Highlights from video taken by Camper at the Gakkel Ridge
Voyage to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean
The Gakkel Ridge expedition had two major objectives:
- to develop new technologies and vehicles to explore the deep sea in ice-covered oceans.
- to use those new vehicles, along with more standard oceanographic instruments, to search for seafloor hydrothermal vents and life forms around vents in the Arctic Ocean.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) funded the first part, with an eye toward someday sending robotic vehicles to search for extraterrestrial life on other planetary bodies, such as Jupiter’s moon, Europa, which, like Earth, has an ice-covered ocean and volcanic activity. The Arctic Ocean offered a real-life, ice-covered testing ground for the new under-ice vehicles.
But until the day NASA launches a mission to Europa or another planetary body suspected of harboring life, why not use the new technology to search for hydrothermal vents and vent life on Earth—more specifically on the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, whose dense ice pack has blocked our ability to explore it?
“No one had ever done any of this before, because it is extremely difficult and high risk,” said WHOI geophysicist Reves-Sohn, the expedition’s chief scientist. Here’s a brief summary of what the expedition accomplished and discovered.