Skip to main content


HiSeasNet has expanded its bandwidth in the Pacific Ocean Region. Using the NSS-9 satellite, HiSeasNet provides 512kbps shore-to-ship service for 4 ships. This is an improvement from the 256kbps offered on the Intelsat-701 satellite.

HiSeasNet on Intelsat IS 707, providing service for 4 ships in the Atlantic and eastern Pacific Oceans, has now increased the shore-to-ship bandwidth from 128 kbps to 512 kbps.

Steve Foley will present the talk "Improved data capacity using bandwidth acceleration in HiSeasNet" at the upcoming 2009 Fall AGU. The talk is on Monday, 14 December in IN13C, Moscone West, in the session "Sensing, Networking and Fusing the Data I."

HiSeasNet engineer Steve Foley will present "Advanced communications for remote ocean platforms in the coming 15 years," at the 2010 Ocean Sciences meeting. The abstract can be viewed here.

HiSeasNet is pleased to welcome the R/V Atlantic Explorer, operated by the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, to HiSeasNet. The Atlantic Explorer is the first UNOLS vessel to operate on the newly launched Telstar-11 Satellite, which provides coverage for the entire North Atlantic. You can view the footprint of Telstar-11 here.

HiSeasNet is pleased to announce that bandwidth available to ships in the Pacific Ocean has been increased from 160kbps to 256kbps. Both HiSeasNet C-band satellites now offer 256kbps shore-to-ship links to up to 5 ships at a time. Bandwidth in use can be seen through the POR throughput plot.

The Oregon State University, College of Oceanic & Atmospheric Science's 184-foot research vessel, R/V Wecoma, joined HiSeasNet on 6 May 2008 as it began passing traffic across the SatMex 5 beam 1 satellite following the installation of the SeaTel 6006 1.5m antenna. R/V Wecoma shares a 192kbps/64kbps link with R/V Point Sur and R/V Oceanus.

Steve Foley (SIO) and Karl Kapusta (Comm Systems) just finished administering the first ever HiSeasNet Tech Training course at WHOI. They spent four days, 25-28 February 2008, training 14 ship techs from URI, WHOI, and the University of Delaware about satellite communications, the HiSeasNet antenna systems, and the data layer that connects the ships to the internet. With a borrowed 4006 unit (kindly loaned by NOAA) sitting on the floor in front of the attendees and the Oceanus just outside, a large amount of material—including five years of experience with HiSeasNet—was covered in four days. The students received background, theory, hands-on skills, and had many questions answered. Their feedback produced many good ideas to improve future sessions. Course evaluations concur in their positive assessment of both Steve and Karl as trainers.

For Better or Worse, Modern Ocean Explorers Stay Connected (pdf)
By Pien Huang, Special to Scripps Institution of Oceanography, provided to LiveScience in partnership with the NSF

On a six-week business trip last winter, Cassandra Lopez posted updates to her friends on Facebook, and conversed with her family on Gmail chat. What made these interactions unique was that Cassandra was on-location in the Southern Ocean, writing oceanography articles from one of the world’s most remote places. 24/7 internet access on research vessels attracts a new type of oceanographer – those who want to get away from it all, but also blog about it.

Cassandra was aboard the R/V Roger Revelle, a vessel of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) at UC San Diego in La Jolla, Calif. Like most large ships of its generation, it comes with advanced communication systems, as well as crew members devoted to technical support.

The satellite system on the R/V Roger Revelle enables it to better serve as a laboratory for scientific research by providing constant internet access. It also has the byproduct of helping seagoing researchers and crew members maintain relationships back home.

On top of a fairly consistent email service, several crew members maintain blogs to tell friends and family about their shipboard experiences. Joe Ferris, a Second Mate, recently posted on travel plans, piracy evasion, navigation, and working out.

Resident Technician Dave Langner takes advantage of the real-time camera system, which uploads snapshots from the ship to a San Diego database every ten minutes, to keep in touch with his mother. “Sometimes I’ll email her just before I go on deck,” he says, “and she can see me working from her computer screen.”

Veterans of ship life say that communication has improved dramatically in the past two decades. Acoustics specialist Jules Hummon recalls that when she first started going to sea in 1988, images were faxed via satellite-linked modems, and it took half an hour to transmit a page-long image of sea surface temperatures. On her first trip, she was billed by the kilobyte for two personal faxes – a letter from her mother, and a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip from her husband. They cost her over $100 to receive. These days, she can download reasonably-sized images through email, using the HiSeasNet satellite connection at no additional cost.

These improvements have come about as a result of two innovative, long-term projects based at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and funded by NSF, the Office of Naval Research, and universities in the Joint Oceanographic Institutions: HiSeasNet, which has built an infrastructure to provide constant high-speed internet to research vessels via satellite, and the ROADNet, an accompanying network that makes images and sensor data available to anybody with internet as it is being collected.

Still, the ability to stay connected to land is a mixed blessing for oceanographers, who appreciate the relative simplicity of life at sea. In a survey taken of scientists and crew members on the R/V Revelle’s CLIVAR I8S expedition last March, most respondents echoed the sentiment of Chief Scientist Jim Swift, who listed “getting away from the distractions of professional life” as one of ship time’s primary appeals. Chris Measures, a trace metals scientist and oceanography professor, finds that better communication has increased his responsibilities at sea. Besides being constantly on-call for the six weeks of CLIVAR I8S, he was in charge of coordinating a grant proposal with researchers in the U.S., India, and Italy, which he submitted by shipboard email.

The improved capacity for communication has also brought the interruptions of personal life. Seagoers fret about termite infestations and errors in bills and pet sicknesses that they can do nothing about, barring their physical presence. Furthermore, the inconsistency of satellite connections makes it difficult to have relationships with those onshore, as the expectations of communication are hard to fulfill. On a four-week trip off the coast of Indonesia, resident technician Dave Langner wondered if a relationship was floundering. “She hadn’t responded to some important emails I had sent,” he said. “It turns out she just hadn’t received them.” Second Mate Joe Ferris, who spends five to seven months at sea every year, doesn’t bother: “I only date when I’m not working,” he says.

The oceanographer tends to fall on the adventurous end of the personality spectrum, but the demands of the oceangoing lifestyle remain at odds with the standard urge to settle down. After more than a decade of traveling out of a ship’s berth to exotic locales, Joe Ferris is thinking seriously about buying property and moving his things out of storage. Few give it up completely, but many cut down in their ship time as they move into the patterns of a more stable life – buying homes, finding partners, having children. Lynne Talley, a professor and researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, spent much of the ‘90’s at sea, but she now devotes her time to teaching and writing on campus to stay closer to her family.

Frequent emailing may not fully substitute for being at home, but it is remarkable that shipboard communications have evolved such that new oceanographers can compare sea time to business trips made by their friends in marketing and consulting. “Many careers require travel,” says Cliff Buck, a graduate student at Florida State University. “I don’t really see this lifestyle as being all that unusual.”

The University of Miami's 96-foot local-class vessel, R/V Walton Smith, joined HiSeasNet on 27 September 2007 after the successful installation of the 1m SeaTel 4006 Ku-band system. R/V Walton Smith joins three other ships on the SatMex 5 beam 2 Ku-band satellite. All four vessels benefit from 256kbps of shared shore-to-ship bandwidth with 64kbps ship-to-shore bandwidth.