SeaBED robot The yellow SeaBED robot is approximately 6.5 feet long and weighs about nearly 440 pounds, has a twin-hull design that gives the robot enhanced stability for low-speed photographic surveys.
Photo by: Hanu Singh, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Underwater Robot 3-D Maps Antarctic Sea Ice

by / November 25, 2014

SeaBED+robot+mapping+under+the+sea+ice+in+the+AntarcticIn an effort to understand the dramatic sea ice changes in the context of climate change, scientists from the UK, USA and Australia deployed an underwater robot -- SeaBED -- to help develop detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice that provide accurate ice thickness measurements from areas that were previously too difficult to access, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

The SeaBED robot mapping under the sea ice. Photo courtesy of Klaus Meiners, Australian Antarctic Division, Peter Kimball, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Most oceanographic survey instruments look down at the seafloor, but SeaBED's upward-looking sonar allows it to measure and map the underside of sea ice floes. It operated at a depth of about 65 feet to about 98 feet, and was driven in a lawnmower pattern.

The data from SeaBED, combined with airborne measurements of sea-ice surface elevation, ice coring surveys, and satellite observations, vastly improves scientists' estimates of ice thickness and total sea ice volume. And its missions have given scientists real insight into the nature of Antarctic sea ice – like looking through a microscope.

The robot measures ice in far greater detail -- and researchers said measurements of up to about 55 feet thick were taken.