Overview of Observatories

Ocean Networks Canada operates world-leading ocean observatories for the advancement of science and the benefit of Canada. The observatories collect data on physical, chemical, biological and geological aspects of the ocean over long time periods, supporting research on complex Earth processes in ways not previously possible. ONC observatories provide unique scientific and technical capabilities that permit researchers to receive data anywhere in the world, in near real-time. Data is openly available and free, and comes from instruments distributed across some of the richest and most diverse ecosystems on Earth. ONC has been a pioneer in ocean science and has grown through major developments and milestones its observatories over the past years.


The VENUS coastal observatory located in the Salish Sea was the world’s first cabled seafloor observatory. Operations began in early 2006 with a cabled array deployed in Saanich Inlet, a seasonally anoxic fjord. Saanich Inlet hosts a single node in 100 m water depth.


VENUS observatory expanded into the Strait of Georgia, which lies between the city of Vancouver on the mainland and Vancouver Island. It has nodes at 300 m and 170 m water depth and a special extension into the Fraser River delta.


The largest cabled ocean observatory, NEPTUNE, is located in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. NEPTUNE spans a wide range of ocean environments, from the wave-dominated coast, to gas-venting seafloor areas, to deep water hydrothermal vents. In 2007, an 800 km long seafloor cable was installed from a shore station at Port Alberni across the continental shelf into the deep sea. Nodes were instrumented on the continental shelf at Folger Passage, the continental slope at Clayoquot Slope and Barkley Canyon, mid-plate at Cascadia Basin, and on the crest of the Endeavour Segment of the Juan de Fuca Ridge. A sixth site at Middle Valley is cabled for future development. NEPTUNE began operations in 2009.


The first coastal radar was installed on the British Columbia coast to measure ocean current speeds and direction.


The first BC Ferry was equipped with ONC instruments. ONC expands infrastructure to the Arctic after installing the Cambridge Bay Community Observatory located in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.


ONC hosts data from the Atlantic Ocean for research and development of tidal energy by collaborating with the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy.


Community Observatories were installed in Campbell River, Kitamaat Village, and Prince Rupert.