Today is Sunday July 28th. We took a helicopter to land on an ice floe so that we could look under the ice with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in the water. It was so amazing that the ice sheet we were on had big enough holes in it so that we could place the vehicle in the water and not worry about having to walk to the edge of the ice where there is a risk of it possibly breaking and us falling in. Our helicopter pilot, Ted, was our lookout for polar bears so that we didn’t have that risk as well. We all had ice station training on the ship and knew the necessary safety precautions to ensure minimal risk (making sure none of us ended up in the water).
After a little while, it was my turn to drive the ROV. That was so much fun. When you’re driving it, you are literally using a gaming controller. It looks exactly like an Xbox controller, but it’s a remote for a vehicle in the Artic water. After understanding the controls and getting a better feel for how the instrument operated in the ice conditions, I wanted to get closer to the ice so I could look at the features on the bottom of the ice sheet. I could see some black algae and random pieces of some type of white film algae. There was also a lot of plankton in the water that you can see swimming around on the camera that was mounted on the front of the ROV.
After I finished piloting the ROV, Dr. Donglai Gong, the lead of the physical oceanography group, took out his drone. There was another group of students and scientists about 300 meters away getting ice cores for their research, and he flew the drone over to them to look at what they were doing as well. I didn’t want to fly the drone because the day before, he lost another drone while taking a video from the ship, and I didn’t want to be the one responsible for losing his second (and last) drone. It was overall an amazing experience, and I’m just happy I get to continue to be on along for the ride.