A progressive Nanaimo B.C. company is playing a vital role in helping Canada redefine its northern borders in the Arctic in the most extreme conditions up to 40 C below zero. Seamor Marine Ltd. has provided two of its 300F remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to help in the underwater survey work in Project Cornerstone, part of Canada's important Northern Watch Arctic surveillance program.
In what some have termed "the race to define the last border of Canada," the United States, Norway, Denmark and Russia are all working on similar land claims. Each has until 2013 to submit its research to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that reports on the legitimacy of international border claims.
The small Seamor ROVs have a big role and are being used in tandem with another Canadian product, two ISE autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). The ROVs provide the only way the sophisticated NRCan Explorer Class can be safely retrieved from under the polar icepack. The AUVs each have a low-frequency homing system to guide them close to the Canada base after being on missions that can cover 300 kilometres and last up to 80 hours.
"We can't recover the AUVs and their important data without using the Seamor ROV," explains Mark Rowsome, of Defence Research and Development Canada. "It was particularly useful hooking on to and attaching a rope to the AUV and then pulling it back to the ice hole so we could upload the mission."
Seamor won a contract in a bidding contest with four other companies for two of its underwater ROVs for Project Cornerstone and its Sales and Marketing Director, Mike Southwell says a third underwater vehicle and controller were added as a customized spares package for the other two.
"The project needs are urgent and a breakdown just wouldn't be acceptable in such an isolated region of the Arctic, so after receiving the order and evaluating the logistics we provided two full systems as required and an extra set of working spares, which was greatly appreciated," Seamor's Southwell adds.
The Canadian researchers are attempting to determine the spread of Canada's continental shelf (the underwater portion of its landmass) and are building its case for the UN. The first mission returned May 4 and others are planned for this year and into March, 2011.
"We have other work as well for the Seamor ROV during the summer," says Rowsome.
In the most recent project, the researchers cut through seven feet of polar ice - hauling away 30 tonnes of ice in the process - so they could cut a hole big enough to lower the AUVs into the frigid waters. The Seamor ROVs were used to monitor the AUVs in early trials, but their main role is at the recovery station.
Using a fibre optic umbilical, the ROV is guided by an above ground operator using a Tritech Micron DST sonar, high resolution video imaging, and a single function gripper to hook on the AUV and snare it so the scientists can haul it in. Only then can they retrieve the vital data collected on the seabed missions.
"The longest recovery was 150 metres and the ROV was phenomenal, it really did great," says DRDC's Rowsome.
Excerpts from Ocean News & Technology