Operational… Kind Of

7 11 2009

The whole team was up and ready to get at it this morning. We took Emma away from her camp manager duties to help us. She has been made responsible for clearing ice that forms on the surface of the melthole every night. The fastest way to do this is to scoop it up while hanging from a harness in the middle of the hole.

Emma on Harness

Bill showing Emma the harness setup in the melthole. Just look at that grin!


Emma Clears Bothole

Emma clearing out the ice crust from the melthole.


She had a blast doing it, just look at the big grin on her face. (Maybe at some point she’ll blog about it. πŸ™‚ )
One of the next tasks was to prepare flags which would mark points at which ENDURANCE would drop the sonde to get a profile of the water chemistry.
Setting Flags

Bart, Emma and Rachel preparing flags to mark the the profiling points.


Bill and Vickie got suited up to go outside to track ENDURANCE from the surface using a magnetic beacon mounted on the ‘bot. They took the flags that Bart, Emma and Rachel prepared to mark the ‘bot position, and took survey-grade GPS readings to get the exact locations of sonde drops to determine distribution of chemicals in the water.
Vickie and Trimble

Vickie with the Trimble differential GPS for measuring the profiling locations.


We started the mission, and knocked off a number of points. Things were looking very good, all systems were humming along, we were getting data, the batteries had plenty of reserve power.
Then things went south. Even further south than our current latitude. First, the fiber optic tether we use to “look over the shoulder” of ENDURANCE got caught on no less than four snag points, forcing us to abort the planned mission and have ENDURANCE retrace its steps several times. We finally got everything unsnagged, and were clicking off a few final data taking points, when suddenly, we lost all communications from the primary ‘bot computer. Not good.
It did come back about 30 seconds later, and had apparently rebooted itself. However, many of the processes on the computer which talk with the various subsystems on ENDURANCE were not running correctly. We were unable to determine the cause of the reboot and why things weren’t working, and eventually we lost all communications with all systems on the ‘bot. Normally, ENDURANCE is able to come back home alone if it loses comms(!) with the ‘bothouse, but not if half of the on-board processes are not working. We ended up having to (very gently) pull ENDURANCE back the 150 m to the melthole using the fiber optic tether (luckily, it has a Kevlar sheath for strength).
Looking for ENDURANCE

The whole team looks on intently as Bill gently pulls ENDURANCE back using the fiber tether.


We finally got ENDURANCE back to the melthole, and brought it out of the water. We managed to repower it and re-establish communications to at least download the data we’d taken earlier in the day, as well as some data to help debug the problem. There was nothing immediately obviously wrong, like any dent or damage. As of this night, we are still at a loss as to what happened. We got back late and are going to sleep in tomorrow to get a fresh start and approach the problem with fresh minds and bodies. At least ENDURANCE is back safely.
ENDURANCE Returned

ENDURANCE back in the melthole after an adventurous day.

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2 responses

8 11 2009
Maria Richmond

good luck with finding out what went wrong!! πŸ™‚

8 11 2009
Beth Steger (Emma's Mom)

What is the saying? Two steps forward; one step back. Sounds so frustrating.
I like the fresh minds plan. It’s probably the magnetic poles changing position.
I saw that on discovery channel – they said it was going to mess up everything.

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