Citizen scientist spots a hungry elephant seal in Barkley Canyon

by Amanda Kahn

NEPTUNE Canada is an underwater ocean observatory that’s been featured in some of our earlier posts:

Plotting oceanographic data collected by NEPTUNE
Freezing seawater from Cambridge Bay
Listening to whale songs
BC lighthouse temperature and surface salinity data
Data from the seafloor

This amazing resource provides real-time data being collected from several different nodes on the seafloor off the west coast of Vancouver Island and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Fourteen-year-old Kirill Dudko watches the live streams of video cameras placed at the sea floor at NEPTUNE Canada’s nodes.  He snaps up portions of the videos, broadcast for the first 15 minutes of the hour, on his Youtube channel (which I believe is this one, but I cannot be certain).  In one of the videos he captured, a female elephant seal slurped up a hagfish in view of the camera, providing the deepest video record of an elephant seal feeding.

All of this he did from his home in Ukraine.  It doesn’t matter where you are, or how far you are from the ocean, there are ways to get involved and get a look at the deep sea!  What wonders will you find?  Check out all of NEPTUNE Canada’s live streams and watch what’s going on on the seafloor!  You can even see the WallyCam, mounted on a rover that explores the seafloor, not unlike the Curiosity rover that is exploring Mars.  Maybe you’ll spot a squid, or a whale, or a sponge (hint: check out the Folger Pinnacle cam).

Freezing Seawater: Data from Cambridge Bay

by Allan Roberts

You can access sea ice data from the NEPTUNE Canada observatory at Cambridge Bay, in the Arctic. How? For live Arctic ice data go to Click on “DATA & TOOLS” and log in. Then click on “Data Search,” click on “Tools” and choose “Arctic Observatory.”

Figure 1. Hourly averages for ice thickness and water salinity. Location: Cambridge Bay, Cambridge Bay Dock station (69.114 N, 105.060 W, water depth 6 m). Data source: NEPTUNE Canada (accessed Nov 2012 at Graph plotted with R.

The Data
Hourly averages for Oct 25, UTC.
Source: NEPTUNE Canada,

year month day hour ice salinity

2012 10 25 0 0.11742062 27.1217342

2012 10 25 1 0.117969156 27.116128169

2012 10 25 2 0.119953206 27.115838405

2012 10 25 3 0.120090068 27.134417438

2012 10 25 4 0.12307668 27.132648218

2012 10 25 5 0.121284465 27.135914622

2012 10 25 6 0.124251313 27.137131234

2012 10 25 7 0.123291335 27.11412135

2012 10 25 8 0.123626263 27.112518787

2012 10 25 9 0.124672597 27.108994459

2012 10 25 10 0.12619236 27.104893645

2012 10 25 11 0.128541307 27.138603664

2012 10 25 12 0.129542576 27.095719877

2012 10 25 13 0.130593295 27.153260476

2012 10 25 14 0.132342038 27.142623608

2012 10 25 15 0.131895781 27.164480543

2012 10 25 16 0.131755875 27.156398032

2012 10 25 17 0.134317464 27.158526643

2012 10 25 18 0.133336918 27.153010388

2012 10 25 19 0.134056296 27.155455795

2012 10 25 20 0.134588446 27.165800435

2012 10 25 21 0.134001942 27.160435323

2012 10 25 22 0.135544097 27.15158589

2012 10 25 23 0.137094968 27.151961331

Listening to Whale Songs!

by Kara Aschenbrenner

Hydrophone data of orcas, humpback whales and Pacific white-sided dolphin vocalizations can be accessed from or .

Orcas. Photo Credit: Francine Mercier, Parks Canada (accessed from: ). The Strait of Georgia is one of the busiest waterways for shipping vessels in Canada and the impacts on killer whales from the underwater noise pollution are of major concern.

Hydrophones (underwater microphones) installed in Folger Passage and the Strait of Georgia, part of the NEPTUNE Canada and VENUS networks, record vocalizations produced by cetaceans. These hydrophone recordings include the songs of transient and resident killer whale pods, humpback whales, fin whales and Pacific white-sided dolphins. The recordings provide scientists with important information about behavior, seasonal migrations, and population shifts (NEPTUNE Canada, 2012).

Pacific white-sided dolphin spotted from the R/V Thompson off of the west coast of Vancouver Island during a cruise for NEPTUNE Canada. Photo credit: NEPTUNE Canada. (Accessed Nov 13, 2012, at

Cetaceans are highly dependent on acoustics as a means of social communication and finding food (echolocation). This is because light can only travel short distances, ~5–20 meters in the water, whereas sound can travel an astonishing 1000 km (VENUS, 2012)! Therefore, the increase in background noise produced by overpassing shipping vessels is a major concern.  Possible impacts to whales from underwater noise exposure include  disturbance and masking of important sounds and hearing damage (Cato et al, 2004).

Spectrogram produced from the VENUS hydrophone array located at the Strait of Georgia East site (170 m depth). Whale sounds are heard during this hydrophone recording. Credit: VENUS Network. (Accessed Nov 13, 2012, at

Different cetaceans produce a wide range of unique songs which can be heard with hydrophone recordings. Sounds can be described as whistles, clicks, groans, moans, squeaks and even barks (Seaworld, 2012). For example, dolphins generally sound chatty and produce clicking noises, whereas fin whales have low frequency calls (NEPTUNE Canada, 2012). Songs can also vary between different whale populations depending on which ocean basin they live in (Cato et al, 2000).


NEPTUNE Canada (2012). NEPTUNE Canada: An Invitation to Science. Victoria, B.C: University of Victoria.

NEPTUNE Canada, 2012. Website. Accessed Nov.12, 2012:

VENUS, 2012. Website. Accessed Nov. 12, 2012:

Cato, D.H., McCauley, R.D. and Noad, M.J. 2004. Potential effects of noise from human activities on marine animals. Proceedings of Acoustics 2004, Australian Acoustical Society Conference, Gold Coast, 3-5 November. Pp 369-74

Noad, M.J., Cato, D. H., Bryden, M.M. , Jenner, M-N. and Jenner, K.C.S. 2000. Cultural revolution in whale songs. Nature 408 (6812): 537.

Killer Whales. (Accessed Nov 14, 2012).

Viewing Hydrothermal Vents with NEPTUNE Canada’s SeaTube Pro

by Kara Aschenbrenner

Deep sea hydrothermal vents can be more than 2000 meters below the ocean surface! However, with NEPTUNE Canada’s SeaTube Pro you can view great video clips of the Grotto and Mothra hydrothermal vent fields that are positioned along the Endeavour Mid-ocean Ridge, located next door in the Pacific Ocean.  These vents produce superheated black plumes (~350 °C) of seawater rich in dissolved minerals such as sulfur, iron, zinc and copper. Once the hot effluent comes in contact with the cold sea water minerals precipitate and form tall chimneys (NEPTUNE Canada, 2012).

Black smoker

Black smoker observed at the Grotto hydrothermal Vent in the Endeavour Ridge rift valley. Photo credit – Flickr: Neptune Canada (Accessed October 12, 2012).

Hydrothermal vents are also great environments to view fascinating deep sea biology. Lush communities of tubeworms, limpets and scale worms are some of the amazing organisms that you can view with NEPTUNE Canada’s SeaTube.  What is really quite fascinating about these organisms is that they acquire nutrients from symbiotic chemosynthetic bacteria which thrive on inorganic molecules provided by the plume. In return, host organisms are preyed upon by vent predators including crabs. Vents are biological hotspots with local biomass exceeding the normal biomass observed for other deep sea regions by a factor of 500 – 1,000 (Tunnicliffe, 1992)!

Hydrothermal vent community

A dense cluster of tubeworms (Ridgeia piscesae), scale worms (Branchinotogluma tunnicliffae) and limpets forms a hot vent community at the Grotto hydrothermal vents (Depth: 2189 m). Photo Credit – Flickr: Neptune Canada (Accessed October 12, 2012).

Spider crabs

Tubeworms and spider crabs at the Endeavour segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. Photo Credit – NEPTUNE Canada SeaTube Pro (Accessed October 12, 2012).

In my opinion, the most extraordinary of the vent organisms are the Ridgeia piscesae (tubeworms).  These tubeworms have bright red gill plumes filled with hemoglobin rich blood to absorb oxygen and hydrogen sulfide from the ambient seawater.  The harvested oxygen and hydrogen sulfide gases are transferred to chemosynthetic bacteria located in the tubeworms trophosome – a specialized body part within the coelomic cavity. The bacteria oxidize the hydrogen sulfide gas, releasing chemical energy used to synthesize organic matter (NEPTUNE Canada, 2012).  Together the bacteria and tubeworms have a symbiotic relationship – the tubeworms provide the bacteria with a home, and in return the bacteria provide the tubeworms with food.

Black smoker with Ridgeia

Black smoker chimney covered with tubeworms (Ridgeia piscesae) photographed at Endeavour segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. (Depth: 2130 m). Photo Credit: Flickr: Neptune Canada (Accessed October 12, 2012).

How to access archived video data available on NEPTUNE Canada’s website:

  1. To view vent features on the ocean floor, real time video data can be accessed from
  2. Before accessing the video data you will need to set up your own user account.   To do so, first click on the “Data & Tools” tab located on the top bar.  Once you have opened the “Data & Tools” tab, click on the “open an account” link highlighted in orange located underneath the heading “Oceans 2.0 Tools”.
  • You will now be able to fill in information to create an account.
  1. Once you have created your account click again on the “Data & Tools” tab.  Within this tab you will find a link titled “SeaTube”.  Click on the link.
  1. Now that you have accessed NEPTUNE Canada SeaTube Pro, click on the “Search All Dive Videos” link located in the top right corner of the screen.  A “Dive Viewer Search” window will now appear on your screen. You are now able to type in a keyword describing a seafloor feature that you would like to view.  Some recommended keywords to view great video clips for hydrothermal vents are “black smoker”, “white smoker” and “tubeworms”.  However, feel free to explore other sea-floor features!


  1. Once all searches have appeared in the “Dive Viewer Search” window, click on a dive which appeals most to you.  Once you have clicked on this dive, the video clip will automatically begin to play.
  2. In the top right hand corner of the video there are links which enable you to record video clips and add personal video annotations of what you see.  You are then able to save these video clips to your playlist, located in the top left corner next to the “video” tab.


NEPTUNE Canada, 2012.  NEPTUNE Canada: An Invitation to Science. Victoria, BC: University of Victoria.

Tunnicliffe, V., 1992. Hydrothermal-Vent Communities of the Deep-Sea. American Scientist. 80 (4). Pages: 336-349.

Oceanographic Data with R: Plot NEPTUNE Canada Data

by Allan Roberts

This tutorial shows you how to plot data, available from the NEPTUNE Canada website  (, with the statistical application R. R is free software, and can be downloaded from the R Project site ( For this tutorial I will assume that you are familiar with the basics of RFolger Deep bottom pressure

Step 1. Download a CSV file

1.1 Go to the NEPTUNE Canada website:

NEPTUNE header

1.2 Click on “DATA & TOOLS”:

Data & Tools

1.3 Click on “open an account”. You will need an e-mail address, and have to make up a password:Open account

1.4 From the “DATA & TOOLS” page, click on “Data Search”:Data Search

1.5 You need to choose a data source. Click on the “+” sign next to the Folger location:Folger data source

1.6 Click on the “+” sign next to “Folger Deep”:Data source

1.7 Click on the “CTD” for the conductivity-temperature-density sensor:CTD selection

1.8 Click on “Next >>”:Next button

1.9 Set “Date From (UTC)” to September 1, 2012, 00:00:00.Date from

1.10 Set “Date To (UTC)” to September 2, 2012, 00:00:00.Date to

1.11 For “Subsample Type”, choose “Minute”:Subsample type

1.12 Under “Time Series Scalar Data”, click next to “Pressure” in the column for “CSV”:Time series scalar data download

1.13 Click on “+ Add to Cart”:Add to cart

1.14 Click on “Next >>”:Next button

1.15 Click on “Checkout”:Checkout

1.16 Wait …

1.17 Click on “Folger_FolgerDeep_CTD_Pressure_201209.csv” to download it:Download csv

1.18 Create a folder on your desktop called “NEPTUNE data”, and drop the downloaded CSV into the “NEPTUNE data” folder:Create NEPTUNE folder

1.19 For convenience, re-name the file “Folger Deep Pressure.csv”:

Rename file

Step 2. Read the CSV file into R

 2.1 In the R console type “getwd( )”. This will tell you what your current working directory is:getwd working directory

2.2 If you are on a Mac click on “Misc”, and choose “Change Working Directory”:mac wd

If you are on a PC, click on “File”, and choose “Change dir …”:pc wd

2.3 If you are on a Mac, browse for the “NEPTUNE data” folder, click on it, and click on “Open”; if you are on a PC browse for the “NEPTUNE data” folder, click on it, and click on “OK”.mac choose folder

2.4 In the R console, type “getwd( )”; the “NEPTUNE data” folder should now be your working directory:console view of new wd

2.5 Read the CSV file into R, using the “read.csv” function. (The arrow symbol is a combination of the less than sign, ‘<’, and the minus sign, ‘-‘.)read csv

2.6 Type “head(data)” to take a look at the first few lines of data:head(data)

2.7 Type “names(data) <- c(“time”, “pressure”)”.


2.8 Type “head(data)” again. Now the columns should have names:head(data) again

2.9 To see all the data, simply type “data” and press “enter.”


Step 3. Plot the Data

 3.1 Now plot the data:plot data

3.2 To plot the data as a line graph, with labeled axes, type:line graph

3.3 Add a title:Add title


NEPTUNE Canada, 2012. Website. Accessed Sept. 26, 2012:

R Core Team (2012). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.

Data from the Seafloor

by Allan Roberts

If you’ve taken a course at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, you’ve learned to check the weather before heading out into the field. But what about environmental conditions at the bottom of the ocean? You can find oceanographic data online, and download it from the NEPTUNE Canada network (NEPTUNE Canada, 2012).

In Figure 1, I’ve plotted temperature, salinity, and pressure data for September 1, 2012. I downloaded comma separated value (CSV) files from the NEPTUNE Canada website, and plotted these data using the statistics application R (R Core Team, 2012).

These data are from the conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) sensor for the Folger Deep site (located near Bamfield) at a depth of 94 m.

Folger Deep CTD plot

Figure 1. Temperature, salinity and pressure plots from the NEPTUNE Canada network site at Folger Deep, for Sept. 1, 2012 (Pacific Standard Time), 48.814 N, 125.281 W. Data source: (accessed Sept. 24, 2012).


NEPTUNE Canada, 2012. Website. Accessed Sept. 24, 2012:

R Core Team (2012). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.