Since the mid-1990s the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) has coordinated and taken part in national and international projects addressed to the realisation and management of underwater geophysical and environmental systems capable of operating at major depths.
Since the beginning of the 1980s, the first research activities were developed on the fluid emissions in an underwater environment, with the study of gases emitted around the islands of Lipari and Vulcano.
The study activities of the underwater hydrothermal system of Panarea have been in progress since 1985.
Since 1986 there has been participation in oceanographic campaigns with CNR research ships (Bannock, Minerva, Altair, Tethis, Urania).
Since 1991, INGV has organised geophysical campaigns, geochemical campaigns at sea and oceanographic cruises also in support of the projects that it coordinates or that it participates in.
Since 1995 it has been engaged in activities addressed to extending its sea monitoring. Within the scope of the Framework Programmes of the European Commission, it has coordinated the GEOSTAR (GEophysical and Oceanographic STation for Abyssal Research) and the GEOSTAR-2 projects with European partnerships that have set up a prototype for multidisciplinary observatory for elevated depths (up to 4,000m) capable of operating autonomously for periods of up to one year and transmitting data and receiving earth commands by means of acoustic and satellite communication systems.
The community project ORION-GEOSTAR-3 (Ocean Research by Integrated Observatory Network) has been finalised towards setting up a network of underwater observatories capable of communication with one another and the surface, enhancing the capacities of the previously realised prototype.
A geophysical and environmental observatory has been set up, derived from the previous projects and funded by the “National Earthquake Defence Group.” That observatory, called Submarine Network-1 (SN-1), successfully performed its first mission at a depth of 2,100m in autonomous mode from October 2002 to May 2003.
Currently in progress is the participation in European projects addressed to the creation of multidisciplinary underwater monitoring networks such as ASSEM (Array of Sensors for long-term SEabed Monitoring of geohazards) and ESONET (European Seafloor Observatory NETwork). In particular, the ORION-GEOSTAR-3 and ESONET projects are part of OMARC (Ocean MArgin deep-water Research Consortium), a cluster of European projects addressed to the study of the European continental margins by means of underwater monitoring.
By means of the activities performed within the above-mentioned projects, INGV has achieved a leading position at world level, placing itself beside the large institutes of the USA and Japan strongly committed to the sector of ocean-bed monitoring. Following the results achieved, INGV has formally set up, since 2001, a scientific and technological research activity sector that deals with developing underwater geophysical and environmental monitoring networks integrated with the land monitoring networks that INGV runs across the national territory.
A project in collaboration with ICRAM and the Municipality of Lipari has recently been concluded, addressed to the evaluation of the relations between the underwater hydrothermal activity of the Eolian Islands and the fishing activity and the quality of the catch.
The oceanographic campaign has been concluded (31st October-12th November 2007) in the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, with the oceanographic ship Urania, in collaboration with IAMC-CNR Naples, NOAA USA and GNTS New Zealand, finalised to evaluating the existence of deep hydrothermalism from the seamounts of the Tyrrhenian Sea.