September 20, 2021

Antarctica Is About To Be Studied, From The Underside

SIR sub DOER-Marine

DOER-Marine has developed an unmanned submarine capable of letting scientists study Antarctica from below the surface. Image courtesy of DOER-Marine.

Determining the impact global warming has on the environment is a tough one. Experts know there is a significant impact on the planet, especially in the glaciers in Antarctica. Up until recently, calculating the severity of the impact has been very tough to measure.

Traditionally, scientists have studied places such as Antarctica from space using satellites such as NASA’s Grace. These satellite readings, although good at broader measurements, lack precision. The more precise method for measuring the shrinking ice shelf is from the surface itself. While much more accurate, with the 5.4 million square miles the ice surrounds, it’s tough to do on a large scale.

This has led researchers to develop a method for studying the area from a new perspective: underneath. An unmanned submarine has been developed by DOER-Marine called the Sub-Ice Rover (SIR). It’s a bit oddly shaped being about 28 feet long and only 22 inches wide, but it carries instruments and electronics to provide never before seen views of Antarctica and the ice shelf.

Gear on board includes five cameras, a robot arm for taking samples, and other instruments and sensors. The sub will be able to track currents, sample water, measure distances and even map the seafloor according to Discovery News.

An auxiliary purpose for the sub is looking for new microbes and other forms of life during excursions.