Ocean Observatories

MBARI's research platforms include moorings, cabled observatories, and a variety of vehicles that carry instruments into the ocean. These platforms are transforming ocean science by providing scientists with a constant presence in large portions of the ocean that have been all but inaccessible until recently.

MBARI's robotic instruments range from comparatively small autonomous vehicles to complex systems that support long-term field experiments, some of which can be controlled from shore. We also use sophisticated remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to deploy, operate, and maintain seafloor equipment. These efforts enable scientists to study events and processes in the ocean at physical scales ranging from microns to miles, and on temporal scales ranging from milliseconds to decades.

MBARI's research platforms provide ocean research instruments with resources such as power, data storage, and a means of sending data to shore, allowing ongoing observations to be made and recorded in near real time. These platforms must also be robust and reliable to survive the corrosive salt water environment. Our various platforms must also collect data, sometimes for months or years, in remote locations under hostile conditions of crushing pressure and extreme temperatures. In addition, these platforms may be subjected to damage from natural and man-made hazards, ranging from pressure and temperature extremes to storms, ships, and vandalism.

In the future, MBARI's research platforms will continue to increase in scope and coverage. Current visions include expanding our capabilities with fleets of robots capable of operation with minimal human involvement. These systems may draw power and communicate through networks of subsea cables and deep-water moorings. Such platforms and advanced instrumentation will work together to provide unique capabilities and overcome previous barriers in oceanographic science.

Last updated: Aug. 17, 2010