12 March 2007

Position:  73-06N/145-52W

Temperature:  -29ºF


Welcome to the APLIS blog.  This site will be providing daily updates for the rest of March on the progress of a US Navy ice camp in the Arctic Ocean.  In a way, these will be our postcards from our adventure in the great white north.


But first, some basics.


Why are we here?  We’re establishing an ice camp with a tracking range so we can support testing and other operations by two submarines - one from the US Navy and the other from Great Britain’s Royal Navy - both of which will be joining us in a couple days.  The overall goal of this testing is to improve our understanding of submarine under-ice operations and to make these operations safer & more efficient.  I’ll be discussing several of the tests as we accomplish them.


After we are done with the camp and the submarines depart, the Navy contingent will also depart and we’ll turn the camp over to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to use for scientific research as part of the International Polar Year (IPY).  NSF will pay the daily costs to maintain the camp for the scientists then, about mid-April, the camp will be disestablished.  The scientists will undoubtedly have a similar site to report their progress while at the camp - I’ll try to provide that before we leave here.


Where are we?   We are on a drifting ice floe about 180 nautical miles (nm) off the north coast of Alaska.  We’re dependent on airplane flights out of Prudhoe Bay/Deadhorse, Alaska to ferry supplies and people to and from the camp.  It’s important that we maintain this lifeline for the next few weeks.  We selected a site northeast of Prudhoe Bay so that the generally westward drift of the ice in this part of the Arctic Ocean will keep the camp within aircraft range - we expect to finish up northwest of Prudhoe Bay.



Location of Ice Camp APLIS-2007


Who are we?  APLIS is first and foremost a team effort.  The camp is being manned largely by military and civilian personnel from both the US and Royal Navies, though there are other groups playing key roles in the camp and the test program.  Besides the crews of the two submarines, we will have people here and on the boats from the following organizations; I’ll try to mention as many of them as possible in future entries.


            Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington       Seattle, WA

            Arctic Submarine Laboratory                                           San Diego, CA

            Cambridge University                                                      Cambridge, England

            Maritime Warfare Centre                                                 Portsmouth, England

            Defence Science & Technology Laboratory                       Winfrith, England

            Naval Postgraduate School                                             Monterrey, CA

            Naval Undersea Warfare Center                                       Newport, RI

            Submarine Development Squadron Five                            Bangor, WA

            Submarine Development Squadron Twelve                        Groton, CT

            Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet                               Norfolk, VA

            Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet                                Pearl Harbor, HI

            Submarine Squadron Eleven                                           San Diego, CA

            Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution                             Woods Hole, MA


In addition, we’ll have several visitors from a host of other military commands, news outlets, media groups, etc.  Although the permanent camp staff is only about 30 people, we expect to have almost 100 others pass through to work or visit.


What is an APLIS?  The Applied Physics Laboratory of the University of Washington built and is managing the ice camp for us.  They have done this for most major Navy ice camps dating back to the 1960s.  So APLIS stands for “Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station”.  A few camps ago, they held a contest to see who could come up with the best alternative meaning for that acronym.  The winner was “Abnormal People Living In Sheds”.



APLIS from the Air


Through these APLIS Postcards, you’ll be able to judge the accuracy of this alternate interpretation for yourself over the next couple weeks as I cover the daily events.  Along the way, I’ll also try to cover other, big picture topics, including:


-     What is it like to live on a chunk of frozen ocean (besides being REALLY COLD).


-     How an ice camp is set up to keep the people here safe and (relatively) happy.


-     Some of the challenges of operating a submarine under the ice and what we’re doing -including this year’s testing - to overcome those challenges.


-     How to organize a test range in the middle of nowhere.


-     The neighbors (the big furry ones), if we encounter any.


Time to mail this one off.  Tomorrow, I’ll talk about how APLIS came to be.


Jeff Gossett

Arctic Submarine Laboratory