Arctic Girls Underwater Robot CampJuly 9 2014
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Question: What does one wear to snorkel the arctic?
The 2nd and final micro film from this Arctic Exploration Extravaganza.
I have to thank Cameo for this awesome free app that allows you to edit films right on your phone. I highly recommend it, happy to share tips with anyone interested in making a film for their expedition page!
Greenland, Iceland, Seattle, Home.
I arrived home from Iceland late on July 30th, but woke up early to take Phantom to the last day of Jr. Oceanographer Camp in Port Angeles, where some of Phantom's build team were competing with ROVs in the swimming pool.
They were just so gosh darn proud. It makes it all worth it.
Bergy bits (yes that is the official term) are notoriously dynamic, and have a tendency to flip over and break apart. That being said, I really really really wanted to climb out on one with the ROV.
Dressed in my drysuit, to mitigate the danger of sudden immersion, I hopped off the zodiac onto a floating hunk-o-ice!
Surrounded by huge ice bergs and the golden sun that never sets, playing with a robot from a floating island of ice. It was dreamy.
After the fishing boat scare, I stuck close to home and did some test dives on the hull of the ship.
The hull of the Cape Race is plated in ribs of steel to punch through ice. In the middle of the night, transiting through ice fields, it's crazy to hear the gigantic thuds of contact a mere foot and a half from my head on the pillow.
As other things were happening on deck, I deployed Phantom on this hunk-o-glacier. The ice was moving so fast I never quite made it over there though.
I brought Phantom back just in time too, because a local family in a small fishing boat, curious about this big boat at anchor next to their homes, came whizzing through between us and the ice chunk.
In the understatement of the century: A collision at sea can ruin your whole day.
Anchored at Klausehaven S of Disko Bay
Air temp: Just right for my wool undies on deck
Water Temp: Just right for sending a robot instead
Between snorkeling endeavors today, I pulled out Phantom and got ready to dive underneath some bergs and ice.
When the girls and I began this process in Port Angeles, this was the one big goal. So today, i'm making good on my promise.
Air Temp: 55F
Water temp: Like a freezer
21:00 It's been a long day transiting up to Disko Bay.
We are nearing the arctic circle.
We get suited up in record time.
The captain puts a colander on his head and waves various kitchen implements majestically. Acting ruler of the arctic, he and his lovely wife, the other captain wearing socks on his ears among other creative fashion statements, invites us into the arctic realm ceremonially. Then he shoves us off the boat and away we go to snorkel across the arctic circle!
North of Nuuk, Greenland
Air Temp: 60-65
Water Temp: 33-34 degrees F
Each woman snorkeled in 45 minute segments today. This is longer than we have gone before though is still feels short after all that gearing up.
So far the cold has not been an issue. Under our dry suits we're all wired up in heated vests and gloves. The vest is great, it gets super warm, but the gloves just barely take the edge off frozen fingers.
With current and wind in our favor we traveled approximately 18 nautical miles with 9 snorkelers in the water for 45 minutes each.
With 5 dive propulsion vehicles and 10 women in various states of dive readiness on deck, things were surprisingly calm, collected, and efficient. We've minimized transfer time between snorkelers down to 6 minutes with a scooter change out.
Cold enough for arctic jacket, 44 degrees on land
At 0930 this morning Team Beluga splashed down with Team Narwhal as deck crew. The 5 women of Team Beluga snorkeled 7.1 nautical miles, about 13 kilometers in 2.5 hours of active snorkeling with the dive propulsion vehicle. After much practice, this has become a standard and sustainable speed for our snorkel relay.
By 1500 we arrived in Nuuk and found ourselves docked next to the M/V Sea Adventure. A couple of us ventured over to visit our neighbors, the 83 high schoolers part of the Students on Ice program. Their trip consists of awesome adventures led by by teachers and experts, including my own personal hero Don Walsh and his son.
Later in Nuuk I found myself gasping for breath as I laughed and laughed and laughed alone in the middle of a street after seeing this sign. I think it was the lack of sleep.
100 miles West of Greenland
Mountains in the distance
Questions for Tanis:
1) What is one that that is affecting you since your last post? Positive or negative?
I am alone in the golden light of this arctic sunrise. This is my time for reflection on the past and searching myself for answers about the future. Fortunately, or unfortunately (depends who you are talking to) I find it easiest, and most relaxing, to live in the moment. Reflection is difficult for me, it takes concerted effort. And thinking is hard.
I'm an early riser, 6am for the most part. But this is the first time on this entire trip I have woken up specifically to come look at the sunrise. It gets earlier and earlier the further north we go and less people come on deck to watch it each morning. Now that it's only a few hours past midnight, everyone is asleep, and I find myself drawn to the solitary experience of dawn watching.
I did not take any photos early this morning, I was in my pjs and didn't grab a camera. However, it looked something like this:
Davis Straight Transit Day 3
Clear skies, 75 degrees F
We spent the morning transiting with a plan for a 3 o'clock snorkel splashdown. I was the 1st in, followed by Susan, Renata, Becky, and Charlene.
On deck we have developed positions to keep things moving as smoothly as possible.
Deck Boss: Oversees all
Deck Hand: Strong Backed Youngin To lift scooters and people in an out of zodiacs
Recorder: The pen is mighty. The note taker.
Dressers: Assist divers in an out of gear
Davis Straight Transit Day Three
It's HOT out here
Sea State 1.5
"Stay with the Whale!"
I'll embed a link to my National Geographic Explorer's Journal article about this, juuuust as soon as I finish writing it.
Here's what we've got so far:
We are not yet in Greenland, nor are we near Canada. We’re right smack dab in the middle of Davis Straight. The water is nearly 9000 feet deep and I’m suited up like an astronaut in a dry suit though I’ll be surface bound for this journey. I’ve plunged into the arctic waters to chase a dream of snorkeling across Davis straight. I spend a solid forty minutes face down in the arctic water mesmerized by the light rays dancing for a hundred feet below me in the icy blue waters. The only evidence of life are the small ctenophores glistening as they float along. I imagine myself as migratory beast, transiting long distances through my pelagic environment.
That’s when I encounter a real one.
Photo courtesy of: www.sednaepic.com - Francoise Gervais
At 0600 this morning I went on watch for 2 hours. There's nothing I like better than being alone on the bridge of a big ship. The click and clack of the autopilot harmonizes with the low thrum of the caterpillar engine. Hot black coffee keeps me company.
I've asked the Capt. to write me a sea time letter for my 14 days aboard, i'll be adding it to the sea time i've compiled to upgrade my captain's license to a higher tonnage vessel. M/V Cape Race is registered at 180 tons.
Davis Straight Transit Day Two
Is this the Arctic or the Caribbean? Ruby, Francoise, and I are barefoot in t-shirts conducting bird surveys on the sunny bow of the Cape Race.
I'm learning interesting tidbits about spotting seabirds versus land birds. Way offshore seabirds do not have access to fresh water for drinking, so they have evolved small tubes that run from their tear ducts to their beaks. As they process the fish they eat, they "cry" fresh water and drink it. COOL.
We are transiting in surprisingly calm conditions, sea state 2 at the most.
For planning your next expedition, take a look at wind charts and familiarize yourself with the Douglas Sea Scale.
We are now beyond transmission radius for Coast Guard transmitted Marine Forecasts on the radio, but a good wind almanac coordinated with barometric readings indicates we'll be in a low pressure system the whole way across Davis Straight.
Davis Straight Transit
Saglek to Greenland Day 1
Clear skies, 65 degrees
Bumming around the deck today doing odd mechanical jobs. One of the battery chargers for our Nickle Metal Hydride Scooter Batteries came detached from the crimped terminal. I set up a little soldering station in the engine room, put on bright yellow earmuffs to drown out my singing, I mean, the engine, and got to work fixing it.
One of the ship radios was inop. and Captain Kim asked me to take a look. I've never disassembled a marine radio before, it was very much like the inside of anything else electronic.
Then we fixed the pilot house door.
Then we played with our navigation charting software….
Full sun, 70 degrees!
On deck in shorts
Saglek is the aquatic entrance to Torngat Mountains National Park. The bay is so thick with sea ice there's no way we can make our way in. So we have anchored the boat to conduct our first ice snorkeling tests right here in the bay.
It was outrageous.
Lesson #1: Dive propulsion vehicles (DPV) are a must.
The sea ice is packed and it moves fast. After scouting a path through the ice, you put your head down for 5 seconds and when you look up again the opening has disappeared. The ice pack will quickly pin you in and separate you from the dive safety officer (DSO) in the zodiac. It's crushingly heavy and has a lot of momentum. The DPVs give us a chance to escape dicey conditions.
Having a DPV is like riding a motorcycle through heavy traffic. It take an extensive amount of situational awareness to operate but it gives us a big enough power boost to dodge "that driver who is texting while merging into you". With the DPV I can navigate around the ice pack with some authority and keep myself in the safer open patches.
Lesson #2: We need helmets! This ice is no summertime sno-cone. It's like snorkeling through wet concrete laced with big bricks. With one hand out in front of my face, swiping the tiny stuff away, even small pieces of ice are too big and dense to push away. So I kept slamming my noggin on it, over and over again. Not fun. But the go pro videos of this are hilarious.
Photo courtesy of: www.sednaepic.com - Jill Heinerth
Partly Sunny, surprisingly warm
Port Aft Fo'c'sle Bunk, Cape Race
Hebron: An archaeological site with decades of rich Histor....phlegshdft, son of a...MOSQUITOS.
When I set off for the Arctic, there are two things I did not pack. 1) Enough shorts 2) Bug spray. I don't know, I just thought they would unnecessary around so much ice.
Partly Sunny, Approx. 65 deg F
Surrounded by Loose sea ice
Among the numerous projects we are scheduled to work on over the next few weeks, there is one which I had never considered as part of an expedition before.
One of our advisors, Tanis Angove, though she is not in the field with us, studies group interactions under stressful, high risk, or closed environments. These groups are rarely, or god forbid :) entirely made up of women. Our subject group will be a unique part of her research. She has posed four simple questions for each women to answer as often as possible.
1) What is affecting you since your last entry, Positive or Negative?
2) What is affecting the team dynamic? Positive or negative?
3) If you could repeat an experience, what would it be and why?
4) What are your hopes moving forward?
These sound simple, and let's be honest, pretty touchy feely. Something I typically avoid (I bottle, I'm a bottler), but when I really got down to the nitty gritty of answering them for the first time, they provided some enlightening looks into myself.
Without divulging my deepest darkest secrets, I'll paraphrase some of these entries for the sake of full disclosure.
This is terrifying. I'll need your support to share some of this stuff. Is it even interesting to you? Helpful?
Overcast skies, approx. 65 degrees F
Sitting on my caboose on the wooden deck of Cape Race
After huffing and puffing and humming and hawwing the past few days, I finally got Phantom to boot up! I followed Eric's recommendation and held the reset button on the network adaptor for over 12 seconds and everything came back to life!
It was such a simple solution after the near complete disassembly Phantom went through in the attic room of our hotel in Nain. Ruby and I had soldered the tether leads directly to the homeplug adaptor, tried every combination of batteries I had brought, and did some voodoo dancing around the robot to no avail, until NOW!
I was pretty sad on our last day in Nain when I had to pass over the ROVs as an outreach tool. So many young people had come down to the dock asking if they could fly the robot after hearing about their sibling's and friend's experiences the day before.
Alas, all lessons learned.
Once on the Cape Race, I took the first opportunity possible to open up my case and test out the ideas you all shared on my last OpenExplorer posts! Thanks for those!
The camera guys thought it was the bee's knees. Here's phantom's first sight upon this new awakening.
Kauk Harbor, 4 miles (ish) North of Nain, Labrador
Fo'c'sle of M/V Cape Race
Port Aft Bunk
Welcome to a Russian Expedition Ship.
The M/V Cape Race is a fishing boat built in the 70's, with a steel hull reinforced with ribs every 4 inches for punching through thick sea ice. It has now been refit for travelers. The owner has outfitted the boat with an air compressor, SCUBA tanks, and weight belts for the diving operations of Team Sedna.
We left Nain this afternoon waving goodbye to our lovely friends on the dock, and settled into what will be our home for the next two weeks. My bunk in one of four in the forward part of the boat.
We divvied up bunks based on each woman's proneness to getting seasick. Those women least likely to get nauseous set up camp in the four forward bunks where the movement of the ship is likely to be the most...sickening. I'm happy up forward. I like feeling the hull pitch and yaw like a corkscrew, it puts me right to sleep.
The vessel is equipped with two zodiacs, a crab pot puller, some jigs for fishing, a russian sauna, and four crew. The crew consists of two captains (required for 24hrs operation) an engineer, and a cook.
We anchored the boat a short distance from Nain and launched a Zodiac to go ice fishing. And by ice fishing I mean, fishing for ice. We picked up a hunk-o-sea ice and brought it onboard to melt for tea and coffee. Mmm, I've never tasted anything quite as smooth and refreshing as glacial tea.
Here's my bunk.
Ack! After a fantastic day of outreach yesterday, the ROV now refuses to boot up.
Here's what's up:
The topside adaptor has three led indicators, one for power, one for ethernet and one for homeplug.
The homeplug lights on the topside adaptor and the corresponding light on the ROV are not turning on and subsequently the ROV is not connecting.
After hours of effort troubleshooting, I tried every combination of batteries I have (some of which are questionable) and soldered the tether leads directly to the homeplug board. No change in either circumstance.
The same issue is present on both of my home plug adaptors.
It's just a bummer because a lot of kids from yesterday were bringing all their friends down this afternoon to fly the bots.
It could be:
Proximity to Salt water
Not rugged enough for operation around running happy kids
Operating on 6 hours of sleep out of the last 48. Please forgive my poor typing.
Our flights today from St. John's Newfoundland to the tiny and beautiful town of Nain, Labrador culminated in taking a twin otter across the stunning Gross Mourne National Park. This meant the ROVs had to be more robustly protected in their case to go through as checked bags in some places.
In preparation for this, I stayed up till 3 am this morning (last night?) being a very type A personality and meticulously plucking pick-and-pull foam into a wondrous labyrinth of ROV comfort.
Eat your heart out OpenROV HQ. Just wait till you see photos of all the secret chambers...
This awesome new Nanuk case (shameless plug :) now holds:
Two tethers on tether management reels
Three sets of batteries
Two topside adaptors and cable sets
The pelican case now holds:
Save-A-ROV dive repair kit
Erika's sparkly blue Sperry Topsiders
I went to bed just in time to get 1 hour sleep before our 4am wake up and departure for flights.
Did some evening test on Phantom in the OceanQuest training pool.
Was really excited to get the gals flying the ROV and did not, repeat, did not check both plugs. One was not installed.
Pull ROV out, drain water. Pretty substantial amount of liquid. It was just less than a quarter cup.
Make light of situation. Secretly admonish myself harshly. Gorammit Erika we haven't even left Newfy!
Find hair drier, find rice. Dry everything out immediately.
An hour and a half of gentle hair drying later, reinstall electronics components.
Spend next 4 hours trying every combination of beagle one, tether adaptor, Arduino available between Matt, Phantom, and back ups.
Troubleshooting seems to reveal that Phantom's Arduino is fried.
By about 3 am have settled in a working combination of Phantom's beaglebone with Matt's e-chassis.
Tested in pool. Check.
Pack all for tomorrow's press conference demonstration and girl's workshop in afternoon.
Took a sunset walk and spent some time taking with Expedition assistant leader Emily about my goals on in the coming weeks. Among all the other roles we inevitably play on expedition (cook, marine safety officer, science consultant) Here are my personal action items:
1) Encourage each member of team Sedna to write 1 post on this OpenExplorer expedition. It doesn't sound like much I know, but it should be just about attainable with everything we have going on.
2) Have 3-10 people/girls/students fly the ROV at each event or town.
3) Act as pilot/technician of all robots.
4) Dive off an ice flow in my skivvies.
5) Oh, and snorkel to Greenland.
The afternoon was quiet, only a few team Sedna ladies had arrived, so it was the perfect time to wake up and test the ROVs After a series of flights.
Phantom's wire harness, right at the external bend by the epoxied through hull "fitting," was chaffed by the edge of the "L" shaped cradle piece. It makes me nervous considering the salt water we'll be diving in, but for the time being everything woke up and worked like a charm!
Our accommodations for the next two nights are within a dive school facility called OceanQuest in St. John's Newfoundland.
The rooms have two or three twin beds. I picked one by a window because it it astonishingly hot here! Mosquitos and humidity surprised me for how far north we are.
Emily did some grocery shopping and I cooked us up a nice veggie taco bar for dinner.
Most important things to keep ANY expedition running smoothly:
1) is everyone fed?
2) does everyone have somewhere warm and dry to retreat to?
3) are restrooms readily available?
After that it's all clockwork.
Wake up at 3am.
Wait at bridge for world's slowest tug and tow.
Wait in traffic.
Arrive airport, get close, have gate slammed in face.
Fly to Vancouver. Beautiful!
Fly to Toronto. Also Beautiful!
Fly to St. John's Newfoundland.
Oh yeah, and get kids in airport super de duper excited by magic yellow box.
These girls right here, built Blue Meaning and Phantom. On our final afternoon together Porter, Emily, Faith and friends met up at Lake Crescent to fly around.
I also brought a white marker to get their autographs on the vehicle they built!
We leak tested Blue Meanie, and as predicted, we were not able to pull any vacuum.
It seems the tolerance on the housings are still variable from the manufacturing process. The o-ring was not forming a good seal, and after switching out for a newer housing, and still fighting leaks we opted to fly Phantom.
That. Went. Swimmingly.
We ran the computer ran down to 1% battery, the ROV down to 8.0V, and my cell phone into oblivion. Then the sun started to set.
It was the most glorious way I could imagine to start off on this Arctic Journey.
The first thing that happened when I came home from OpenROV HQ, was explode.
Not literally, but I did have suitcases (yes plural) full of robot bits and I managed to cover every inch of the dining room table with electronics boards, tether reels, propellors, etc.
I started plugging things in to see if I could get them all working and just about had a heart attack when my primary ROV 'Phantom' started making high pitched squealing noises from the arduino and refused to boot up.
I plugged in the electronic's board for ROV 'Matt'...and same deal, same squeal.
My brain thinks in diesel mechanics: If the engine doesn't work there are only two things that could be wrong. Either the motor isn't getting air, or it isn't getting fuel. In the case of a little electric rov, the fuel is in the batteries. So, I took the batteries out of the rov, threw them on the charger, and then I made a sandwich.
A little while later, I hooked up the fresh batteries, and voila! No more squeal, and everything booted up like a champ!
Let the building commence!
My emerging engineers Porter, Faith, and Emily showed off their mad skills with tricky acrylic welding solvent at the Feiro Marine Life Center in Port Angeles, WA.
We assembled the entire frame of the first ROV in record time AND INVENTED A NEW RULE.
Every time I say something technical that needs explaining, they yell "Hashtag Jargon!" and I have to give a rapid-fire 10 second explanation. Then it just got silly, "Blackhole" was fun.
The arctic ROV team met for the first time at the Feiro Marine Life Center yesterday.
We started off by exploring the local boardwalk pilings with an existing ROV and then got down to serious planning for operations and engineering.
The young ROV engineers even made it to the front page of the Sunday Paper, Talk about a polar bear dip!
Soldering, Plastic Welding and Programming Oh My!
This week's Build Plan
Assemble the battery pod end caps. Check.
Assemble main end caps. Check!
Learn to solder clean shiny wire connections for motor modification. CHECK!
In addition to Emily’s nice work with the GoPro Camera, this week we also has a special guest cameraman. Stay tuned for a micro film today’s workshop.
From July 12th – 28th, 2014, the all female expedition will snorkel several hundred kilometers from Labrador to Baffin Island to Greenland.
When I was invited to join Team Sedna, I thought about why I would undertake such a monumental challenge.
I came up with one simple answer. This swim is the perfect excuse to teach engineering and exploration to girls who might not otherwise have the opportunity.
Leading up to the expedition, and along the route itself, I will run a program teaching girls how to build underwater robots, and use them with confidence. Let's tear down the barriers in their way, and show these girls the potential they have to go outside and be explorers at this very moment!
They will dream up things to explore that I can't even imagine. It's going to be so cool to find out what questions they will ask the world.