The Weddell Sea Expedition is pleased to announce that following the departure of the S.A. Agulhas II from Penguin Bukta on 3 January 2019, the vessel and team arrived on 10 January 2019 at the primary destination of the expedition, the Larsen C Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea, one of the most remote and hard to reach locations in Antarctica.
At the Larsen C Ice Shelf, the research team of world-leading glaciologists, marine biologists, oceanographers will undertake a pioneering science programme beneath the ice shelf and surrounding sea ice. This will provide for the first time information on the biological systems of this extreme environment, and together with the glaciological and oceanographic measurements, contribute to the understanding of ice shelf and sea-ice conditions in the Weddell Sea and the implications for global ocean currents and climate change.
Before embarking on the scientific research, the Expedition will carry out two days of sea trials to test the state of the art sub-sea systems on board the S.A. Agulhas II, including the Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and a Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) which will be deployed to collect highly valuable new scientific data. Following the successful completion of the sea trials, the scientific research programme will take place between 13 January and the 25 January 2019.
Depending on sea ice conditions, the expedition will then depart the Larsen C Ice Shelf on 25 January 2019 heading towards the recorded sinking location of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance, which was crushed by sea ice and sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915. The AUVs and ROV will be used to attempt to locate and survey the wreck on the sea bed, before the Expedition ends the search on 5 February 2019.
Polar geographer and environmental scientist Dr John Shears, who is leading the expedition, said: “Excellent progress has been made since the Expedition departed Penguin Bukta on 3 January, and I am pleased to report we have now arrived at our primary and most important scientific destination, the Larsen C Ice Shelf. It is an exciting time for the team as we begin the sea trials and subsequent scientific research. We will be using the advanced technology onboard 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. The S.A. Agulhas II has performed fantastically well during the expedition and proven powerful, strong and highly capable in the dense pack ice we have encountered on our amazing journey.”