Our partner HandHeld never stops with its adventures. This time, their innovative rugged tablet withstood the conditions of an Arctic Pole expedition
The marine environment, combined with the Arctic winter, creates the most challenging conditions for scientists and electronic hardware on the Norwegian expedition.
Using an extremely robust Android tablet , the Algiz RT10, which is compatible with standard Android applications, is designed to withstand the harshest conditions.
The Sea Women Expeditions team used the reliable Algiz RT10 rugged tablet to collect data, map maritime traffic and even map the night sky.
Over the years, rugged PDAs and rugged tablets have been used in some truly challenging environments, including the Australian wilderness, the caves of Patagonia, the ski slopes of the Alps and even Mount Everest.
Carol Cotton, Director of Photography at Rugged PC Review, planned a 3-week expedition to the Arctic, where there was no shortage of extreme weather conditions. The expedition involved diving in near-freezing water (above the Arctic Circle) with orcas, known as killer whales.
Cotton was part of a Sea Women Expeditions (SWX) team on an expedition to hunt winter herring in the Norwegian Arctic fjords, more than 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle.
The 34-strong international team departed from Tromsø, Norway, on board the MV Vestland Explorer polar research vessel. The aim was to study ocean sustainability, biodiversity loss and climate change in the Arctic.
Cotton’s task was to visually record and document the expedition. For this reason, she decided to take a durable and robust handheld tablet with her. Algiz RT10 .
The research team used it for field data collection, storage and analysis. The ruggedness and portability of the Android tablet allowed them to take it with them on the boat and zodiacs without worrying about damage.
“One of the things I immediately noticed was the peace of mind provided by the robustness of the Algiz RT10,” said Cotton. “Using electronics on board a ship in Arctic waters is difficult. It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s slippery and there’s a lot of equipment you can and will run into. It’s not a place for laptops and tablets, but the Algiz RT10 handheld worked very well.”
The research vessel was on the move for five to eight hours each day. It was travelling at almost ten knots, slowing down to spot whales or orcas, and stopping at promising spots where it lifted two zodiacs into the water with a crane.
During these stops, the SWX team had the opportunity to dive with orcas, humpback whales and fin whales. All this to collect behavioural data and critical biological and environmental data on Arctic warming.
Entering the near-freezing water required professional-quality dry suits with warm base layers, thick hoods and gloves.
Any electronic equipment used on the boat, large or small, must be waterproof, especially if the boat is in salt water.
Anyone who has seen how quickly tools age or corrode in such environments will be aware that most such equipment is made of specially designed stainless steel. Then there’s temperature. In cold winter climates, no equipment works well.
Connectivity can also be a problem. Many systems today simply assume that they are permanently connected and cannot function without it.
It is difficult to locate signals on the high seas or in remote fjords. This is when the detection of weak or volatile WWAN and WLAN signals is crucial. In addition, batteries generally don’t like the cold, so charging may not take as long as in more temperate climates.
The team used specialised software to process and analyse the data collected. These were GIS and image processing applications . The Algiz RT10 performed very well in the dark Arctic winter, allowing the team to work efficiently and make timely decisions in the field.
Cotton has also used Android apps to predict the probability, timing and intensity of aurora observations, with spectacular results.
Another app they used was the Stellarium mobile star map, which shows exactly what you see when you look up at the night sky – stars, constellations, planets. You can see lots of stars in the fjords of northern Norway!
As you sail through the fjords, round the islands, explore the bays and the Norwegian Sea, it’s almost impossible to keep track of where you are, where you’re going and where you’ve been.
Real-time charts were provided by MarineTraffic, which in this case was the most useful application running on the rugged Algiz RT10 Android tablet. The efficiency of this app allows you to see the exact path of the research vessel, stops, slowdowns, anchors and vessels (and even which type of vessel) in the vicinity. This has been a great help in the elimination process. This allowed progress to be documented and images and videos from different locations to be linked.
It was a successful and exhausting expedition, which will provide the 34-strong team with a wealth of memories and information for the future.
Mojca Kugler, source: Snorkeling with Orcas above the Arctic Circle. Handheld. 2023.
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