Big Isle gets undersea auditory observatory
POSTED: Monday, December 22, 2008
KAILUA-KONA » Researchers are setting up an underwater observatory off the coast of the Big Island that will allow them to hear deep-sea earthquakes, erupting volcanoes and whale songs.
The University of Hawaii Kona Ocean Monitoring Network will continuously deliver data from 100 feet below the waves once it's set up.
An array of six low-frequency hydrophones and 15 thermometers will be installed this month to hear and measure conditions in West Hawaii waters.
"We will be finding Kona's voice," said Milton Garces, director of the University of Hawaii Infrasound Laboratory. "Through continuous monitoring, we will develop the ability to understand the language of this underwater environment and translate it into something we can use to forecast natural hazards or prove claims of long-term change."
This month, the observatory will allow researchers to start humpback whale identification and tracking, as well as geophysical monitoring of currents, tides and waves.
Other instruments eventually will be added to let scientists observe seismic, oceanic and atmospheric processes.
The university has been planning the $200,000 project since last year.
"We view it as a small, but priceless, investment. The observatory will generate a wealth of knowledge," Garces said. "The biggest challenge will be keeping it alive. More people with the skill and expertise will be needed to interpret the data. We figure if we build it, they will come."
The observatory will be built in the area that was drilled for the former Deep Underwater Muon and Neutrino Detector project, which began in the late 1970s and was ended after about 15 years because of leaks and lack of funding.
Its location is ideal because of the steep offshore water depth relative to sea level, Garces said.
The project is being coordinated with the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and local dive companies.