Managing the tether of the ROV IceCUBE

March 20, 2009

Sea temperature: 0.35°C
Air temperature: -0.4°C

The wind increased considerably today but in the lee of the iceberg, the seas were still relatively calm, allowing sampling activities to continue throughout the day.

During the ROV dive this afternoon, snow flurries and a cold wind chilled the tether handlers on deck. In the biology configuration, IceCUBE’s green tether, more than 600 meters long, is managed by hand from a reel on the deck. Tether is pulled out and rolled in continuously throughout the dive so the team must stay outside on deck during the entire four-hour deployment.


Kim Reisenbichler, Ken Smith, Alana Sherman, and Jeremy Lucke manage ROV IceCUBE‘s tether during a biology dive. Photo by Diane Chakos.

On deck, Kim Reisenbichler, Alana Sherman, and Ken Smith are connected to the ship by lifelines in the “outboard” position where the side railing is temporarily opened. Reisenbichler supervises tether management, signaling for tether to be pulled in or out, and communicating by radio to the bridge and control room to coordinate the ship and ROV movements. Sherman and Smith haul the tether in and out, attach and remove floats, and connect and detach lift lines and taglines during deployment and recovery. This vigilance is necessary to keep the ROV tether from getting too close to the ship’s propellers.

ROV IceCUBE is lowered into the sea on a wet, blustery day. Photo by Vivian Peng.

ROV IceCUBE is lowered into the sea on a wet, blustery day. Photo by Vivian Peng.

Marine tech Jeremy Lucke leads the launch and recovery, signals the A-frame operator, and oversees the safety of all on deck. For the “inboard” positions, Jake Ellena, Debbie Meyer, and marine tech Mike Lewis roll the tether wheel in and out, working together to keep it straight on the reel and off the deck. The exercise helps warm our bodies but by the end of the dive, our fingers and toes tingle with cold, even with layers of liners and protective gear. Luckily tonight we finished just in time for a hot dinner in the mess.

One advantage of our deck position is a great view of the iceberg and birds that concentrate near it. Today we watched a chinstrap penguin frolic near the ship and ROV tether, entertaining us as it preened and rolled like a sea otter in the waves.

—Debbie Nail Meyer