Seeing into the dark depths of the ocean is impossible without specialised equipment built to withstand the high-pressure deep-sea environment. CSIRO engineers and technicians have developed a camera system to capture images from these unexplored environments.

The challenge

Seeing what lies beneath

The deep ocean is alive with abundant biodiversity and resources that are impossible to visualise without specialised equipment that can be deployed from ships or autonomously.

The Deep Tow Camera System is deployed from ships to peer deep below the ocean surface to collect information about the deep sea

We already know that around Australia and off the continental shelf, for example at Tasmania's spectacular sea mounts, our deep sea is flourishing with important biodiversity.

Being able to monitor and report on marine ecosystem biodiversity is important in the face of changing environmental conditions caused by human activities.

Our response

Camera system reveals new deep sea detail

Our ocean engineering and technology experts have developed a specialised deep sea camera system to capture never before seen vision of the ocean and sea floor to support marine research.

Whilst camera systems have been used for deep sea research in the past technological advances have created new opportunities to improve the quality of information cameras can gather.

Our deep towed camera system can withstand the harsh deep sea environment whilst maintaining stability to return spectacular imagery providing scientists with a unique view of deep sea biodiversity.

The camera is equipped with a paired digital still camera system and high definition video capable of taking high resolution video and photos of the sea floor. A forward looking camera, long range altimeter and position monitoring beacon assist with the platform's piloting to ensure that it does not come into contact with the obstacles on the sea bed.

The system is also equipped with a CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) which can sample deep ocean water giving scientists an accurate picture of the temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen levels in the environments being studied.

When deployed on the RV Investigator, a six kilometre fibre optic cable is used to relay information about the deep sea environment in real time to navigators and scientists.

Deep tow camera system specs:

  • paired still cameras with synchronised shutter control and coupled xenon flash
  • high definition video camera – live HDSDI video steam and surface recording
  • forward looking camera for obstacle avoidance
  • four LED lights with remote power control
  • high resolution pressure sensor
  • 300m range altimeter
  • CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) and dissolved oxygen sensor system
  • two 4.5 mW sizing lasers.

The results

A leap forward on deep sea biodiversity knowledge

By taking advantage of new camera technologies paired with our unique ocean engineering and technical capabilities, we have produced an unparalleled stereo camera system that changes the way we can see the deep ocean.

This means that research carried out to understand deep sea ecology can contribute to meeting Australia's goals of conversing marine biodiversity across our ocean ecosystems, including the deep sea.

The deep tow camera system can also be used to explore previously under- or non-explored environments, shedding new light on previously unknown worlds.

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