June 3, 2007
Latitude/Longitude: 81°20.0' N, 011°48.0' E
This morning we awoke to another fine day of Arctic sunshine. So fortunate are we to have these days, especially when the science party had plans to be working out on the ice today. The ship was still transiting through the breakfast hour, to the new site where the ice melting operation was to take place. Originally, the plan was to moor the ship to the ice and allow some scientists to travel via helicopter to a distant site to attempt this technique. Now the plan seems to be to moor the ship and carry out the procedures on the ice alongside Oden. While the ice-melting recovery maneuvers are being tested, other tests could then proceed simultaneously - deployment of the CTD and possibly the AUVs and the CAMPER.
Then came great news! We would all be allowed onto the ice as long as we were attired in a safety survival suit. While most of the science party, experienced in ship-based research, had brought their own, I had not. Fortunately, Eva of the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat had some suits available for the outreach teachers. It was a great fit, in fine bright colors. By 1100 we were on our way down the gangway and onto the ice.
The science crew had plenty of work to do right away. The ice-melting was quite the operation. It called first for shoveling off the 2 foot layer of snow to reach the ice surface below. Next, a 5 cm hole was drilled through the meter - plus ice thickness. A metal support was set up and hot water was forced through a closed metal rectangular framework of pipes sitting on the ice. About 8 pains-taking hours later, a massive ice cube was lifted out of the hole and set onto the ice. What a production! If this was a true mission to rescue an AUV, it is possible that all of this equipment would have to be transported out onto the ice by helicopter. This could take 4-5 trips to get all equipment and personnel onto the rescue site. No wonder the science party is so concerned with keeping close tabs on those AUVs.
During the day on the ice, the Swedish crew set up the necessary polar bear watch and then, to make themselves more comfortable, built a small snow shelter and campfire. Soon enough they were grilling sausages over the fire. The crazy American ice-drilling crew made snow angels and ate ice cream cones during their break.
The real news for many was just the incredible opportunity to wander around atop the Arctic Ocean, taking pictures in the brilliant sunlight, with barely a breeze blowing. It was hard to imagine that a poor quality picture could possible be taken on a day such as this!
Quite later in the evening a small ROV brought along by Roy Armstrong of the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaquez, was deployed for testing. This small vehicle was sent into the melt hole created earlier and took off under the ice, its video camera filming the waters below the ice. Roy will show the video later in the week, perhaps during a science meeting on the transit home to Longyearbyen, Svarlbard.
The other science continued as well, including a successful CTD launch off the bow, and control runs of the AUV using joysticks, off the port aft deck. Much later, CAMPER, too was deployed, also off the aft deck with the goal of reaching the seafloor some 1400 meters below. All in all, a fabulous day.