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'Droids' deployed to study ocean depths off B.C.

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Inside Ocean Networks Canada’s warehouse in North Saanich is a tool that researchers say will bring us a better understanding of the waters deep in the Pacific Ocean. It’s called a deep-sea Argo float and it is capable of going where no piece of technology of its kind has gone before in the northeast Pacific Ocean.

“It has the special ability in that it can dive to a depth of 4,000 metres which is 2,000 metres deeper than typical Argo floats deployed in the region,” said Kohen Bauer, senior staff scientist at Ocean Networks Canada.

Dubbed-deep sea "droids," five have been deployed near Alaska, monitoring deep sea temperatures, salt salinity and the depth and pressure of those deep sea conditions.

For the first time in the region, the Argo floats will be measuring oxygen levels 4,000 metres below the surface of our coastal waters.

“We know that oxygen concentrations in the northeast Pacific have been changing rapidly,” said Bauer.

The data from the floats will equip researchers with the ability to observe those oxygen trends and, over time, get a better understanding of conditions affecting all life in the ocean.

“It provides us a window which we previously did not have established,” said Bauer.

The floats work on a 10-day cycle, diving down to the depth of four kilometres, collecting data along the way and then returning to the surface to upload that data through satellites to researchers at Argo Canada.

That information is also available to scientists at the international Argo program looking into ocean conditions around the world.

“We just have the initial bits of data coming back to us now and we’re analyzing the trends that we see and they’re very interesting,” said Bauer.

Ocean Networks Canada believes this project will help unlock some of the mysteries that still exist deep beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

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