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Project SCINI 2009

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What is SCINI?

SCINI stands for Submersible Capable of under Ice Navigation and Imaging. She is an underwater robot specifically built to complete science missions beneath the frozen surface of the ocean in Antarctica.

The remotely operated vehicle SCINI cruises over the seafloor under the ice in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.

SCINI is a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), which means that a tether to the surface allows the pilot to see what she sees through her camera “eyes” and control where she “swims” with her five thrusters.

A test mission at MBARI in Monterey Bay, California.  You can see the lighted camera dome on the left, and thrusters to move SCINI up/down, left/right, and forward/back arrayed down her body.

The pilot uses a joystick that looks suspiciously like a video game controller (because it is one) and views the world on a computer flat screen that shows not only the seafloor around SCINI but also the vehicle status array and engineering diagnostics.

The central screen is the views from the cameras, the screen on the left is the engineering screen, and the screen on the right is the navigation screen.

SCINI finds her way around in the ocean using an integrated South Star navigation system that has been developed in partnership with Desert Star Systems. This wireless array allows us to extend the accuracy of GPS beneath the water where satellite signals cannot penetrate. And, what is SCINI finding her way towards? That is what the scientists decide, and this year SCINI will be diving deeper and in more remote locations, in order to describe Antarctic seafloor communities that have never before been seen by human eyes.

SCINI found this unidentified octocoral species at 190 m depth under the McMurdo Ice Shelf.

This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. ANT-0619622. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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