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Evaluating Oil Spill Response Technologies in the Arctic

Sunrise on the Arctic Ocean
An iSphere buoy and oranges floating on the sea ice and ocean surface.
People lean off a small boat to deploy an automated underwater vehicle in water
Oceanographic buoy floating at sea among ice.
People on the Arctic Survey Boat amid icy waters.
U.S. Coast Guard member prepares a crane to launch small survey boat.
Four orange iSphere buoys lined up on the deck of the ship.
Scientists prepare to launch a small buoy from a ship.
People on deck watch a balloon sensor tethered to the ship flying high above.
Blue ice visible beneath clear Arctic waters.
Shadows of people standing on a ship deck darken sea ice.
Arctic sea ice floating on the ocean to the horizon.
The wake of the icebreaker visible in broken sea ice.
Puma unmanned aerial system on a test flight.
Polar bear tracks in snow
Large wave breaking on the bow of a ship.
Person launches a remote-controlled plane by hand from a ship deck.
Ship crew hoists small boat from ocean back onto the vessel.
Ship crew lowers a oceanographic instrument into the ocean.
Rainbow over the edge of a ship with a life preserver.
Arctic survey boat with rainbow.
Clouds, rain, and light over the ocean.
Close up of two whales surfacing.
Three humpback whales surface in the ocean.
Wake of an icebreaker in the ocean.
People in a boat spraying green dye into Arctic Ocean.
Coast Guard members in small boat on Arctic Ocean.
Crew members prepare a giant ship anchor onboard.
People release giant balloon tool into air from ship deck.
Coast Guard members in a boat pull a remote-controlled aircraft from the water.
Prow of a Coast Guard icebreaker in ice-filled Arctic waters.
Sunrise on the Arctic Ocean
Arctic sunrise

A calm vista across Arctic waters in late August at the end of the oil spill technology evaluation exercises.

Credit: NOAA
An iSphere buoy and oranges floating on the sea ice and ocean surface.
An iSphere buoy and oranges

The iSphere buoy will provide locational information for the ice floe, while the oranges are used for a simulated oil spill. Unmanned aircraft systems will try to locate the oranges and transmit their photos and video to the Healy.

Credit: NOAA
People lean off a small boat to deploy an automated underwater vehicle in water
Deploying the Gavia automated underwater vehicle

The Gavia automated underwater vehicle (AUV) is gently placed in the water. It will be sent under the ice to map and provide images of the underside of ice floes. The older ice has deep topography that can potentially trap oil. This system would provide important information for responders to know if oil was caught under the ice in the event of an Arctic oil spill.

Credit: NOAA
Oceanographic buoy floating at sea among ice.
SWIFT buoy at sea

Developed by the University of Washington Applied Physics Lab, the SWIFT buoy collects oceanographic data such as wave energy.

Credit: NOAA
People on the Arctic Survey Boat amid icy waters.
Arctic Survey Boat on the water

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy's Arctic Survey Boat was modified to test new technologies to better outfit it in Arctic conditions, including heated windows, anti-fogging film, and heaters for the boat's systems.

Credit: NOAA
U.S. Coast Guard member prepares a crane to launch small survey boat.
Arctic Survey Boat launch

The U.S. Coast Guard crew uses a crane on the Healy to launch the Arctic Survey Boat into the water. It takes a highly skilled, hard working crew to deploy these small boats from the side of the large icebreaker multiple times a day.

Credit: NOAA
Four orange iSphere buoys lined up on the deck of the ship.
Four iSphere buoys ready for deployment

These iSphere buoys will be placed on ice floes to track their movement, which is important if the floes are covered in oil. The buoys can also be placed in an oil slick to track its movement on the water's surface.

In addition to their location, the buoys also record sea surface temperature, which is important in determining oil behavior.

Credit: NOAA
Scientists prepare to launch a small buoy from a ship.
University of Washington SWIFT buoy

The University of Washington Applied Physics Lab staff prepare to launch the SWIFT buoy from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. This buoy collects oceanographic data, such as wave energy, and positional location data.

Credit: NOAA
People on deck watch a balloon sensor tethered to the ship flying high above.
The Aerostat balloon far up above

The balloon in the upper center of the photo is approximately 300 feet in the air in heavy fog. It is tethered to the large box on the left on the ship's flight deck. A camera on the balloon can take photos and video of potential oil in the water and on the ice.

Credit: NOAA
Blue ice visible beneath clear Arctic waters.
Ice and water in the Arctic

Blue Arctic ice and clear Arctic water are visible over the side of the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy during its August 2014 scientific mission to the edge of the Arctic sea ice.

Credit: NOAA
Shadows of people standing on a ship deck darken sea ice.
Shadows on the ice

Even though it was summer, the Arctic weather often included freezing rain, fog, and high winds. Here, Healy researchers on the flight deck take advantage of the clear weather in August of 2014.

Credit: NOAA
Arctic sea ice floating on the ocean to the horizon.
Arctic morning on the ice

Calm conditions on the ocean during an August morning belie the volatile turns Arctic weather can take any time of year.

Credit: NOAA
The wake of the icebreaker visible in broken sea ice.
The Healy leaves its track in the ice

The U.S. Coast Guard ice breaker Healy doing what it does best in the Arctic.

Credit: NOAA
Puma unmanned aerial system on a test flight.
NOAA's Puma high above the water

The Puma unmanned aerial system (UAS) on a test flight during Arctic Shield's Arctic Technology Evaluation. Its camera can be seen on the bottom of the plane.

Credit: NOAA
Polar bear tracks in snow
Polar bear tracks

The closest the Healy team came to a polar bear during the mission was spotting these tracks in the snow. However, they did see one walking and swimming among the ice through binoculars from the ship's bridge.

Credit: NOAA
Large wave breaking on the bow of a ship.
The Healy sailing through big seas

On its way to the Arctic, the Healy, the Coast Guard's newest icebreaker, faced its share of rough seas.

Credit: NOAA
Person launches a remote-controlled plane by hand from a ship deck.
Puma test launch

NOAA's Puma unmanned aerial system is launched by hand off the Healy's flight deck.

Credit: NOAA
Ship crew hoists small boat from ocean back onto the vessel.
Retrieving the small boat

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy crew hoists the small boat out of the water and back onto the ship. Considerable work must be done each time the small boats are deployed and retrieved, which makes for detailed planning in the cold Arctic environment.

Credit: NOAA
Ship crew lowers a oceanographic instrument into the ocean.
Deploying the wave glider

The Healy crew directs the lowering of the Wave Glider into the water. The glider is powered by the ocean waves and can stay out at sea for long periods of time, providing real-time oceanographic data.

Credit: NOAA
Rainbow over the edge of a ship with a life preserver.
Rainbow from the Healy

A rain shower through Unimak Pass in the Aleutian Islands provided a beautiful rainbow for observers on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy.

Credit: NOAA
Arctic survey boat with rainbow.
Arctic Survey Boat with rainbow

A rain shower through Unimak Pass in the Aleutian Islands provided a beautiful rainbow, visible from an Arctic Survey Boat accompanying the Healy.

Credit: NOAA
Puffins and rainbow

A rain shower through Unimak Pass in the Aleutian Islands provided a beautiful rainbow as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy headed to the edge of the Arctic sea ice.

Credit: NOAA
Clouds, rain, and light over the ocean.
Aleutian Island morning

A rain shower through Unimak Pass in Alaska's Aleutian Islands.

Credit: NOAA
Close up of two whales surfacing.
Whales in the Aleutian Islands

A close-up view of some of the humpback whale families sighted in West Nagai Strait in the Aleutian Islands as the Coast Guard ship sailed through in August 2014.

Credit: NOAA
Three humpback whales surface in the ocean.
Humpback whale families

Several humpback whale families were sighted in West Nagai Strait in the Aleutian Islands as the Healy sailed through in August 2014.

Credit: NOAA
Wake of an icebreaker in the ocean.
The Healy leaves its path

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy hosted a crew of scientists and oil spill experts during an Arctic Technology Evaluation, an exercise conducted by the U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center in support of the Coast Guard's broader effort known as Arctic Shield 2014.

Credit: NOAA
People in a boat spraying green dye into Arctic Ocean.
Green dye as a fake oil spill

Spraying an inert green dye used to simulate an oil spill plume in Arctic waters during August of 2014.

Credit: NOAA
Coast Guard members in small boat on Arctic Ocean.
Returning to the Healy

U.S. Coast Guard small boat returning to the Healy after a technology demonstration in the Arctic.

Credit: NOAA
Crew members prepare a giant ship anchor onboard.
U.S. Coast Guard crew prepares to anchor the ship

The Healy crew manages the ship's anchor as the ship stops off the coast of Nome to test systems before heading north to the edge of the Arctic sea ice.

Credit: NOAA
People release giant balloon tool into air from ship deck.
Aerostat balloon going up for a test

The Aerostat balloon leaves its crate to ascend to 500 feet above the ship for a test off the coast of Nome, Alaska. It has a camera and video to capture imagery on the water surface below.

Credit: NOAA
Coast Guard members in a boat pull a remote-controlled aircraft from the water.
Using unmanned aircraft to detect oil spills

Recovering the Puma unmanned aircraft after testing its ability to detect simulated oil among ice in the Arctic in August 2014.

Credit: NOAA
Prow of a Coast Guard icebreaker in ice-filled Arctic waters.
Icebreaker in Arctic waters

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks ice in Arctic waters. A ship like this would be the likely center of operations for an oil spill in this remote and harsh region.

Credit: NOAA
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