Another aspect of our field research that hasn’t been discussed in the blog is the weather.
Working on an ice-covered lake, we expected cold weather, but that wasn’t exactly what we got.
When we arrived in Kilpisjärvi, the lake was completely ice-covered and we could walk on it confidently.
The ice was thick and stable enough that we were able to launch UBC-Gavia.
But, as the temperatures increased (sometimes above 30 degrees Celsius) the ice started to degrade quickly. The ice detached from the shore and regions of soft ice formed.
As the sun-baked the ice surface, more channels of open water formed in the ice.
This opening of the ice was beneficial for the UBC-Gavia recovery mission as the team could search open water for her tether.
Then, the weather changed again and the fog rolled in.
Then the wind picked up and pushed all the left over ice to our end (North) of the lake.
Then, the very next day, the lake was completely open water.
The day we left Kilpisjärvi, it looked completely different from the day we arrived.
So, what did we learn from this. Well, we learned to pack for every eventuality and to go with the flow, in this case the flow of ice. We couldn’t control the weather, but at least we could try to use it to our advantage.
Now, that our bags are packed and many of the team members are on their way out of Finland (which makes us sad), some questions can be addressed and the real blogging can begin.
This blog will address the first question that Team CONCUR has received. Which is “how and why UBC-Gavia, the AUV, got lost?”.
First of all, UBC-Gavia is a sophisticated piece of scientific instrumentation; however, no matter how much planning goes into her missions, once she is under the ice, many things outside of our control can happen.
After we recovered UBC-Gavia, the team ran a scientific postmortem using the information that we gathered from data logs, GoPro video that was attached to the AUV, the position of the vehicle when recovered and the observations we made when we were trying to recover her.
We won’t ever be 100% sure what happened, but here is our best guess.
On her final mission, UBC-Gavia was launched under the ice and for some reason, she didn’t dive to the set depth that she was supposed to. She chose to run along the underside of the ice (this can be heard near the end of the following video, it’s the scraping sound).
She continued along her mission line; however, she decided to abort. This could have been due to her not being at the set dive depth, or maybe she wanted to play hide-and-seek. To us, her abort meant that she needed to be pulled back into the hole by her tether. When we tried to do this, she came towards the hole a little. But, then all of a sudden she stopped and we could no longer pull on the rope. From this point on, we had no way of getting UBC-Gavia out.
From the GoPro video, and the observation that we couldn’t hear her using the hydrophone, it appears that when we were pulling her towards us, she popped up into an open hole in the ice and sat in the ice. This prevented the hydrophone pingers to work in the water.
Normally, we would have been able to free UBC-Gavia from this hole, but there were also knots in her tether line that got stuck in the ice. This is what we think finally did us in and had UBC-Gavia dead in the water.
It wasn’t until the ice had finally started to break up and melt that we could see the line to save UBC-Gavia, but boy are we ever happy that the ice started to melt.
More questions and lessons learned to come in future posts.
Most of the CONCUR team came to Finland expecting cold weather and packed accordingly. The rooms here at the house we are staying at are filled with suitcases overflowing with warm jackets, thermal underwear and gloves.
However, since we arrived, the weather has been quite warm. Sometimes, it has been above 30 degrees Celsius (and I am not talking about the temperature inside a float suit). So, as strange as it may seem, many of us have been in shorts and t-shirts. Even the odd pair of flip-flops has been worn (and no toes were lost due to frostbite).
But Team Berlin (Will Rizk, Christof Engelhardt and Georgiy Kirillin) has to take the cake for arctic field gear.
Tiede (science) is serious stuff. It is important to document what is being done for research purposes as well as raise public awareness of scientific research. So, photos have always been an important part of field work. One example of a famous “science pose” is biologist Edward Nelson with his handy-dandy instruments from the 1911 Scott expedition to the South Pole.
Some scientists, some we know better than others, like to emulate Nelson’s famous pose.
Other scientists prefer more action shots of themselves making measurements and doing work.
In this field expedition, quite a bit of pointing goes on as well.
Other scientists like to pose with things, or in our case more important equipment.
For those who are familiar with CONCUR, you may have realized that we haven’t been mentioning one major part of the expedition. Our autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV)! So, here is the story of why we have been quiet on that front.
First, let’s meet our AUV. UBC-Gavia is an autonomous underwater vehicle which is essentially a pick-up truck to carry around scientific instruments to difficult locations, such as under-ice.
To run a mission using UBC-Gavia, first we had to haul her out onto the ice.
Then an ice hole big enough for launch was cut.
Then, when all systems are a go, we launched.
We launched 3 missions and she returned for 3 times. She popped up right back in the hole each time.
Then, on the fourth mission, she decided not to come back (we were a little insulted). We tried pulling on the tether, but nothing would give. So, we went into search mode. First, a foot search was launched on the ice. Using this method relied on the avalanche beacon, but this method had to be aborted due to poor ice conditions.
So, we tried to find her by using a hydrophone from shore. The hydrophone should have been able to pick up the pings that come from the pingers that are tucked into her communication tower.
The hydrophone wasn’t giving us any great response from shore, so we paddled out to the ice edge and listened again.
The next day, a mission was launched to see if we could get closer to where we guesstimated she was to use the hydrophone again. So, a modified boat was pushed across the ice. But again, we didn’t pick up any sign of AUV life.
Team UBC-Gavia decided to take a short break to regroup and hike the second tallest mountain in Finland, Saana. Plus, they wanted to see if they could spot UBC-Gavia from up there.
It became obvious that the methods being used would not work, so it was decided that we would continue to take measurements with other instruments. We weren’t giving up on finding UBC-Gavia, but we thought that the chance of recovery would be better when the ice had melted more and the lake had more open water on it.
When we were out on the water making measurements, we were always on the lookout for UBC-Gavia’s communication tower, which is clear plastic. It is looks a lot like an ice crystal. So, it would be easy to spot on an ice-covered lake. Not!
Finally, one last attempt to visually search for UBC-Gavia in open water was launched. And lo and behold, the UBC-Gavia tether line was spotted.
So, into the boat we hopped and out onto the water we went. After 100’s of meters of line was pulled in, a gold, torpedo shape fish emerged from under the ice. UBC-Gavia was found!
After seeing that nothing was damaged, Team UBC-Gavia was ecstatic. So, the AUV was hauled into the boat and escorted to shore.
Back on shore, UBC-Gavia was loaded onto her cradle and loaded into the back of the van.
UBC-Gavia’s position was unknown for 123 stressful hours, and now that she is back on shore, we can’t wait to get her back in the water running missions.
Today’s Finnish word of the blog is onnea (Bravo).
So check out this video of our team flying through jää (ice) with a motor boat. Keep in mind, that a week ago this ice was super thick (50 cm or so) and we were able to walk on it. Now, you can paddle through it and it falls apart. Then, when you put a motor on the back of your boat, you can go for ages.
It has been another long work day in Kilpisjärvi, Finland.
For today’s blog, I thought I would give a quick snap-shot of the field work we have done.
One group took measurements of the temperature, conductivity, pressure, pH, turbidity, redox, PAR and current from the surface of the water to the bottom of the lake (essentially everything you could want to know about what is happening vertically in water column). They stayed at one location for 3 hours, and made measurements every 15 minutes.
First they needed to paddle out to the site. Then create and ice hole for the instrument to go in.
Lowering and raising the instrument is hard work.
In between measurements, there is lots of time to kill, so when you need to make notes, it is really important to be comfortable.
It is quite warm here, we hit 30 degrees centigrade today. So, it is important to stay hydrated.
There is also a form of ice fatigue that sets in at a certain point. It can cause people to take photos of almost anything, but ice is by far the best thing.
Then, finally the last measurement was taken and into shore they swiftly paddled as to not miss päivällïnen (dinner).
It really is a hard job, we just make it look relaxing.
So, since people like pictures so much, I thought I would give you a few to get a feel of what it is like for us in Kilpisjärvi. The following photos were taken by the CONCUR team.
To start is off, the thing that brought us here ICE!
Now, 8 of us are living in a cottage that has many out-buildings and is right on the lake. Luckily we have room for everyone and most importantly, we have a coffee-maker and a dishwasher.
The animals here are very interesting. The various birds are quite astounding. Reindeer are quite common to see. Also, we have noticed that there are giant bumblebees here, maybe it’s their cold-weather coats that makes them so large.
The ice seems to go on forever. The lake is approximately 7.5 km long and 3 km wide, so it makes for a long walk when you want to sample every 50 m, and you can’t use a snowmobile.
When we arrived, the ice wasn’t touching the shore, so a bridge was built (well another was built later to accommodate the widening gap).
When access isn’t possible, a boat is always a good option for transportation, especially when you aren’t the one doing the rowing.
However, when you hit solid ice, it gets a bit hard to paddle, so that is when you push.
A great way to pass the time between measurements is taking photos.
Well, I hope that gave you a bit of an idea of our experience on our lake. There will be more photos and thrilling posts to come.
Now for TWO Finnish words of the blog: pähkinät (nuts, as in peanuts, cashews, etc.) and kasvisruoka (vegetable diet). You can guess our interest in those particular words…