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Postcard: Hedy Edmonds at the Gakkel Ridge

Postcard: Hedy Edmonds at the Gakkel Ridge
upchurchMy graduate student, Lucia Upchurch, and I are standing on the ice above the Gakkel Ridge, which spans deep below us at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.


We are here as part of a multi-institution, 40-day expedition to explore the ridge and ocean floor with two robotic autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Our research vessel, an icebreaker named Oden, stopped here for a few hours so that the engineering team could test our ability to “talk” to the AUVs underwater.

The engineers needed the Oden to be completely silent, so we tied up to an ice floe and powered all the engines down. The rest of us took a little break on the ice, while several crewmembers kept watch for polar bears. The feeling of walking on the Arctic ice pack is something you never forget. It's one thing to live aboard an icebreaker for several weeks, but actually stepping out on the ice brings with it a greater sense of the vastness and isolation, and of connectedness to early Arctic explorers.

We didn't find the hydrothermal vents we were looking for on this expedition, but my team was able to map the hydrothermal plumes in greater detail than ever before. The engineering team also made some huge advances with the new AUVs. If we go back again, we’ll have a better idea of where to send the vehicles, and we’ll have vehicles that we now know can do the job.

Wish you were here,
Hedy Edmonds

This article also appeared in the Spring 2008 issue of Focus magazine. Photo by Peter Winsor.

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Monday, 19 April 2021

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