Otherworldly Fumarole Caves No Match for In-Situ CTD Logger

Aqua TROLL 200 Yields Valuable Data to Improve Understanding of Mt. Rainier Micro-Climates

Lee Florea (left) and Park Service Ranger, Tabbatha Cavendish, collect soil samples in an ice cave near the summit of Mt. Rainier. Credit: Image courtesy of FX De Ruydt

After working with In-Situ customers for more than two decades, I’ve come across a lot of interesting use cases and deployment challenges. These sometimes-extreme environments can put even the most durable instrument designs and performance to the test. I came across one such deployment last week.

I returned to my office to find a voice message from Dr. Lee Florea, Fulbright Scholar, and Assistant Director for Research at Indiana Geological & Water Survey. In his message, Dr. Florea said he had an interesting use case he wanted to share with me about an Aqua TROLL 200 deployment in the fumarole caves of Mount Rainier’s summit crater lakes.

After speaking with Dr. Florea I did some additional research about the expedition. One article described how setting up the research camp alone was a formidable challenge. Since the Park Service doesn’t allow helicopter drops on the summit, team members had to porter hundreds of pounds of gear up the mountain in 50-70 mph winds and dangerous climbing conditions. Toxic gasses and frostbite were an ever-present danger. Previous exploration teams had been thwarted by altitude sickness and weather conditions. Having high-performance gear (i.e. gas monitors, PVC suits and monitoring instruments) was imperative to member safety and achieving expedition objectives. The resulting data and observations are critical, as this otherworldly environment may serve as a proxy for other planets.

The following account from Dr. Florea of the CTD logger deployment and its successful retrieval, are a positive post-script to the original expedition articles.

In August 2016, we deployed a non-vented Aqua Troll 200 in Lake Adelie (the highest known lake in North America). This lake is in the fumarole caves in the summit crater of Mt. Rainier. There was absolutely nothing stable to mount the instrument on in these caves, and the water temperature hovers near freezing, so we had little expectation to retrieve data when we returned in 2017. We attached the instrument to the largest boulder around, placed a BaroTroll nearby, and wished them luck.

Credit: Photo courtesy of David Riggs, National Park Service, Lava Beds National Park

When we returned in August 2017, the lake level had increased and boulders had moved, including the one to which we attached the Aqua Troll. Our hopes were dashed. Yet, the string attached to the instrument still had tension. So, we attached a GoPro to a selfie stick and plunged it into the cold water alongside the string. When we watched a preview of the video, we were amazed to find the Aqua Troll intact. It was wedged between boulders, but still there. Using the selfie stick as a hook, we freed the instrument, which was free of damage. Saved to the memory was a full year of data collected every 15 minutes that will help us better understand the micro-climate of this lake developed from glacial melt and fumarole steam.

Not all users require the high-performance and durability that Dr. Florea does in his icy, otherworldly laboratory, but when results are important and come at great cost, it’s good to know you can count on In-Situ instruments to deliver.


For more on the story read here:

Geologist to study life in an ice cave atop Mount Rainier

Ice Caves atop a Volcano Give Taste of Otherworldly Science

Learn more about the Aqua TROLL 200

Janice Hiller

Vertical Market Manager
In-Situ Inc.
Office: 970-498-1557
Mobile: 970-692-4231

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