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HDTV from Beneath the Sea: Global Access to Real-Time Deep-Sea Vent Oceanography

Real-time, uncompressed, high-definition video from deep-sea, high temperature venting systems (2.2 km, ~ 360 °C) associated with active underwater volcanoes off the Washington-British Columbia coastlines, will be transmitted from the seafloor robot JASON to the Research Vessel Thompson through an electro-optical tether. An on-board engineering-production crew will deliver a live HD program using both shipboard and live sub-sea HD imagery. This program will be encoded in real-time in MPEG-2 HD format, and will be delivered to shore via the Galaxy 10R communication satellite using the HiSeasNet shipboard system modified to accommodate these high data rates. A specialized shipboard ‘HD-SeaVision’ system developed by the University of Washington (UW) and ResearchChannel provides the interface for the HDTV signals.

The MPEG-2 HD satellite signal will be downlinked and decoded at the University of Washington in Seattle. The resulting uncompressed HD stream will be mixed in real-time with live two-way discussion and HD imagery from participating, land-based researchers working in a studio with undergraduates, K-12 students, and teachers. This integrated stream will be transmitted at 1.5gb/s to Calit2 at University of California, San Diego, for an iGrid Demo on 28 and 29 September at 1400-1500 Pacific Time. The transmission will utilize the ResearchChannel's iHD1500 uncompressed HD/IP software on a PacificWave Lambda over National LambdaRail. Multicast HD streams of the same production will be simultaneously transmitted as 20 Mb/s (MPEG-2) and 6 Mb/s (Windows Media 9) streams.

Challenges of this effort include: operating high-definition video in extreme ocean depths amid corrosive, dynamic vent plumes, capturing and processing the video aboard ship, potentially coping with adverse weather, configuring and using satellite links for transmission, and transferring signals from the associated downlink site to a land-based IP network. The RV Thompson’s HiSeasNet system was converted from C- to KU- band for this operation, and special high-speed modems were added to accommodate the 1.5 Gbps signal.

This appears to be the first live HDTV transmission by cable, from the deep seafloor-to-ship, coupled in real-time with a ship-satellite-shore HD link that will be distributed to a broad community of land-based viewers via IP networks.

This mission is an early demonstration of next-generation capabilities being explored for NSF’s Ocean Research Interactive Observatory Networks (ORION) Program, one potential example being the US-Canadian NEPTUNE Project. The demo will feature on-going research and education supported by the W.M. Keck Foundation, the Ocean Sciences Division and former Division of Shared Cyber-infrastructure of NSF. Additional support was provided by NOAA's Coastal Science Center, UCSD’s Calit2, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The HD activity is partially sponsored by an NSF-funded Project known as the Laboratory for the Ocean Observatory Knowledge INtegration Grid (LOOKING); it is configured to explore the requisite cyber-infrastructure necessary to support routine, remote Ocean and Earth Science/Education of the future.

The Principal Investigator for this project is John Delaney of the University of Washington, USA. Collaborators include:

  • University of Washington: Deborah Kelley, Ron Johnson, Ed Lazowska, Mark Stoermer
  • Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD: John Orcutt, Jon Berger, Atul Nayak
  • Calit2, UCSD: Larry Smarr, Matthew Arrott
  • Pacific Northwest GigaPop: Jan Eveleth
  • Calit2, UCSD, and Electronic Visualization Laboratory, University of Illinois at Chicago: Tom DeFanti
  • ResearchChannel: Michael Wellings, James DeRoest, Amy Philipson, Christopher Latham

Endeavor with SeaTel Antenna Being Installed

12 August 2005, R/V Endeavor became the first ship to pass data across the HiSeasNet Ku-Band antenna. The ship is now equipped with a 1.2m SeaTel 4996 antenna, connecting through SatMex5 to the 3.8m dish at the HiSeasNet Earth station. The ship is enjoying a 128bps shore-to-ship and 64kbps ship-to-shore link.

Knorr with SeaTel Antenna Installed

HiSeasNet is featured in the Oceanus article "Oceanographic Telecommuting," which explains how oceanographers are now conducting real time data analysis aboard the Knorr—from both ship and shore. Oceanus is the online research magazine of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. (click here to read the article)).

WHOI's R/V Knorr bagan passing traffic across HiSeasNet. This is the first ship to use the Atlantic satellite's 64kbps shore-to-ship link. (click here to view the traffic report).

Kilo Moana
Kilo Moana with SeaTel Antenna Installed

R/V Kilo Moana is now exchanging packets across the HiSeasNet satellite network via the Intelsat 701 Pacific Ocean satellite. The link hosts network traffic to the HiSeasNet Earth station, UH campus, and the rest of the internet, and includes a VoIP connection to UH campus.

March 2005 antenna
installation at SDSC

The HiSeasNet Atlantic Hub goes into operation. A second 7m antenna was installed by CommSystems on the roof of the San Diego Supercomputer Center to provide HiSeasNet service to the southeastern Pacific and Atlantic ocean regions.

The San Diego UT reported on Debra Brice's ability to video conference from the South Pole with her class at San Marcos Middle School via the HiSeasNet link to R/V Revelle. Click here to read the full article.

R/V Atlantis,, operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, departed San Diego for Easter Island with her new SeaTel C-Band satellite system installed and commissioned. This system now provides the ships’ compliment with Internet and voice communications services through the HiSeasNet hub at the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

The HiSeasNet Hub Installation schedule is now available. Click here to download the pdf

NSF Funds Major Expansion of HiSeasNet

In July, 2004 NSF funded a large expansion of HiSeasNet through their Major Research Instrumentation program. This program required proposing institutions to provide matching funds for the equipment requested. These matching funds were provided through the collective effort of Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), University of Hawaii (UH), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO), and the University of Rhode Island (URI), all working together under the aegis of the Joint Oceanographic Institutions (JOI). JOI is a not-for-profit consortium of 20 major US academic oceanographic institutions.

According to SIO Principal Investigator Jonathan Berger, SIO will use these funds to:

  1. Add systems for the R/V Kilo Moana, operated by UH, the R/V Maurice Ewing operated by the LDEO of Columbia University, the R/V Atlantis and R/V Knorr, operated by WHOI, the R/V Endeavor, operated by URI, and the R/V New Horizon, operated by SIO.
  2. Install a second 7m Teleport antenna at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) to extend coverage over the entire Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and a smaller antenna to provide Ku-band coverage for North American coastal waters and the Caribbean.
  3. With funding from ONR, the NSF, and the State of California, SIO implemented the first stages of such a network, called HiSeasNet. In early 2002 we installed a satellite terminal on the R/V Roger Revelle, and leased service from a commercial teleport to provide a 64 kbps full-period connectivity between the ship and the public Internet. In 2003, ONR funded the installation of a 7m Teleport or hub antenna at SDSC, with coverage over much of the Pacific Ocean as well as ships systems for a second SIO ship, the R/V Melville, and the R/V Thomas Thompson operated by the University of Washington. This grant will expand the fleet served by HiSeasNet and area covered by the service.