such an observatory because of the new Discovery LNG terminal that has moved onto the former Catalyst mill site.

“Discovery Passage has seen progressive growth of marine traffic and use over the years and the number and size of vessels may increase if the Elk Falls terminal is redeveloped,” he said. “The publicly available scientific data form ONC observatories will contribute to the assessment of any long term, cumulative or accident-related impacts.”

Campbell River’s observatory would be equipped with a shore station that has a weather station and a surface camera.

The shore station, attached to dock pilings, would track and record local water quality, and potentially images from an underwater camera.

Markham added that the ocean observatory could serve as an educational tool for the school system.

“Community teachers and students will be invited to participate in an educational program associated with observatories with the goal of connecting schools in other coastal communities to exchange ocean data and knowledge,” Markham said. “ONC will work with local educators to help integrate learning modules based on local observatory data, particularly suited to interests of students and teachers in the Campbell River and Quadra Island communities.”

Markham said Ocean Networks Canada is also interested in installing an Automatic Identification System at the Cape Mudge lighthouse on Quadra to track large vessels and measure surface currents, wave heights and direction through a special radar system.

Both systems are expected to be in place for 20 years or more.