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The Arctic seafloor remains one of the last unexplored areas on Earth. Exploration of this unique environment using standard remotely operated oceanographic tools has been obstructed by the dense Arctic ice cover. In the summer of 2007 the Arctic Gakkel Vents Expedition (AGAVE) was conducted with the express intention of understanding aspects of the marine biology, chemistry and geology associated with hydrothermal venting on the section of the mid-ocean ridge known as the Gakkel Ridge. Unlike previous research expeditions to the Arctic the focus was on high resolution imaging and sampling of the deep seafloor. To accomplish our goals we designed two new Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) named Jaguar and Puma, which performed a total of nine dives at depths of up to 4062m. These AUVs were used in combination with a towed vehicle and a conventional CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) program to characterize the seafloor. This paper describes the design decisions and operational changes required to ensure useful service, and facilitate deployment, operation, and recovery in the unique Arctic environment.

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