Moving Forward: Successful SCINI Sea-Ice Test and Drillers Complete Equipment Loading for Traverse

SALSA Field Report 11.19.2018

SCINI Update

On November 18, the SCINI team of Chief Engineer Bob Zook and ROV Operator Mark Bowling successfully tested Deep SCINI (Submersible Capable of Under Ice Navigation and Imaging) with the clump weight in 2,000 feet of ocean water below the sea ice near McMurdo Station. The ROV was connected to the 60 lb clump weight which dragged it downwards to the ocean floor. The team had some minor technical challenges, including control joystick programming, and the programming of its gripper jaw (a robotic arm) but the submersible ROV functioned as intended in the high pressure deep water environment. The team were able to use SCINI’s cameras and lights to observe the completely dark and scarcely explored ocean floor with organisms such as spiny armed brittle stars, shrimp, sea cumbers, and an unknown species of fish that Bob Zook describes as a “10” long dragon looking Ice fish”.

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As the team spent the day in within the SCINI test hut, a storm blew in and visibility dropped significantly. After 13 hours on the ice, they drove their Piston Bully snow machine through the storm and back to station guided by flags marking their route and a hand held GPS. In the words of Bob Zook “The weather sure has changed on us today but we made the right choice as this dive of the complete version of deep SCINI goes down on the record as “extremely successful”. We had a few minor normal issues but all of the untestable portions of our system are functioning as designed….This project is very much like launching a satellite into space. We have spent the last 3-5 years preparing for these flights and I can’t tell you how good it feels to have this level of success!!”

Drillers Update

The Drill team of Lead Driller Dennis Duling, and Drillers Graham Roberts, Dennis Jonas Kalin, and new arrival James Roth have finished constructing camp structures and loading equipment onto the SALSA Traverse. The Traverse will use specialized tractors to tow generators, drilling equipment, and camp structures 650 miles across the Ross Ice Shelf to the Lake Mercer Study site. The Traverse is scheduled to leave McMurdo Station this week and will set up camp and prep the ski-plane runway for the arrival of the SALSA science team on December 18th. You can watch our short film following the 2017-18 SALSA Route Proofing Traverse here….

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Geophysics Update

After an initial C-130 Hercules flight dropped off Geophysics cargo at Camp 20 (100 miles from Mercer Subglacial Lake), the Geophysics Team of Field Team Leader Matthew Siegfried, Assis. Prof. Kerry Key, Grad Student Chloe Gustafson, and Mountaineer Meghan Seifert are waiting on a clear weather window to fly to the field. While waiting for their flight, the team have had extra time to finish final tasks, relax, and explore the many trails and sights around McMurdo Station.

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