Pioneering deep sea camera reveals secrets of the ocean

Pioneering deep sea camera reveals secrets of the ocean

A revolutionary 3D holographic camera, which gives scientists a greater understanding of marine life, will be on display at the prestigious Oceans ‘07 conference in Aberdeen which kicks off in the city next week (June 18).

The unique underwater camera can take 3D images of living organisms and particles in their natural environment in a non-intrusive and non-destructive way and will help enhance our awareness of the environment and provide a better understanding of the health of the oceans.

Unlike conventional stills or video, the camera records 3D holograms. These holograms can be recorded underwater to give 3D images of plankton - the tiny subsea organisms which are the basic building block of life. These organisms range in size from a few microns to several millimetres.

A study of these creatures is essential for marine biologists in their drive to understand the oceans and its influence on our global environment. The camera, known as eHolocam, has been developed by a research team at the University of Aberdeen, in collaboration with CDL Ltd, Aberdeen who specialise in offshore instrumentation, and Elforlight of Daventry (developers of novel solid state lasers).

Unlike the holograms that are seen on credit cards, these holograms are recorded entirely digitally on an electronic sensor, similar to the ones which can be found in any video camera. The electronic holographic videos contain full 3D information and, importantly, also capture the fourth dimension, namely "time". Processing of the images takes place entirely electronically and the images can be displayed on any PC or laptop.

Holography can provide marine biologists with information that has been difficult or impossible to obtain by other means, and it is hoped that, as the power and benefits of the technique are realised, the system will find widespread use amongst the marine biological community and will prove to be an invaluable tool in biological science.

The camera will be on display at Oceans '07 which is taking place in Aberdeen next week (from Monday, June 18).  Professor John Watson, of the University of Aberdeen and Chair of Oceans '07 said: "Oceans '07 will highlight the significant challenges that face our marine and oceanic engineers and will also show the diversity and range of work covered by all fields within ocean engineering.

"At the conference, we will have on display the unique underwater camera, eHolocam.  Improved knowledge of plankton species, location and distribution will help to enhance our awareness of the environment and provide a better understanding of the health of the oceans and its influence, for example, on fish stocks.

"The eHoloCam is a further development of the highly successful "HoloMar" camera which was successfully launched by the University several years ago and featured in the 2002 Guiness Book of Records as the most advanced holographic underwater camera.

"Significant advances have been made to the new camera.  In the new version of the HoloCam, the photographic film is replaced by all digital capture of the holograms allowing almost instaneous viewing of the holographic images. In addition, the eHoloCam is one sixth of the volume and one twentieth of the weight of the original HoloMar camera."

eHoloCam has been deployed on four occasions over the last 18 months in the North Sea and North Atlantic (Faroes Channel) from the RV Scotia, a research vessel owned by the Fisheries Research Services Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen. Over 290 digital holographic videos were recorded containing several thousand individual holograms of plankton and other marine organisms and particles. The deepest hologram recorded was at a depth of 450 m.

Next weektwo of the world's major marine and maritime conferences are joining forces and will be coming together for the very first time. OCEANS '07 IEEE Aberdeen and EurOCEAN 2007 will be held in Aberdeen from June 18-22 2007.

The theme of Oceans '07 Aberdeen, "Marine Challenges: Coastline to Deep Sea", highlights the significant challenges - from the shallowest waters around our coasts to the deepest subsea trenches - which face marine and oceanic engineers in our drive to understand the complexities of the world's oceans and our ability to utilise, explore and preserve this unique environment.

The prestigious OCEANS conference and exhibition is held under the auspices of the Oceanic Engineering Society of the IEEE and will be held at AECC from 18th to 21st June. This is the first time it has ever been to the UK and some 500 oceanic scientists and engineers are expected from 35 countries around the world to present their knowledge in over 300 scientific papers. In conjunction with the conference is an associated exhibition featuring around 80 companies from the marine engineering community. The eHoloCam will be on display on the CDL stand E3-E6and will record demonstration holograms for delegates attending.

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