The S.A. Agulhas II has departed Penguin Bukta in Antarctica to embark on a major international science expedition to the Larsen C Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea – making pioneering measurements under the ice and providing new insight into one of the coldest and most remote regions of the world.
The Weddell Sea Expedition is pleased to announce that the S.A. Agulhas II and a team of world-leading glaciologists, marine biologists, oceanographers and marine archaeologists departed Penguin Bukta in Antarctica on 1 January 2019 and has set sail towards the Larsen C Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea, where it will embark on a major scientific research programme.
The expedition, which is focused on the scientific investigation into the Larsen C Ice Shelf using Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and a Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) on board S.A. Agulhas II, will measure a range of important physical and biological parameters beneath the ice shelf and the sea-ice. The data collected will provide information on the little-studied biological systems of this extreme environment, and together with above-ice measurements, contribute to the understanding of ice shelf and sea-ice conditions in the Weddell Sea and the implications for ocean currents and climate change.
The expedition is expected to reach the Larsen C Ice Shelf in approximately nine days where the team will then begin investigating and exploring one of the most remote, and least studied, places on our planet.
Depending on ice conditions and progress of the scientific work, there are also plans to use the AUVs and the ROV to search for the wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance, which was crushed by sea ice and sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915.
Polar geographer and environmental scientist Dr John Shears, who is leading the expedition, said:
“It is an incredibly exciting time as we depart Penguin Bukta and embark on our journey to the Larsen C Ice Shelf with all the team on board the Agulhas II, to begin one of the most important, non-governmental scientific expeditions in Antarctica for two decades. This is the first time an expedition of this scale will use such advanced technology to investigate and explore one of the most remote, and least studied, places on our planet to gain invaluable scientific data on the region and enhance the world’s understanding of the Weddell Sea.”