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Journals 2007/2008

Kathy Couchon
Narragansett High School, Narragansett, RI

"AUV Engineering Trial in Fram Strait in Support of the Gakkel Ridge Expedition"
Icebreaker ODEN
May 27 - June 7, 2007
Journal Index:
May 27 - 28 - 29 - 30 - 31
June 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7

Additional Resources

June 1, 2007
The Launch of CAMPER

Latitude/Longitude: 81°16.0' N, 012°18.0' E
Temperature: -5.20°C

I awoke this morning and my first thought was, did I miss the wake-up call to watch the CAMPER unit deployment? I do not sleep all that well here with 24 hours of sunlight, so I did not think that I slept through a knock on the door. Something must not have worked out.

Things were indeed a bit behind schedule today, not at all unusual on a science expedition. It was during breakfast this morning that the helicopter flew out to deploy the transducers into the water and the CAMPER (camera/sampler) unit launch was set for about 0830. I stood on the helideck with several other spectators to watch the large unit hoisted off the ship's fantail. The aft deck is very crowded - with the tent that stores CAMPER, many containers functioning as offices and work space, and a large crane and winch; with a full crew working, there is not a spare spot for spectators. And for safety reasons in particular, anyone not directly associated with the deployment is not allowed on the aft deck. I was content with my vantage point on the helideck. It took about two hours to move the tent covering off CAMPER, hoist the unit onto the fantail with the crane and then launch it over the back into the icy water with the winch. Next, the waiting, as scientists in the container watched the computer monitors to make sure that all was operating as planned.

As the CAMPER was lowered, a seal was playing about in the water off the aft deck, perhaps curious about all the activity.

After lunch, some modifications were made to the AUV JAGUAR. Due to the constant vibrations from the ice-breaking activities connections can easily become loosened. The ship has been doing much ice-breaking because of the more than 9/10 ice coverage this time of year. The ice is thicker and there are fewer leads of open water than the expedition will encounter when they return in the summer. In order for the test operations for the AUVs to proceed there must be a fairly open pond of water, something on the idea of 100m by 100m. The procedure to find an adequate open lead for a test site is for the helicopter crew, along with some scientists, to fly out to do ice reconnaissance and determine the next location. Once we reach that location, Oden proceeds to maneuver back and forth, left and right to make the lead wider and freer of smaller ice floes. Then the ship moves off to the down-wind side and the tests can begin. Nothing happens quickly in this environment...except ice closing in on a once-open pond.

Finally this afternoon, at close to 1600, we saw the first polar bear!! It was wandering along on the ice, stopping to look curiously at the ship. Perhaps he smelled Maria's, schnitzel cooking for dinner? How exciting it was for all onboard - everyone was out on the decks clicking away with digital cameras and filming video. The bear was a fair distance away and those with good telephoto lenses were the luckiest. Eventually the "ice bear" seemed to tire of us and wandered off.

Work continued on the decks. The JAGUAR wires were checked again and computer code modified. WHOI/MIT graduate students Chris Murphy and Clay Kunz, along with WHOI engineer Cliff Pontbriand, consulted with the Chief Scientist of this test cruise, WHOI Associate Scientist, Hanu Singh, on final adjustments.

Adjustments were also made to CAMPER and the CTD. No one seemed overly concerned with these minor problems and modifications as this is the purpose of a test cruise.

In AUV van, as JAGUAR was readied for launch, I spent time taking more pictures of the JAGUAR and talking to other members of the science party. Phil Forte, an engineer at WHOI, explained the newest technology on the AUVs we have with us and gave some insight into the pros and cons of a scientist's life that I will take back and share with my prospective scientists at Narragansett High School. Eva Grönlund, Information Officer at the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, videotaped our discussion for Swedish TV. Later, as I sat in Oden, putting on my boots to go back to work, Rich Camilli, of the Deep Submergence Laboratory at Woods Hole, gave me a crash course in the fiber optic gyro system the AUVs use for navigation. I truly felt a student as I tried to absorb so much new information from so many informed sources. Not only do I want to understand it fully myself, but also so that I might adequately explain it to my students back home.

At about 2000 the JAGUAR was launched into the open water off the aft deck. The team worked to iron out some bugs with the modem and acoustics. When the winds shifted and the ice floes started to close in around the AUV the decision was made to remove it from the water.

The next plan called for moving to a new open pool and the workboat and AUV were re-deployed at about midnight. It was getting a bit cold for me on the deck, and as I had no essential role, I removed myself to the bridge, where I could watch the AUV dive and resurface multiple times within the warmth of the ship.

After it resurfaced at 0200, I decided that my role was complete for the present and my camera and I left the team to finish up for another two hours or so.

The camera/sampler lowered off the aft deck of the Oden. Though difficult to see in this photo, a seal was frolicking in the water off the stern as this operation took place.
Taken from the ship's bridge (the top, 7th, deck) during a test run at 2 am in the morning. Notice how light it is out. The water is so clear that you can see the bottom torpedo shaped part even though it is about 3 ft underwater and this picture was taken from a great height.
Ice Bear. This is, of course, another name for a polar bear. This bear seemed very curious and seemed to be sniffing the air in the direction of the ship.