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Deep sea probes face ultimate test in Arctic Ocean

The Swedish Icebreaker, Oden, will take Krützfeldt and other scientists into  the Arctic Ocean this summer.
The Swedish Icebreaker, Oden, will take Krützfeldt and other scientists into the Arctic Ocean this summer. (Photo: Larry Larsson, U.S. Navy Photo –; exact source – [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

While the rest of Europe broils in the summer heat, one student from Sweden will be chilling out — literally.

Jari Krützfeldt, a student at the Centre for Naval Architecture at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, will sail aboard the Swedish icebreaker, Oden, which is bound for the icy waters at the mouth of the Greenland’s Petermann Glacier. His mission is to drop 10 deep-water probes to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, barely 1,100 km from the North Pole.

Krützfeldt is part of a team that is developing and testing cost-effective, autonomous systems for long-term measurements of conditions at the seabed, mainly in polar regions. The probes he is bringing to the Arctic are designed to endure five years at a depth of 1,000m after deployment. (The other members of the Bottom Lander for Long Term Underwater Sensing (LoTUS) are Krützfeldt’s instructor, Jakob Kuttenkeuler, and Anna Wåhlin and Nina Kirchner.)

bottom lander
Each probe will await its pre-programmed moment to surface and deliver data to the lab at KTH. (Image: Centre for Naval Architecture at KTH)

After Krützfeldt lowers them into the water, the bottom landers will likely never been seen again; but they will be heard from.

Each probe will rest at the bottom of the ocean, collecting water temperature data that will help to improve prediction models for future sea level rising, he says.

Greenland’s glaciers, including the Petermann Glacier, are believed to be melting due to the flow of warm, salty deep ocean currents into the Greenland fjords.

“We want to test the landers under realistic conditions and investigate these deep ocean currents,” Krützfeldt says.

Jari Krützfeldt, a student at the Centre for Naval Architecture at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, in the assembly room for the bottom landers. (Photo: David Callahan)

“There is uncertainty about the rate at which the glacier is melting, and this project will provide a way to collect the data needed to predict the process,” he says. “And it does it at a low cost. The project needed probes with cheap moorings that no one had to come back for to collect.”

The bottom landers are programmed to rise toward the ocean’s surface, one by one, at different times over the next year. When each one reaches the surface, it then transmits its data via satellite to a lab at KTH.

The idea is to get a time-lapse picture of the changes in water temperature that may be caused by the deep ocean currents of warmer, salty water.

Once at the surface, the probes will drift with the current, sending out their positions regularly and collecting data about surface current direction and velocity.

In my next blog post, we’ll catch up with Krützfeldt and see how the mission is going, plus share some images and video from the expedition. But first, on July 28, join us for a Google Hang, where he will take your questions about the system and its deployment in the Arctic, as well as anything else you wonder about a polar expedition.

Here’s the link to the live Google Hangout on Air broadcast …

Here’s a short video of our conversation in the lab at KTH Center for Naval Architecture in Stockholm, where Krützfeldt was preparing the probes for deployment recently. 

David Callahan is editor for international news and media at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

One thought on “Deep sea probes face ultimate test in Arctic Ocean”

  1. This sounds exciting and most promising to better understand the physical processes impacting the melting of a large floating glacier like Petermann Gletscher. About 80% of the melting of this specific glacier is done by the ocean at 300-500 depth below the surface. This is the depth where Jari’s sensor will measure ocean temperatures in new and innovative ways. Physics and smart engineering are key …

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