Thanks to an NWO subsidy, supported by Topsector Water, Interdepartmentaal Pool Overleg IPO and Nederlandse Pool Commissie NPC, a Feasibility Study and Basic Design has been carried out by Conoship International (naval architects), TU Delft, NIOZ (client) and Icewhale Foundation (project manager). The results of the design and feasibility study show that the expeditions can be carried out safely with a specially designed compact and rock-solid ship.
The research concept is similar to that of a space station: a crew of six people, icenauts on the MARVEL, drift along with the drift ice for four to five consecutive months during the polar winter night. The crew carry out a research program in which they are supervised 24-7 by a “Ground Control Station”.
The most important research mode of MARVEL is “passive drift” along with the sea ice coming from the North Pole. By drifting along silently and thus traversing the winter habitat of the Icewhales, one can listen to the singing of the whales and examine their behavior and movements without disturbing them.
Triangular measurements follow the positions and movements of individual animals to discover whether Icewhales come together in certain places to mate and reproduce.
The main research method consists of lowering research equipment under the ice through the “moonpool”, a shaft in the ship through which the polar water can be reached from the protected interior of the ship. In addition, drones are used to remotely place hydrophones that send real-time wireless acoustic observations to the central floating ice vessel. Drones are also used to obtain night vision camera images and to collect DNA material in a non-invasive manner.