Gothenburg, Sweden – The unmanned underwater vehicle Ran, owned by the University of Gothenburg, has gone missing under a glacier in Antarctica. The disappearance occurred during an expedition with the South Korean icebreaker RV/IB Araon. The vehicle is one of only three in the world used for research and has played a crucial role in advancing our understanding of the Domesday Glacier.
Prof. Anna Wåhlin, leading the project, expressed the significance of the AUV stating, “Thanks to Ran, we became the first researchers in the world to enter Thwaites in 2019.” She noted the importance of Ran’s ability to provide close-up measurements of the underside of the ice, shedding light on the mechanisms behind the melting of the Thwaites Glacier.
Measuring seven meters in length and equipped with advanced technology and sensors, Ran is capable of conducting long missions under ice and has provided valuable data in Antarctica and other locations. Despite the loss of Ran, Prof. Wåhlin emphasized the irreplaceable value of the data collected, stating that it is of great importance for international research.
During Ran’s dives under the 200–500 m thick ice, it operates without continuous contact with the research vessel. The underwater vehicle follows a pre-programmed route and uses its advanced navigation system to find its way back to open water. However, during its last planned dive of the expedition, the AUV did not appear at the rendezvous point, prompting search efforts that unfortunately ended with the realization that Ran had been lost.
Prof. Wåhlin expressed gratitude for the support received and emphasized that no fault lay with the ship, which had been the best icebreaker Ran had been on. Despite the loss, the organization retains valuable knowledge and well-trained personnel, as well as peripheral equipment and spare parts.
Going forward, the team aims to replace Ran and is seeking a financier to cover the deductions made by the insurance company and the price increase that has occurred over the years. Despite the setback, the determination to continue their research and contribution to international scientific understanding remains unwavering.