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By successfully keeping a drillship on location in heavy multiyear sea ice for a number of days, Expedition 302 broke one of the last remaining barriers to scientific investigations in the Arctic. The multiple-ship concept, framed by the proponents in 1998, was the first of several keys to success. Success was also achieved through the efforts of first-rate fleet and ice management teams (made up of individuals with extensive Arctic icebreaking, ice prediction, and weather forecasting experience) and a team of hard-working, experienced, and innovative drilling experts. The captains of each of the three vessels individually and as a team developed the ice-breaking techniques on location that maintained the drillship within a fixed position with only two major drive-offs and for as long as 9 consecutive days. SPRS developed and applied a new ice drift measurement system using ice-deployed radars that immediately became integral to the operation. The communication system provided the means for developing the much-needed relationships among the captains, fleet managers, ice managers, and drillers.

Although an overall success, there were some failures and improvements that should be made for future operations. The most important of these is the drilling system. As originally recommended by the ADPG, future drilling systems, including all major components and coring tools, should be tested and proven before being deployed to the Arctic. Drilling operations were not supposed to be the challenge during Expedition 302. Because of a lack of resources and time dedicated to equipment acquisition and testing they turned out to be. Critical equipment failures during Expedition 302 included

  1. A high-pressure valve that was located in a vulnerable location on the drill floor,

  2. A refurbished iron roughneck that cracked,

  3. Equipment that froze in relatively mild Arctic temperatures (–12°C), and most importantly,

  4. Coring tools that did not function as anticipated.

Ice conditions during Expedition 302 were severe with >9/10 ice cover, much of it composed of hard, multiyear ice. Therefore, by using a similar fleet with a similar if not identical Arctic-experienced professional team, the success of Expedition 302 can be achieved in virtually any other area of the Arctic Ocean.