As we bask in the warmest February on record and into sunny March it may be hard to remember that just one short year ago snow was ravaging Englands green and pleasant land as the “Beast from the East” descended. ORI, being the excellent planners and weather forecasters that we are, were abroad in Iceland for one of the most ambitious trials of the last several years.
Within the space of the first two months of the year we built and commissioned a sensor rig that was specifically designed to fit on top of a modified Toyota Hilux truck. These are designed and built by our partner company Arctic Trucks for driving on the rugged Icelandic terrain. Everything was ready for us to go and capture a foul weather dataset in the rough terrain and wild weather of Iceland; the rig had been dispatched in a shipping crate and we were itching to get out there. Just as the snows hit Oxford we flew North, hoping to find even worse weather in Iceland. Alas this was not to be, weather being the cruel mistress she is we found instead a most glorious week of sunshine, clear skies, and calm winds – a truly rare week in Iceland. Although this was not what we had planned we did make the most of a bad situation, and very much enjoyed ourselves too!
The first step was to work with Arctic Trucks to mount the rig, affectionally named Roofus, to the roof of the truck and to then calibrate the front and rear section of the rig. To do this we found a large, empty and windswept carpark to do the calibration dance in; conveniently besides the largest hardware store any of us had ever seen. Tearing ourselves away from aisles of tools we started data capture.
Initially we began testing around Reykjavik, so that if anything went wrong we could beat a hasty retreat to fix it. Here we quickly found out that what we pictured when we said off-road was significantly less extreme than what the Icelanders would call a road! Once we had driven past signs buried under 6 feet of snow, on side slopes of an uncomfortably steep angle and waded through several frozen rivers crossings and still hadn’t left a road we started to realise how sheltered we are in our Oxford bubble. Roofus took everything in its stride though and once we had confidence we ventured further afield.
We headed down to the south shore and climbed the glacier of the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano to take in the awesome panorama at its summit. The view stretch forever in all directions and the sky was entirely clear and cloudless – our driver said it was the most amazing view he had ever seen from there. Pausing only briefly for some drone flying and to capture a few ‘grams we headed back down the mountain, capturing shorter loops of data at different bowls and valleys as we did. All were named with such inventive names as “The Scramble”, “The Bowls”, and “Gods Cauliflower.” The next morning we returned at sunrise, naturally purely for scientific reasons – the amazing sight of the sun rising over the mountain was entirely coincidental.
The week of data collection was an absolute success; we collected 15TB of data on a wild variety of different terrains, we had an amazing time working with Arctic Trucks and no one froze to death – although Matt Towlson insists he came close.