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In search of the perfect ice

26.03.2014

In search of the perfect ice

SAMCoT researchers in search of the perfect ice.



Video highlights

19.11.2013

Oden in the iceVideo highlights

SAMCoT researchers travel to some of the most inaccessible places on the planet, most recently, to the icy waters off the northeast coast of Greenland. Check out some videos from the research cruise here!


Back from the ice: Research cruise returns safely with mission accomplished.

03.09.2013

Back from the ice: Research cruise returns safely with mission accomplished.

- A multinational team of 33 researchers has returned to Longyearbyen, Svalbard with data on everything from iceberg drift to bowhead whale sightings, after a cruise in the iceberg-infested waters off northeast Greenland.

They rammed through ice ridges, took 360-degree pictures of the ice, tracked the movement of icebergs and measured the underwater sounds of an icebreaker crunching through an ice ridge.

Those were just a few of the many research objectives achieved by a multinational team of 33 researchers who have just completed a two-week cruise in the icy waters off northeast Greenland.

Scientists on the ice. Oden in the background. Photo: Taisiya Sinitsyna

"This gave us a great opportunity to test out many of our new technologies," said Raed Lubbad, cruise director. "We were able to build our database and collect as much full-scale data as possible."

Lubbad is an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) centre for Sustainable Arctic Marine and Coastal Technology (SAMCoT), which coordinated the cruise.  

The Swedish icebreaker Oden left Longyearbyen, Svalbard on 19 August and returned late in the evening on 1 September. The two-week cruise was designed to allow the 28 ice engineers and scientists to measure and quantify different aspects of sea ice, icebergs and their interaction with the ship.

Five marine mammal researchers were also aboard the vessel, where they conducted acoustic research and combined conventional marine mammal observations with more high-tech approaches.  

 

Silent but noisy

Researchers in the Marine Mammal Observation group reported that they were very excited about their measurements of underwater sounds as the icebreaker moved past icebergs and broke through larger ice flows.

The group says that the Arctic Ocean can be seen as both the most silent and most noisy of all oceans. The breakup or collapse of an iceberg can be noisy, but a thick layer of ice can insulate the underwater world from surface noises.

As researcher Michel André observed, however, scientists have relatively little data on how man-made underwater sounds, such as the crunching of the boat through ice ridges, propagate under the ice.

André, who is director of the Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics at the Technical University of Catalonia BarcelonaTech (UPC) in Spain, says that the data the group collected from the cruise is particularly valuable for this reason, especially as increased activity in the Arctic Ocean boosts the amount of man-made noise in the water. The information can be used to conduct a risk assessment for the possible impact of noise on marine mammals.

Hydrophone buoy pickup. Photo: Jan Durinck

The scientists measured the sound using a buoy equipped with a hydrophone and a sound recorder, deployed from the ship and left in the ocean during the ice breaking trials.

"Then the buoy has to be found again, and this is itself a challenging task," said Statoil biologist Jürgen Weissenberger, who coordinated the marine mammal group. "Finding and taking a small buoy on board requires the skills of an experienced ice breaker crew, and that we had on board Oden."

 

A patch of animals

The marine mammal group also got a rare treat as the Oden crossed onto the edge of the continental shelf on its return to Svalbard. Suddenly, they said, the ocean was alive with whales, all taking advantage of the rich habitat that is typically found in this region.

Over a roughly 2.5 hour period, the group reported dozens of sightings, including sperm whales, white-beaked dolphins, humpbacked whales, fin whales and minke whales.

"It was one of the best whale areas I have ever been to," said Jan Durinck, from Marine Observers in Denmark, who has more than 20 years of experience as a marine mammal observer.

"We know this is an area where we find animals, but their distribution can be quite patchy," Weissenberger said. "We just got lucky."

In the end, the biologists reported approximately 150 sightings of marine mammals during the course of the cruise.

 

Collect and redeploy

Cruise director Lubbad said researchers were able to achieve virtually all their research objectives during the two-week journey, including the collection of and redeployment of four buoys containing instruments for measuring currents and other information.

These underwater moorings have been busily collecting ice and ocean current data for the last year, and retrieving them was one of Oden's most important tasks on this cruise.  

One of the moorings was missing its instrument package, most likely because the mooring was dragged by an iceberg, which would have snapped the line, Lubbad said.

And researchers successfully deployed four more moorings for collection next year.

 

A 360-degree view

While the cruise offered many opportunities for researchers to test new equipment or collect new data to validate models, Lubbad said he was particularly impressed by the performance of a 360-degree camera that researchers designed to test on the cruise.

The set-up involved a series of simple cameras installed on the very top of the ship, which continuously recorded the view of the ice surrounding the Oden.

"It looks like you are taking pictures from a helicopter hovering just over the ship," Lubbad said. Researchers can then take the images to study how the ice behaved during the experiments they conducted aboard Oden.

"You can see how the ice interacts with the structure, what happens in the interaction zone, how the ice breaks and cracks, " he said. "This is a real field of innovation."

 

A multinational group

The cruise participants came from NTNU, the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), TU-Delft in the Netherlands, Saint Petersburg State University, the Technical University of Catalonia BarcelonaTech (UPC) in Spain, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the University of Delaware, the Norwegian oil company Statoil, Maritime Robotics, ASL Environmental Sciences in Canada, Marine Observers in Denmark, and the Ship Modelling and Simulation Centre AS in Norway.

The cruise was made possible in part by a memorandum of understanding between NTNU and the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, and was conducted with support from Statoil and in collaboration with the Swedish Maritime Administration, which owns Oden.



Into the moving, crushing, shifting ice: Research cruise wraps up vital tasks

30.08.2013

Into the moving, crushing, shifting ice: Research cruise wraps up vital tasks

- A multinational team of 33 researchers nears the end of a two-week cruise in the iceberg-infested waters off northeast Greenland

Scientists on the iceTwo days on an ice floe may not seem like paradise, but for a team of scientists on the multinational 2013 Oden Arctic Technology Research Cruise, it was the achievement of an important research goal.

"They surveyed the ice floe quite thoroughly," said Raed Lubbad, cruise director and an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's (NTNU) centre for Sustainable Arctic Marine and Coastal Technology (SAMCoT), which is coordinating the cruise.  "They took many cores and measured different mechanical properties of the sea ice."

The Swedish icebreaker Oden left Longyearbyen, Svalbard on 19 August and will return on 2 September. The two-week cruise has been designed to allow the 28 ice engineers and scientists onboard to measure and quantify different aspects of sea ice, icebergs and their interaction with the ship.

An Ivory Gull flies by a hydrophone buoy.Five marine mammal researchers are also aboard the vessel, where they have been conducting acoustic research and combining conventional marine mammal observations with more high-tech approaches.  To date, the marine mammal group has seen 159 animals, including bowhead whales to harp seals and white beaked dolphins.

 

Ice station ho!

For the Oden ice engineers, the chance to spend two days examining a big sea ice floe is an important opportunity to collect vital information about how strong and thick the ice is, how deep and consolidated the pressure ridges formed in the ice are, and how the ice interacts with a big piece of metal – like the bow of the icebreaker Oden.

This kind of information will become more and more important as global warming results in an ice-free Arctic Ocean in the summer, and shipping traffic increases.

According to an estimate made by Det Norske Veritas (DNV), an international risk management company based in Norway, as many as 850 transit trips could be made across the Arctic Ocean by 2050.

Lubbad reported via email that while one team conducted ice thickness measurements, another team spent time studying an ice ridge.

"They drilled through it at different cross-sections and established a good profile of the ridge," he said. "We have also used an EM antenna and scanned the thickness of the ice floe. The ice topography and the relative distances between the ship and all the measurement points on the ice were measured using the Total Station and a GPS."

 

ROVs and ice ramming

The ship also has a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS), which they used to document the layout of the ridges on the ice floe.

In the end, the researchers completed the ice station with a bone-jarring ridge ramming test, where Oden made her way through a 12m thick ice ridge.

The icebreaker travelled a pre-surveyed 1000m ramming path, and the vessel itself was monitored during the ramming test.

Researchers also deployed a sound recorder close to the ice floe before they began their work.  The sound recorder collected while scientists worked on the ice station and during the ridge ramming experiment.

"These data are useful to measure the level of noise an icebreaking operation produces and how could this influence the environment around it," Lubbad said. He also noted that the sound recorder was retrieved successfully right after the ramming test was finished – no mean feat in the swirling soup of broken up ice.

 

Wind and weather

On Tuesday, 27 August, the Oden arrived at the location of the last of four instrument-laden moorings that the researchers deployed last year. These underwater moorings have been busily collecting ice and ocean current data for the last year, and retrieving them is one of Oden's most important tasks on this cruise.

While this may seem like an easy assignment, it poses many challenges, as the Oden cruise discovered on the 27th.

"We arrived at the location of our fourth (and last) mooring in the morning," Lubbad wrote. "The position of the mooring was located, but it was too windy and we had quite some ice with high drift speed in the area."

Instead, the Oden headed northwest to look for icebergs that would be suitable for the team's iceberg remote station, in which an iceberg is measured top to bottom, and a remote tracking sensor is installed on the berg to measure its movements for the next several months.

But once the boat arrived at its target location, "we unfortunately had bad visibility which prohibited us from using the helicopter to establish our Iceberg remote station and to deploy ITDs (Ice Tracker Drifters) on ice," Lubbad said in his email. "We thought of performing ice management tests in that area but the ice conditions in combination with bad visibility did not allow this either."

In the end, the researchers were able to take advantage of one of the features of the area where they were – the shallow water depth. The group is mapping the seabed in shallow areas to look for and better understand ice gouging and scouring from icebergs.

"Therefore we decided to use the opportunity and map the seabed in the area thoroughly – which we did," he said.

 

Mooring success

The Oden returned to the last mooring location on Wednesday, 28 August, and was finally able to retrieve the mooring, with all of its instruments.

Cruise director Lubbad was very happy about this result.

" We had a very good start today," he wrote in his email about the event. "Right after breakfast we managed to retrieve our last mooring successfully with its entire instrument intact. This means that in this cruise we actually managed to retrieve all four moorings where three of them were complete and intact."

Earlier in the cruise, the first mooring the ship located and retrieved was without its package of instruments – probably ripped off the mooring by a big passing iceberg.

Lubbad reported that the researchers were also able to successfully redeploy all four new moorings with instrument packages, so they can continue their vital work of collecting data over the next year.

 

A multinational group

The cruise participants come from NTNU, the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), TU-Delft in the Netherlands, Saint Petersburg State University, the Technical University of Catalonia BarcelonaTech (UPC) in Spain, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the University of Delaware, the Norwegian oil company Statoil, Maritime Robotics, ASL Environmental Sciences in Canada, Marine Observers in Denmark, and the Ship Modelling and Simulation Centre AS in Norway.

The cruise was made possible in part by a memorandum of understanding between NTNU and the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, and is being conducted with support from Statoil and in collaboration with the Swedish Maritime Administration, which owns Oden.



Floe by floe, the ice surrenders its secrets

27.08.2013

Floe by floe, the ice surrenders its secrets

- Ice researchers and marine biologists report on their first week in the icy waters off of northeastern Greenland

The ODEN crew

Bowhead and minke whale sightings, extensive ice floe measurements and the successful retrieval of important moored instruments are among the successes of a multinational team of ice engineering researchers and marine biologists during their first week off the coast of northeastern Greenland on the Swedish icebreaker Oden.

"The general atmosphere on the cruise is quite good," says Raed Lubbad, cruise director and an associate professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's centre for Sustainable Arctic Marine and Coastal Technology (SAMCoT).  "We have a lot of new equipment that we installed onboard Oden and have had some quite exciting times looking at the data coming out from these instruments."

The two-week cruise has been designed to allow the scientists onboard to measure and quantify different aspects of sea ice, icebergs and their interaction with the ship. The group is now in an area where they deployed underwater moorings last year with the goal of collecting the instruments on the moorings and deploying new instruments. The instrument packages on the moorings have been busily collecting a year's worth of ice and ocean current data.

Five marine mammal researchers are also aboard the vessel, where  they have been conducting acoustic research and combining conventional marine mammal observations with more high-tech approaches.

 

Rare bowhead whale sightings

Juvenile hooded sealMarine mammal biologist Jürgen Weissenberger reports by email that as of 25 August, biologists have seen 8 polar bears, including a female and two second-year cubs that were far out at sea, in an area rich with seals.

The observers, led by Jan Durnick from Marine Observers in Denmark, have been using lookouts with binoculars as well as an infrared camera system and satellite-telemetered passive acoustic techniques. In addition to the polar bears, they have recorded 58 whales and dolphins and 83 seals as of 25 August.

But the biggest surprise, the researchers say, was the sighting of big whale blows in front of the ship, which were identified as bowhead whales.

These whales belong to the Svalbard stock of bowheads, which is considered to be the smallest baleen whale stock in the world, and are among the rarest and most endangered whales in the Atlantic Ocean.

"Between 2006 and 2008 only 17 bowheads have been seen off East Greenland," the group reports, "so even our few observations make a significant contribution to the knowledge about their distribution and abundance."

 

Advanced 3D cameras, sound recorders

In addition to observing marine mammals directly, a team of scientists from the University of Alaska and the University of Delaware has installed an advanced 3D camera system on Oden to characterize the icescape while the vessel is underway.

By combining these data with the marine mammal observations, the group hopes to learn to recognize the characteristics of the ice cover that make it suitable as habitat for walrus and seals. The number of marine mammals sighted and the variety of ice encountered so far represents an excellent basis for developing this knowledge, the group reports.

Marine mammals use sound as the primary way to get information about their environment (echolocation), for finding food, to communicate with other members of their species and to listen for possible predators. This makes these animals very sensitive to changes in how sound propagates, as well as to the influence of artificial sources.

Sound travels differently in ice-covered waters than in open water due to variations in temperature and salinity. In collaboration with the Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics from the Technical University of Catalonia, BarcelonaTech (UPC, Spain) the biologists deployed two sound recorders at 200m depth. These recorders will continuously record the ambient noise and may possibly detect vocalizations from Arctic species. However, this data will only be available when the recorders are recovered.

"The input of many other scientists present on board who study different

aspects of the current status of the region will significantly contribute to our understanding of the habitat use of marine mammals in this unique icy area," the team says.

 

Fetching moored instruments

Among Oden's most important tasks is the retrieval of four underwater moorings that were deployed last year when the Oden cruise came to the region.

Cruise leader Lubbad reports that the ship arrived at the location of mooring 2 on Wednesday, 21 August in the evening. The researchers sent a signal to the mooring so that it would release and float to the surface, which it did. But much to the disappointment of the scientists, the mooring was without its attached instruments.

"The most likely scenario is that the mooring was dragged by an iceberg and that snapped the line," Lubbad said. A new mooring was deployed at the location to collect another year's worth of ice and sea current data.

On Thursday morning, 22 August, Oden arrived at the location of mooring 3. "The ice conditions were OK but we had slightly bad visibility and quite some swell," Lubbad said. But after a 5-hour effort, the group was able to retrieve the mooring with its package of instruments intact and deploy a new one. A second mooring was retrieved and redeployed on Friday, 23 August.

 

Follow the floes

Although the cruise has seen low visibility for a considerable amount of time, researchers have been able to use the helicopter onboard the ship to spend four hours scouting icebergs and deploying ice trackers on the bergs.

The ice trackers will stay on the bergs for a number of months so that researchers can study how these big icebergs move over space and time.

This kind of work allows researchers to better interpret the images on the satellite pictures.

After what felt like a long wait, the weather and ice conditions have finally allowed the researchers to conduct an "ice station," during which a range of ice measurements are made to measure ice thickness, strength and other properties that help engineers refine their models.

These ice stations take 2 days to complete. Lubbad reports that the plan is to end the ice station with a ridge ramming test, in which the Oden powers into an ice ridge. An ice ridge forms when two ice sheets are pressed against each other and consists of accumulated pieces of broken ice, so that its total thickness is much greater than that of the original ice.

"These ice ridges typically produce the highest loads on structures," Lubbad said at the start of the cruise. "Knowing how thick these ridges are, how fast they drift and how frequent they are is very important for the design of ships and floating structures."

 

A multinational group

The 32 cruise participants come from NTNU, the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), TU-Delft in the Netherlands, Saint Petersburg State University, the Technical University of Catalonia BarcelonaTech (UPC) in Spain, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the University of Delaware, the Norwegian oil company Statoil, Maritime Robotics, ASL Environmental Sciences in Canada, Marine Observers in Denmark, and the Ship Modelling and Simulation Centre AS in Norway.

The cruise was made possible in part by a memorandum of understanding between NTNU and the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, and is being conducted with support from Statoil and in collaboration with the Swedish Maritime Administration, which owns Oden.



The Oden Arctic Technology Research Cruise returns to northeast Greenland for second year of ice research

16.08.2013

The Oden Arctic Technology Research Cruise returns to northeast Greenland for second year of ice research

Oden in the ice. Photo: Øyvind Hagen, Statoil

Arctic offshore engineering scientists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and colleagues from nine international universities and companies and the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat will head out on Monday, 19 August on a two-week research cruise to the waters off the northeastern coast of Greenland.

The multinational group will leave from Longyearbyen, Svalbard on the Swedish polar icebreaker Oden, and will measure and quantify a variety of aspects of sea ice, icebergs and their interaction with the ship. The group will return to the area that they studied last year, which will enable them to retrieve underwater moorings that have been busily collecting ice and ocean current data for the last year.

Five marine mammal researchers will also be aboard the vessel, where they will conduct acoustic research and combine conventional marine mammal observations with more high-tech approaches.

"The offshore area northeast of Greenland is a very interesting place for us, because it is a place with multiyear ice and with quite heavy drift of sea ice and icebergs," says Raed Lubbad, cruise leader and an associate professor based at SAMCoT, NTNU's centre for research-based innovation on Sustainable Arctic Marine and Coastal Technology. "It's also an area that we couldn't otherwise get to without a proper icebreaker, like Oden."

A year's worth of data

One of Oden's most important tasks is also seemingly its simplest: the retrieval of four underwater moorings that were deployed last year, when the first OATRC came to the region. These moorings are loaded with instruments, including upward-looking sonar and Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCP), which measure water currents.

While it might seem easy to pluck the moorings up out of the Greenland Sea, it could be anything but, Lubbad says. The ship sends a signal to the moorings that tells them to release their coupling and pop up from where they have been anchored underwater – but if there is too much ice over the area where the moorings are located, it will be challenging to find them, he said. Or the ice cover may prevent the ship from being able to physically retrieve the instruments.

"These are very important," Lubbad says. "They give us long time series data on ice thickness, drift and sea currents that enable us to quantify the physical environment."

Among the most interesting data from the moorings is that concerning the frequency and thickness of ice ridges. An ice ridge forms when two ice sheets are pressed against each other and consists of accumulated pieces of broken ice, so that its total thickness is much greater than that of the original ice..  "These ice ridges typically produce the highest loads on structures," Lubbad says. "Knowing how thick these ridges are, how fast they drift and how frequent they are is very important for the design of ships and floating structures."

Ground-truthing remote sensing

The researchers will also employ a variety of technologies to quantify the ice around the ship and icebergs that are in the vicinity of the ship. In addition to using electromagnetic sensors to continuously measure the ice thickness around the ship itself, Lubbad says the researchers will use near real-time satellite images to look for icebergs and then ground-truth the icebergs that they identify.

In this case, "ground-truthing" an iceberg means visiting it by helicopter and using a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) to make a three-dimensional image of the iceberg, including its size and thickness. At the same time, researchers will use a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to collect the same information about the underside of the iceberg.

Finally, they'll deploy a weather station atop the berg, along with an ACDP and hydrophones so that marine mammal biologists can listen for animals that might be in the vicinity of the berg. These instruments will be left on the iceberg for several days before they are retrieved, but the berg will also be instrumented with a tracker that will report on the iceberg's movements over the next four months, Lubbad said.

Searching for marine mammals

This is second year a team of marine mammal biologists will participate in the cruise. They will benefit not only being able to study the relatively remote area off of the northeast coast of Greenland but from working with ice engineers and scientists in the identification of ice features that can be important habitat for marine mammals such as polar bears.

"We're very excited about this," said Jürgen Weissenberger, a Statoil biologist who is heading up the marine mammal group.

The biologists will also use hydrophones to listen for animals underwater, as well as an infrared camera, which will enable to them to find animals that otherwise might be difficult to detect visually.

A multinational group

The 32 cruise participants come from NTNU, the University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), TU-Delft in the Netherlands, Saint Petersburg State University, the University of Barcelona, the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, the Norwegian oil company Statoil, Maritime Robotics, ASL Environmental Sciences in Canada, and the Ship Modelling and Simulation Centre AS in Norway.

The cruise was made possible in part by a memorandum of understanding between NTNU and the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, and is being conducted with support from Statoil and in collaboration with the Swedish Maritime Administration, which owns Oden.