The Fateful Day

25 11 2009

Well, y’all, we did it. Today, ENDURANCE made it under the Taylor Glacier.

Here’s how it went:
To start off the day, we drove ENDURANCE over to a second melthole which Professor Peter Doran, Principal Investigator and Papa Ice Finegler had melted near the glacier face. ENDURANCE found and came up through this hole without a hitch. There, we weighted ENDURANCE down with 230 lbs. of lead so that it would become heavy enough to penetrate the halocline (salt water boundary) and move into the very salty lower lake waters. Here’s a capture of our real-time 3-D visualization of the sonar data it collected after it went back down the hole and down to 22 m depth:

ENDURANCE hovering below the halocline, looking under the mystery ledge. The red is the lake ice above, the orange and yellow is the glacier face, with the ledge which hid the view of the lake bottom sticking out towards the bottom, the green is the lake bottom.

Finally, ENDURANCE could see under the ledge which had hidden the important contact between ice and lake floor from our view since last year. As you can see, the cavern doesn’t extend back too far, but far enough that we could go in for a closer look.
This was it, moving in under the Taylor Glacier. Carefully, Shilpa executed the command telling ENDURANCE to move ahead toward the glacier. We all watched the sonar data coming back intently. How far would ENDURANCE be able to penetrate? Would we be able to see the grounding line where the ice meets the lake bottom, and where tantalizing water temperature and chemistry signatures that ENDURANCE has been picking up might be originating?
ENDURANCE proceded forward.

ENDURANCE exploring under the mystery ledge. The red and yellow rays projecting from ENDURANCE show its obstacle avoidance sonars, the blue fan represents the DeltaT multibeam sonar.

As you can see, it got right up close and under the ledge. Unfortunately, there was too much dust in the water, and the end of the cavern pinched off in too narrow a V for us to get any clear visual view in the forward camera.
We tried a few other locations along the glacier wall, but found that there was a little too much ballast on ENDURANCE, and it couldn’t quite come up high enough to successfully see the sought-after grounding line. So tomorrow’s mission will call for the same procedure, with about 40 lbs less ballast, which hopefully will allow ENDURANCE to maneuver in close enough at the proper depth. But, gosh durn it, ENDURANCE has swum under the glacier!

(Note: The internet was out again yesterday, probably because it was overcast and snowing all day, and the solar panels on Peak 1882 were covered and unable to recharge the repeater batteries. We’ll see how everything holds out for the next few days…)




4 responses

25 11 2009

Great! Congratulations. Also, very pretty pictures šŸ™‚

25 11 2009
Kim (Peter's wife)

Wow, nicely done team!

26 11 2009
Maria Richmond

What a happy thanksgiving ENDURANCE provided you!!

1 12 2009
Peter Doran, Principal Investigator and Papa Ice Finegler

That sounds exciting! Hey wait – it was exciting!

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