Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

Icebot 3D maps Antarctic sea ice

SeaBED deployment from RRS James Clark Ross SeaBED deployment from RRS James Clark Ross H Singh
25 Nov
Antarctica’s sea ice is now mapped in 3D after scientists from the UK, US and Australia used an underwater robot to explore areas that were previously too difficult to access

Accurate sea ice measurement is essential for understanding climate change. Satellites can measure large-scale thickness, but data interpretation is difficult due to snow cover on the ice. Additional information can be gathered by drilling holes and making visual observations from ships. What was missing was the view from underwater.

Icebot recovery to mother ship. Credit: P KimballIcebot recovery to mother ship. Credit: P Kimball

Enter SeaBED, an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) that uses upward-looking sonar to measure and map sea ice floes. SeaBED operated at up to 30 metres, trawling the sea ice in a ‘lawnmower’ pattern, and was deployed from the British Antarctic Survey’s RRS James Clark Ross while another AUV worked from the Australian icebreaker the RSV Aurora Australis.

‘Putting an AUV together to map the underside of sea ice is challenging from a software, navigation and acoustic communications standpoint,’ says Hanumant Singh, an engineering scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) whose laboratory designed, built and operated the AUV.

‘SeaBED’s manoeuvrability and stability made it ideal for this application where we were doing detailed floe-scale mapping and deploying, as well as recovering in close-packed ice conditions’ adds Singh. ‘It would have been tough to do many of the missions, especially under the conditions we encountered, with some of the larger vehicles.’

Scientists  will now carry out large-scale robotic surveys that can be compared to observations from aircraft and satellites.

Related items

Subscribe and Save!

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3


Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby




Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...


A ship that ran aground early in February has been…


Two whale populations on either side of the African continent…


March traditionally heralds the beginning of spring, a time of…


An innovative project to utilise Laos’ elephant experts in service…


Despite common belief that Antarctica is vastly uninhabited, humans are…


Javan rhinos survived the recent Krakatoa tsunami, but the species…


As the world turns away from fossil fuels, one question…


The winners of the Outdoor Photographer of the Year 2018…


New legislation in Florida aims to solve various environmental issues,…


The world’s magnetic model is getting an early update, as…


Marco Magrini looks at the financial pressures spilling out into the…


Few sights are more dramatic than a star-filled sky at…


A region of Antarctica previously known for relative stability is…


Everything we thought we knew about eruptions could be wrong


Sea levels are rising across the globe, but along the…


Seismometers buried in the Ross Ice Shelf have revealed that…


A tightening of restrictions on the insecticides known as neonicotinoids…


Bonnethead sharks, the second smallest member of the hammerhead family,…


There’s more than enough plastic in the world. That’s why,…


The recent discovery of more than 200 million termite mounds…