Around the world, scientific and industrial infrastructure is spreading beneath the waves. Here’s a preview of some of the most audacious upcoming projects. By Sarah Fecht
The seafloor’s constant pressure and darkness are ideal for ageing wine, as those who’ve tasted shipwreck wine know. Inspired, Mira Winery in February dropped 48 bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon into Charleston Harbour to quantify improvements.
Nautilus Minerals may become the first company to extract minerals from the deep sea. Using advances in shallow-water mining and offshore oil and gas drilling, the company will dig for copper, gold and silver in the waters off Papua New Guinea.
The Australian government is looking for a place to store its greenhouse-gas emissions. This year, the Aussies will scope out Browse Basin to see whether it could be used to safely store 7 gigatons of CO2.
Seismic monitoring – Southeast Japan
Devastating earthquakes occur every 100 to 200 years in the Nankai Trough off the coast of southeast Japan. To prepare for the next big one, scientists use the Dense Ocean floor Network System for Earthquakes and Tsunamis (DONET), a network of 20 subsea observatories that captures data on crustal movements in real time. The information also helps scientists develop simulations to improve earthquake forecasting and early-warning systems. By 2015, 31 new stations will provide even greater coverage.
Pioneer array – South of Cape Cod
A mix of underwater robots, buoys and mooring stations will provide scientists with never-before-seen details of the subsea environment. In 2015, 10 buoys and moorings spread over 40 km will measure temperature changes, CO2 flux and nutrient exchanges at the continental shelf break. Nine autonomous underwater vehicles will monitor eddies and currents within the Gulf Stream, docking with the moorings to recharge and send data to the surface
Journey to the centre
Deep-mantle drilling – Pacific Ocean
To reconstruct our planet’s evolution, scientists want to drill 6,4 km beneath the ocean floor to sample the Earth’s mantle. The endeavour requires tools that can bore through extremely hard rock at temperatures as high as 260 degrees. Samples of the mantle could answer long-standing questions about the Earth’s formation. Project scientists say that drilling, once fully funded, could be finished in 15 years.
Offshore backboneE CENTRE
Wind connection- American East Coast
The first line of the Atlantic Wind Connection, a power-transmission line that will carry offshore wind power to land, starts construction in 2016. The line will be built off the coast of New Jersey and will carry 3 000 megawatts of electricity once completed
Fibre line- Arctic Circle
Melting polar sea ice is making it possible for ships to lay the first trans-Arctic telecommunications cables. Later this year, Arctic Fibre will begin installing a 15 166 km cable to provide the fastest transmission times between Japan and the UK. The line will also bring high-speed Internet to rural communities in the Arctic.