Shilpa Gulati, a mechanical engineering (ME) doctoral student, supervised by ME Professor Raul Longoria and (now) University of Michigan Computer Science Professor Ben Kuipers, left in mid-October for Antarctica to complete the underwater characterization of the chemical properties of the water in a perennially ice-covered lake, West Lake Bonney, with a team of researchers and a cook/camp manager. The team’s last day in Antarctica was Dec. 8.
The team measured temperature, electrical conductivity, ambient light, chlorophyll-a, Dissolved Organic Matter, pH and redox of the water column in the entire lake using an underwater robot named ENDURANCE.
Gulati learned about this project through her adviser, Professor Ben Kuipers, and has been involved in software development and field testing of the robot for two years.
Since their arrival in October, the team and carpenters from McMurdo Station have built a bot-house to enclose melt hole in the ice where they deploy the robot daily. They are living about 15 minutes away by ATV in a camp on the shore of East Lake Bonney in tents as well as a large makeshift structure they’ve named “the Jamesway” where they work, eat, socialize and stay out of the elements. Even in the summer, it can still be miserably cold and windy, with low temperatures averaging -4 Fahrenheit (F) and wind chills of -22 F. The average summer temperature is 20 F, but this year is colder than average.