Internet users around the world can now view the comings and goings on a coral head in East End in real time, thanks to a recently installed underwater webcam.
The “reef-cam”, which is situated in about 6 feet of water, about one kilometre from the Ocean Frontiers dock, went live at the end of April.
The webcam is part of a reef monitoring system set up by Teens4Oceans, a nonprofit organisation with a mission to empower young people to become stewards of the ocean. A group of students and Teens4Oceans leaders travelled to Grand Cayman in March to locate a suitable spot and instal the camera, with the assistance and sponsorship of Ocean Frontiers and Compass Point Dive Resort.
The East End webcam is one of six ocean monitoring sites in the Caribbean, Florida and California, but the one that streams the highest quality picture.
“I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while,” said Steve Broadbelt of Ocean Frontiers. “We had a topside webcam, but it was poor quality and didn’t stream live. The technology and know-how just wasn’t there until recently. But now with the cameras and the bandwidth we can achieve, it has changed the game.”
The live video stream means that students thousands of miles away can be watching the happenings on the reef in their classrooms or on their computers at home. The live feed can also be viewed on Ocean Frontier’s website: www.oceanfrontiers.com/webcam.html.
Every 10 minutes the camera pans around through 360 degrees before coming to rest again on the same coral head.
Viewers have already posted comments on the Ocean Frontiers website confirming sightings of sharks, spotted eagle rays and southern stingrays via the webcam.
The camera reveals fish behaviour and interaction that divers do not usually see, Mr. Broadbelt said.
“Fish do behave differently when humans are around, so the webcam allows us to see what they do when we’re not there. I’ve been diving here for 20 years and I’ve seen stuff on that webcam that I’ve never seen before,” he said.
The coral head the webcam is filming is a busy cleaning station, where larger fish will stop to be cleaned of algae by tiny shrimp and fish. The ongoing presence of the camera however can also potentially reveal the effects of high and low tides, moon phases and more on fish behaviour.
The Teens4Oceans team will return in July and at that point they hope to instal a lighting rig in order to view the reef by night.
“We’re not sure how ongoing nighttime video can be because of the power requirements, but what is does mean is that come September, people thousands of miles away will be able to watch the coral spawning.”
Mr. Broadbelt said this is phase one of the project and subsequent phases might see cameras installed at increasing depths on the wall.