In the popular imagination, the phrase ‘Arctic transport’ most likely conjures up images from another century: sleds pulled by teams of dogs, or ships locked in ice. But shipping companies are looking to another retro-seeming vehicle to revolutionize the future of Arctic air transport: The zeppelin.
For miners and others doing remote operations, the airships can save time and money by transporting up to 50 tonnes of cargo across Canada’s north — eliminating the need for heavy trucks and roads. Plus, these ships are tough. The Vancouver Sun notes,
Airships today use a combination of lighter-than-air helium instead of hydrogen, a highly flammable gas, and they’re built with tough “space-age” fibres, like spectra, up to 10 times stronger than steel of equivalent weight.
Discovery Air Innovations hopes to roll out the airships, which will deliver freight at one-quarter the cost of other methods, by the year 2014. Even better, the airships will utilize “clean” energy to minimize the impact on the environment.
Beginning in 2002, the Polar Ring expedition project has worked towards their goal of exploration and research while testing cross-country vehicles to be used in the arctic area. Their site details the three completed legs of this journey, the most recent concluded in some frustration due to poor weather conditions – but the project is hardly a failure.
Their blog is well worth a read, they discuss daily life in the field, logistical planning, and problems they face and overcome. If you’ve ever wondered what participating in a polar expedition would be like, this is one way to get a glimpse.
The following video (with a very catchy soundtrack) was shot during stage three of the expedition, and shows some of the unique vehicles they’re using.
Dark Roasted Blend (Great name for a blog, eh?) has a couple of cool articles on vintage Russian snow mobile designs. These vehicles seem charmingly clunky by today’s standards, but represent the fine tradition of polar vehicular experimentation.
Sir. Richard Branson and explorer Chris Welsh have announced their intention to explore the deepest places of each of the world’s five oceans using a single person piloted submarine. To this end, Virgin Oceanic has been founded to explore “the last frontiers of our own Blue Planet: the very bottom of our seas.” .
Each dive will be piloted by different commanders with Chris Welsh diving to the Mariana Trench (36,201ft) with Sir Richard as back up pilot, and Sir Richard piloting to the Puerto Rico Trench (28,232ft) – the deepest trench in the Atlantic, which has never been explored before – with Chris Welsh acting as back up. The Virgin Oceanic sub has the ability to ‘fly’ underwater for 10km at depth on each of the five dives and to fully explore this unknown environment.
Five Dives, Five Oceans, Two Years, One Epic Adventure
Mariana Trench Pacific Ocean 11,033m 36,201ft
Puerto Rico Trench Atlantic Ocean 8,605m 28,232ft
Diamantina Trench Indian Ocean 8,047m 26,401ft
South Sandwich Trench Southern Ocean 7,235m 23,737ft
Molloy Deep Arctic Ocean 5,608m 18,399ft
The SnoMote Rob Felt/Georgia Institute of Technology
These little robots are useful – and cute! Called ‘SnoMotes’, these tiny, remote-controlled snowmobiles were developed to help scientists gather climate change data in areas too dangerous or fragile for human exploration.
Designed to work as a team, the robots can monitor specific target areas, and are fitted with sensors as well as cameras to help navigate terrain – while sending back important data to scientists at a home base.
Have you heard of a Grass Drag? I hadn’t either until Graham emailed me about this snowmobile sport. These people have solved the age-old question of what to do with your vehicle during those pesky seasons lacking in snow. Store it in the garage? What a waste.
Air boats in use in the high Arctic for transporting freight and search and rescue operations. The airboats can be used effectively during the breakup when ice is to unstable for snowmobiles and it is too early to use boats.
While we’re particularly fond of using our airboat or a zodiac to traverse stretches of open water, other people have come up with some creative alternatives to traverse watery terrain.
Scope this video, filmed on Georgian Bay in Ontario, of snowmobiles crossing huge areas of water -
This second video gives whole new meaning to the term ‘going offroad’.
Expedition Manager Thomas Lennartz takes advantage of our in-the-field communications
A case study on Arctic Kingdom is currently featured on Intel Canada’s home page as part of their series of ‘Success Stories‘, discussing how small businesses in Canada are embracing technology to increase productivity, solve problems, and push forward innovation.
From the case study -
Arctic Kingdom depends on mobile technology solutions, supported by a dependable network server infrastructure powered exclusively by Intel, to keep expedition leaders and travelers informed and safe. Arctic Kingdom Marine Expeditions Inc. started in 1999 when Graham Dickson led the first expedition to dive with walruses and bowhead whales in the arctic. Within a few short years, the tourism company expanded from offering land-based arctic tours and dive trips to supporting film and television crews working in the North, including location management for Disneynature’s Oceans.
In addition, Arctic Kingdom works with specialists in polar science from around the world including managing research campaigns for the Alfred Wegner Institute in Germany, Environment Canada, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the University of Alberta.
To ensure ongoing communication links with head office and other emergency services, Arctic Kingdom sets up its own IT infrastructure in the camps to support satellite phones, GPS data, ice mapping, SMS messages and even blog or Twitter updates. They have also set up post-production blackout tents for precise colour-corrected monitors.
You can download the study, to read more about the specifics of some of the tech gear we rely on in the field, why we choose it, and how well it holds up in the specific conditions in which we work.
(Download will require Adobe reader, free and available here if you don’t have it.)