Despite six successful missions with HUGIN 1000 autonomous underwater vehicle during the search for Amundsen's missing airplane, the Norwegian Navy last week returned empty handed from their expedition.
For nearly two weeks, the Norwegian Navy has been searching for the airplane of the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, missing since 28 June 1928. Kongsberg Maritime's HUGIN 1000 has been the main search tool for the job, covering an area of 35 square nautical miles north west of Bear Island (Bjørnøya) where the airplane was assumed to have gone down.
Last week, the expedition team returned to Tromsø, confirming that the airplane engine is not to be found in the searched area. Although somewhat disappointed by the outcome, the Norwegian Navy was pleased with the proceedings of the search. "HUGIN 1000 performed perfectly throughout this expedition. To us, the most important thing was not necessarily the outcome, but being able to perform this expedition and to test HUGIN 1000 in arctic waters", commented Lieutenant Commander, Helge Stian Telle of the Norwegian Navy.
Two possible theories
During six pre-planned missions, HUGIN was sent out to map the seabed for approximately 14 hours at a time. Equipped with synthetic aperture sonar, HUGIN 1000 provides high resolution acoustic imagery with a resolution of 2 x 2 centimeter, making it a highly suitable tool in the search for a small airplane engine approximately three metres long. The data collected by HUGIN was analysed and narrowed down to a list of 15-25 targets of interest, which were investigated further by an ROV. Several matches were found with the measurements of the Latham engine, but upon further investigation, these turned out to be noting but stones, trawl doors and whale skeletons. Expedition leader Rob McCallum gives two possible theories why the airplane was not found. "One possibility is that the fishing boat captain, who made the first findings in 1933 forming the basis of this search, miscalculated its location. Another explanation is that trawlers might have taken or destroyed the wreckage completely", he said.
No future searches
The search marks the final chapter in the long battle to locate the Latham engine. The driving force behind the reopening of the search, Mr. Kjell Lutnes of the Norwegian Aviation Museum says that there are no further searches planned. "We did what we had to do, which was to follow in the steps of Amundsen and the Latham 47. Now we can be sure that the airplane is not in this area, and there will be no more searches in the future", he said.
World's most advanced mine hunting system
Although the engine was not found, Vice President of AUVs in Kongsberg Martime, Mr. Bjørn Jalving is very pleased with the performance of HUGIN 1000 during the search for Amundsen. "Kongsberg Maritime believes that HUGIN 1000 is the most advanced mine hunting system in the world today. This expedition has been an opportunity to put this to the test and the operation has shown that the system has worked excellently."