Abstract:

As the 7th pioneer investor for the future exploitation in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone in the northeastern pacific. Korea has been conducting the research cruises of more than 100 days per year since 1994. During the research cruises, the seabed surface is photographed every 30 seconds by the 35mm still camera. The coverage of manganese nodules on the photographs serves as an essential information to determine the potential mining areas. This paper presents (semi)automatic way of processing the massive photographs of the seabed surface using the digital image processing techniques. The experimental results with the sample seabed photographs indicates that the proposed technique could be utilized as a tool to provide the area coverage and size distribution of manganese nodules.

1 Introduction

As a possible way to fulfill the outgrowing need for strategic rare materials such as Ni, Cu, Co and Mn, Korean government registered as the 7th pioneer investor for the future exploitation in the Clarion-Clipperton Fracture Zone in the northeastern pacific. Since 1994, KORDI (Korea Ocean Research & Development Institute) has been surveying the registered area more than 100 days per year using its own "Onnuri" research vessel. The objective of research survey is to accomplish the following two duties as the pioneer investor according to the Resolution II of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea:

  1. relinquishment the half of the initially allocated area of 150,000 km2 and

  2. assessment the potential environmental impacts of nodule mining.

Various oceanographic data and the samples of manganese nodules have been acquired during the detailed survey. The photographs of seabed surface arc among them. Due to the transmission noise and the nature of video signal, the quality of images obtained from the video camera is much worse than those from the 35mm still camera.

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