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Basin-scale Autonomous Vehicles. 

The Arctic basin is among the least explored realms on Earth. Many of the classic methods developed for studying the Earthıs other basins are inefficient and/or impractical in this ice-covered basin. Reconnaissance scale mapping of the bathymetry, gravity field and shallow sub-surface sediments from nuclear submarines (in the SCICEX program) has provided significant new insights in the small percentage of the basin that has been explored. These results have raised as many new questions as they answered.

Substantial portions of the deep basin and virtually all of the shelves remain explored for want of suitable tools. While the possibility of future use of submarines should not be discounted, and existing autonomous vehicles are too small, we need to be working toward large (~10m by 4m by 3m) long range (10,000 km), long duration (weeks) autonomous vehicles. Such a vehicle is certainly attainable in the five-year time frame and could support multiple simultaneous instruments that would enable serious mapping of the seafloor and synoptic views of the water column.

In addition, such a large vehicle could act as a ³mother-ship² for small

(Remus) or medium (Dorado/Bluefin/ABE) sized vehicles to transport them to and from areas where detailed, near bottom survey and/or sampling programs are necessary.