What are we doing and why?
We are studying the changes in the sea floor communities under the ice of Antarctica. About 40 years ago the researchers Paul Dayton and John Oliver went to Antarctica to study the organisms on the bottom of the ocean. We are returning this year with these scientists to see how the communities have changed. We will be looking both at the role of human activities and ocean climate.
We will be merging science, engineering, and education. As scientists, we are asking questions and looking for problems to solve. As engineers we are devising tools to solve problems. As educators, we will be sharing our experience, our process, and our answers.
Where are we going and why?
Into the deep, dark, cold habits in the ocean and under the ice of Antarctica, the coldest, driest, windiest, highest, and roundest continent, is where we are headed.
The Antarctic is the last unexplored place, where we still do not know and have not even seen 99% of the seafloor. Here, in one of the last undisturbed ecosystems on the planet, we find rich communities of animals.
We will spend most of our time on base in McMurdo, Antarctica and part of the time we will be in field camps in various parts of Antarctica such as New Harbor.
Check out a live webcam from McMurdo.
How will we explore?
We will scuba dive in the very shallow depths of less than 40 meters.
For anything deeper than that we need technology or engineers. Some tools already exist. Our first option, a manned research submersibles, is not viable, as it is not allowed to work in Antarctica. A person cannot go in a submarine in the waters of Antarctica because of the dangers of ice overhead. Autonomous vehicles, a second option, are submarines without people which are useful for preprogrammed surveys but are not adaptive and responsive to new finds. Our third option, a remotely operated vehicle, our SCINI, is a good choice as it can go deep, it does not risk lives, and it is responsive in real time. There is no person inside SCINI but she is connected to the surface via a tether which enables a person on the surface to navigate or “fly” her. However, we need the engineers as SCINI is a prototype that is still being developed and refined. We need the engineers to fix SCINI if something breaks or doesn’t work properly and we need them to install an “arm” on SCINI.
What can we do to prepare?
We need to plan in advance. Time and resources are very limited in Antarctica. Everything is tested and retested before we deploy to Antarctica in order to make the best use of our precious time. We want to spend our time there accomplishing progress not fixing hardware. We also need to catalog and bring spare parts and make components swappable, which means using the same resistors instead of unique resistors, as we cannot simply go to a local store and buy extra parts.