Engineers

Chuck McGuire

Principal Engineer

EPS Department

APL-UW

Nick Michel-Hart

Principal Engineer

OE Department

APL-UW

Eric Boget

Principal Engineer

OE Department

APL-UW

Mike Kenney

Principal Oceanographer

OE Department

APL-UW

Avery Snyder

Field Engineer II

OPD Department

APL-UW

Alex de Klerk

Field Engineer II

AIRS Department

APL-UW

Paul Aguilar

Field Engineer II

OE Department

APL-UW

Myles LeMaistre

Field Engineer I

OE Department

APL-UW

Able Baca

APL - Field Engineer

EPS Department

APL-UW

Ben Brand

Research Scientist/Engineer IV

OE Department

APL-UW

Kristina Colburn

Research Scientist/Engineer II

PSC Department

APL-UW

Justin Burnett

Mechanical Engineer

OE Department

APL-UW

Sean Lastuka

Affiliate

OE Department

APL-UW

Funding

U.S. Navy

Arctic Submarine Laboratory

Ice Exercises 2016

Logistics and Engineering Support

An APL-UW Tradition

Since 1974, APL-UW has supported numerous U.S. Navy sea ice expeditions that occur every two to three years. In 2016 13 APL-UW engineers were the first humans to set foot on ice about 200 miles north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to establish a temporary camp. They traveled to this frigid environment to provide logistics and engineering support to the Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL) and the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Force for their 25-day scientific and military mission on the ice.

Prior to the expedition, APL-UW engineers used satellite imagery to scout out potential sites (requiring multi-year, thick ice) to set up a camp to live on. The temporary village had to be built, from the ground-up, to support a total of 70 people overnight and up to 100 during the day.

ICEX16 camp aerial view

Establishing + Maintaining the Campsite

Journalist Visits + A Dramatic End

On 29 February the engineers flew to their potential arctic sea ice campsites from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. After deciding on a camp location, they landed and began building straight away. One of their most important tasks was to build shelter and provide heat. Establishing a runway was also a top priority. This would enable a large aircraft, loaded with equipment, to land securely on the ice without cracking it.

One of the Navy's mandates to APL-UW was to provide all the equipment to build the camp, the fuel, electrical power (large generators, as well as portable ones), heaters, food and water-making services with a mess hall, living quarters, toilet facilities with total waste removal, a command post, and transportation (snowmobiles and quads).

APL-UW engineers ensured the logistics train kept moving on a daily basis — replenishing food, fuel, and supplies, while removing waste and equipment no longer required by managing up to nine round-trip flights to the ice camp per day.

The camp’s source of drinking water was the ice itself. An ice mining crew would go out and search for old sea ice that had been baking in the sun for years, long enough for the salt to be leached out. After collecting big chunks, they returned to camp and melted it down into water.

It took a week for the camp to be fully functional. By 8 March the Navy was able to begin their exercises in hopes to expand their underwater military capabilities, while the scientists and engineers took full advantage to study their Arctic surroundings.

The frigid water and air temperatures make the Arctic region a very difficult environment to work in, which is why the U.S. Navy wants to better their equipment to withstand the conditions. Because temperatures can drop as low as –50°F in the Arctic, military equipment and Navy divers are heavily impacted. APL-UW engineers assisted them with a variety of underwater experiments: submarines, drones, sensors, cold-weather gear endurance, and underwater communication systems.

Camp structure construction

Camp, including command hut

Camping on Arctic ice is dynamic. Ice drifting and migrating is constantly driven by currents and wind. So each day, the crew would wake up and recognize that they were miles away from where they were the day before. The underwater currents and wind caused the ice to move an average of 9 miles a day with a maximum of 23 miles in one day: this is undetectable to the human eye. And because of these factors, the ice moved in directions that could be unpredictable. One day, they could be moving east and the next they could be migrating back west. Although it felt like they were on firm land, they were in constant motion.

On 21 March, the 60 Minutes television crew and their broadcast journalist, Lesley Stahl, visited the campsite to learn about the purpose of the ICEX expedition. They were able to document and personally experience the freezing Arctic climate along-side APL-UW engineers for a couple days.

A rude awakening occurred on the night of 23 March when the ice suddenly cracked directly below the campsite and caused an immediate evacuation at daybreak. That was the end of ICEX16, as the crew made daily trips back to the evacuated campsite until April 1st to remove all the equipment and haul it back to Seattle, Washington.

Chuck McGuire and Lesley Stahl

Ice floe breakup under command hut

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