Conclusion of the Ny Alesund campaign and return of the ArcticABC team home

Our readers my have lost track of the activities of the ArcticABC tech team that went off Helmer Hanssen in Ny Ålesund on January 9th. We account for that gap with this entry. The expedition in this scientific station was an opportunity to test the newly developed instruments for the project that will be deployed in the North Pole ice this year. Additionally, it was the learning ground for the UNIS course on applied marine robotics with 20 international and multidisciplinary students.

Immediately after arrival, the Arctic ABC tech team took control of the room baptized as “the Vatican” because that is where the POPEs were being developed (UiT The Arctic University of Norway’s Ice- tethered Platform cluster for Optical, Physical and Ecological sensors or ICE-POPEs). Bernard, Shane and Artur worked intense hours tweaking the circuits, coding the capacity of the instruments, shaping the material to fit the computers, batteries and ballast and getting the units ready for testing. Sonars, super sensitive cameras, and other equipment were successfully connected and proved that their ideas could be taken into reality. The first successful tests of an ArcticABC ICE-POPE happened in the darkness of the winter and was illuminated with the rays of the full moon in the middle of Kongsfjørden on a flat wind day (or night, depending on what parameters you take it into account). The engineering team worked hard and deployed instruments in both calm and full storm days, gathered data and analyzed it in an environment that allowed high concentration levels: the scientific station of Kings Bay during the polar night.

Parallel to testing, the course gathered experts from UiT, UNIS and NTNU in the field of marine applied technology. During 12 days, the students learned how to use different marine vehicles, like AUVs, ROVs, and ASVs, and equip them with instruments that could enable them to see or hear what lies beneath the surface, where it is practically impossible for us to be in. Prof. Jørgen Berge and Geir Johnsen orchestrated the event and the three groups of students (segregated by vehicle use) had a hands-on experience. Maxime, Daniel and Pedro installed all acoustic instruments we had with us in the Jetyak, a remotely controlled boat, or in the newly acquired and tested Polar Cirkel. This latter proved to be a superb platform for scientific activities. Professors Maarja and Martin showed us how the bottom of the sea looked with a remotely controlled camera while Petter and Asgeir, supported by Trygve and Øystein, enlightened us in the use of the robotic submarines, aka LAUVs. But science at Ny Ålesund was not limited to the marine environment.

Our appreciated readers might recall that at Longyearbyen, Daniel and Minna-Liina went on board the R/V Helmer Hanssen. The high capacity of Daniel to coordinate activities and vast knowledge of where things are in Svalbard were of utmost help for the whole operation. However, we have not described yet Minna-Linna’s role in the project. She is a human geographer and was studying how the ArcticABC project works and generates knowledge. Among other things she is interested in is understanding how the group members interact and communicate. Impressively, her research takes her to places like the Arctic but also to more tropical environments like Zanzibar. The expedition itself provided valuable material for her research and she therefore became one with the scientific team of the ArcticABC.

The expedition was energetically demanding for everybody, precisely timed, densely organized, with lots of personal learning and a successful experience. The pictures provided show the deployment of the Jetyak, by the students, with an echosounder mounted underneath. It also shows some of the tech team holding what will become POPE3, which will be used for acoustic research of fish and plankton under the ice. The team is now back at home and getting ready for the next expedition at the end of February. This will be the first deployment in-situ of our technology.

-Pedro De La Torre 31.01.2017 (NTNU)