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Oceanographic Instrumentation: Measurement, Process & Analysis

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NUI being launched from the F/V Polarstern on NUI Dive #1 on

July 21 – the ? rst engineering dive in which the vehicle’s navi- gation, telemetry, and control systems were tested.


View from the forward camera of a small “rescue robot” as the

NUI team practiced emergency vehicle recovery procedures on

July 11, 2014. Happily, no such emergencies occurred.

shelves such as the Ross Ice Shelf in the to whales that are among the biggest

Antarctic and, at greater depths, in the creatures ever to traverse the planet. immediate vicinity of the mid-ocean “The underside of the ice was dotted ridges such as the Gakkel Ridge of the with dark algal blooms and the sea be- arctic sea? oor—where the Earth’s ? ery comes thick with life. The water is al- interior meets near-freezing seawater. most gelatinous, there is so much life,”

Whitcomb has invested more than 20 says Topher McFarland, a postdoc in years of his life imagining and guiding Whitcomb’s lab and a specialist in un- the development of technologies nec- derwater navigation systems who also essary to operate in some of the most traveled aboard Polarstern.

extreme environments on Earth. He “Combined with the surreal blueness made a name for himself as co-princi- of the light ? ltering through the ice and pal investigator on the development of snow, it creates this sense of unreality. several novel underwater vehicles such It’s like being on a different planet.” as Nereus, the remotely controlled un- As fascinating and fundamental as derwater vehicle that, in 2009, went to this photosynthetic ecosystem is, how- the bottom of the Challenger Deep in ever, it may ultimately pale in com- the Mariana Trench, the deepest point parison with what transpires at the on Earth. sea bottom on a jagged scar known as

The month-long expedition aboard the Gakkel Ridge. Undersea volcani-

Polarstern targeted an altogether dif- cally active mountain ranges like this ferent, but no less forbidding, environ- are where new sea? oor is minted by ment in the upper water column under the minute as the Earth’s molten inte- multiyear moving arctic sea ice. rior surges upward, creating new ocean

This is a magical and unfamiliar ? oor at the ever-so-leisurely pace of a world. Each summer, bolstered by few centimeters per year.

round-the-clock daylight, the waters The heat from inside the Earth creates below the Arctic’s azure ? oes grow thermal vents where warm, chemical- cloudy with blooms of phytoplankton rich water and gases spew out. This en- that soak up the sunlight that penetrates vironment is perhaps more forbidding the ice. These uncountable single-cell even than the icy waters above. Seawa- plants are the base of a food web in the ter at the vents can reach a searing 662

Arctic Ocean that weaves itself outward degrees Fahrenheit, even in the Arctic, and upward from microscopic animals and it is packed with sul? des, methane, to the ? sh and the birds, through the and other inner Earth chemicals.

pinnipeds and polar bears, all the way “Of all the environments on Earth,

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