Helicopter wreck rediscovered

Helicopter wreck rediscovered

Top image from REMUS: The helicopter wreck parts are seen to the left. The line in the middle shows the trajectory path of the REMUS robot. Image: Mark Moline.  

A helicopter crashed and sank in Adventfjorden in December 2003, never to be seen again – until last week. An underwater robot was cruising at 70 meters depth to take images of the ocean floor for a UNIS research project, when it hit upon the remains of the helicopter.

30 September 2011
Text: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS

The helicopter crashed and sunk in the ice-covered fjord on 18 December 2003. The helicopter’s crew managed to get out of the machine before it sunk and were saved by rescue personnel. However, the helicopter was never recovered from Adventfjorden and has not been seen again, until last Thursday.

Professor Mark Moline from the California Polytechnic University is currently staying at UNIS as a Fulbright Arctic Chair funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He is collaborating closely with the marine biology research group at UNIS, to examine climate-related changes and responses of the marine ecosystem. In his research, he uses the REMUS robot, an automated unmanned vehicle (AUV).

The REMUS robot has sensors that record ocean temperatures, salinity, and the amount of plankton over large transects and at various depths, among other things. The robot also has camera and video recording system that can take images of the ocean floor or underneath the sea ice.

The REMUS is used these days to survey the oceanography of the Adventfjorden. In connection with a mooring deployment at the mouth of the fjord, the REMUS was surveying the ocean floor when it stumbled upon something that has not been seen since a dark and freezing day in December 2003.

Professor Moline had no clue what the REMUS detected before he viewed the data from the robot. – It was only when I downloaded the data and images from the survey that I saw that the REMUS had documented more than rocks and sills, Moline says.

He is quite excited about the prospects of using the robot to uncover more of the ocean’s secrets, both of a natural and cultural nature. Now Moline wants to go searching for a German plane that crashed in Adventfjorden during World War II.

– The wreck is located close to the north shore in shallow waters, preventing bigger boats to get close to the area where the wreck is located, he explains.

But that is no feat for the REMUS.

Helicopter wreck illustration

Top left: the helicopter model that crashed in Adventfjorden in 2003. Top right: the last image of the tail part before it sank into the fjord after the crash. Illustration: Mark Moline.


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