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Recent Sightings Recent sightings: Icy test drive

February 12, 2008

Photo of submersible

Photo: Jeff Miller

An underwater robot is lowered by crane into an opening cut in the ice covering Lake Mendota near the shoreline on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

With logistical support from the Center for Limnology, NASA and researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago are taking the submersible ENDURANCE — Environmentally Non-Disturbing Under-Ice Robotic Antarctic Explorer — for a series of test-drives in the icy waters of Madison’s largest lake.

ENDURANCE is designed to swim under the ice, create three-dimensional maps of the underwater environment and sample microbial life. The $2.3 million project is intended to demonstrate concepts and technology for exploring the ice-bound oceans of Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Plans call for the robot to be shipped later this year to Antarctica, where it will be used to map Lake Bonney, a 2.5-mile long, one-mile wide and 130-foot deep perpetually ice-covered lake.