The S.A. Agulhas II sets sail from Cape Town following completion of sea trials ahead of a major international Antarctic science expedition – 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 set sail on 6 December for Antarctica following the recent successful completion of sea trials off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.
The focus of the expedition is the scientific investigation of the Larsen C Ice Shelf in the Weddell Sea. The Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) technology will enable measurement of 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 sea-ice conditions in the Weddell Sea and the implications for ocean currents and climate change.
The two days of sea trials tested the expedition equipment and technical systems on-board the polar research vessel, which is one of the largest and most modern in the world. The S.A. Agulhas II has been specially configured to provide the operating platform for state-of-the-art AUVs and the ROV, as well as marine sediment corers, sea water sampling systems and airborne drones.
Depending on ice conditions and the timing of the completion of the scientific research, 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: “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. By bringing together a group of world-leading glaciologists, marine biologists, oceanographers and marine archaeologists on-board the Agulhas II, we will be able to gain invaluable scientific data on the region and enhance the world’s understanding of the Weddell Sea.”
For further information:
Mark Antelme / Joanna Boon / Ollie Mills
Tel: +44 (0) 207 520 9266