Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


En route to unexplored territory

This month sees the start of the Antarctic traverse, in the course of which a team of Norwegian and American scientists and technicians will carry out measurements in Antarctica, covering the area between the Norwegian Troll Station in Queen Maud Land and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

Eleven women and men with four transport vehicles and 60 tons of cargo are preparing to set out on a 3000 kilometre-long expedition to previously unexplored parts of the Antarctic. Here they will drill ice cores, which will provide information on how the climate was 1000 years ago, gather meteorological data, map lakes under the ice sheets, measure the exact thickness of the ice and movement of the masses of ice, collect reference information for satellite data and use unmanned aircrafts with radars to study the ice's properties. They will stay a total of three months in the ice field.

"This is one of the least explored areas in the world, where we lack registrations of crucial parameters such as temperature, ice movements and precipitation. We hope to provide some answers to one of the great climate issues: What is happening to the ice in Antarctica?" says director Jan-Gunnar Winther at the Norwegian Polar Institute. Winther heads the Norwegian part of the expedition. At the moment he is at the Troll Station with the rest of the crew, making the last preparations before departure.

The team has spent two and a half years preparing for the expedition. They have had health and dental check-ups, they have met as a group several times to make plans, carry out tests and prepare themselves. A lot of things have to be in order when you are going into unexplored areas like this.

By January 28 they have to be at the South Pole to deliver samples taken to an American ship. In order to make it on time, they need to keep a tight schedule. Work days will be 12 hours, seven days a week. Scientists and technicians will be living in special containers on the transport vehicles, which also contain small laboratories. The team will keep in contact with the outside world by means of satellite communication; an important part of the expedition is to communicate what they are doing. Their Internet pages will be updated on a daily basis.

Good chemistry
Extreme cold, strong winds and ice crevices are just a few of the challenges the traverse team will come across during the expedition. Living this close together for three months may also present certain challenges.

"It's extremely important that we work well as a team. After all we are on top of each other for a long time and under very special conditions. If we are not in tune, psychologically and socially, our work may suffer," Winther says.

Therefore, selecting the scientists and technicians was a meticulous process, he explains.

"First and foremost we had to have a crew which was widely experienced with polar issues, in addition to their technical skills. We needed people with knowledge and skills to operate the massive, highly advanced instruments we carry. We have also tried to balance the number of men and women and the number of American and Norwegian scientists, and we've considered personal qualities and abilities.

No freak accidents
We have also worked hard to assess all the security routines. However, ice crevices are not the prime concern of Jan-Gunnar Winther, but typical freak accidents involving crushed limbs, getting run over by vehicles or injuries from loading and unloading.

"We are completely isolated. Help is days away, should an accident happen. Under these conditions small injuries may quickly turn serious. The crew is prepared to keep a strong discipline to avoid accidents at work," Winther says.

What happens beneath the ice?

An important part of the trip will be to form an impression of the ice's thickness, its features, change and movement.

"The sea level is expected to rise by approximately half a metre this century. In today's situation the main single reason for this is that water expands when it is heated. Furthermore, ice melting from glaciers is a contributing factor. So far glaciers outside Greenland and Antarctica have contributed to this. These glaciers represent a mere 0.3 percent of all the earth's ice, while 7.9 percent of it is in Greenland and a formidable 91.8 percent in Antarctica," Winther says. He is concerned that mechanisms such as changes in the ice movement patterns or dynamics are not included in today's climate models.

Thomas Evensen | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>