Scientists to Explore Mystery Ecosystem under Antarctic Iceberg

Led by the British Antarctic Survey, a team of scientists is set to begin the exploration mission of a mysterious marine ecosystem. This was recently discovered under an Antarctic iceberg. The iceberg is about four times the size of the capital of England, London.

The team will leave from the Falklands on February 21. The purpose of their mission is to collect samples from a seabed that has been hiding under the A68 iceberg. This latter separated from the Larsen C ice shelf back in July 2017.

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It seems that the mission is actually a very urgent one because apparently, the 5,818 Sq Km ecosystem is susceptible to changes. These might get triggered as sunlight touches it for the first time in thousands of years. Experts believe that it is about 120,000 years old.

So, the RSS James Clark Ross, a research ship, is going to spend about three weeks collecting samples from the water, seafloor animals, plankton, and any microbes they can find. The leader of the expedition is Dr. Katrin Linse, a marine biologist from BAS.

According to her, the fact that iceberg A68 moved provides experts with a unique opportunity for exploration. They are now able to examine the marine life and the changes it undergoes and underwent as the environment continues changing.

The Urgency of the Exploration

Linse also explained that the idea is to get there as soon as possible before the environment changes due to exposure to sunlight. Soon after, new species might begin colonizing the area, and the environment might lose its authenticity.

The team that will handle this mission possesses an extensive range of scientific skills. A reason for this is to collect as much information possible in the shortest amount of time.

To collect the most and also best information possible, the scientists will use an especially-designed underwater sled and a large number of video cameras. This pair will be responsible for offering a detailed view of life under the shelf.

Also, it will help keep track of the changes likely to occur after its latest development. The team also wants to follow the paths of specific birds and marine mammals that might have relocated in the area.

Monitoring the Evolution of the Ice Shelf

The team of experts is getting all set and ready to begin its ambitious mission. In the meantime, glaciologists along with other experts continue to keep track of the movements of the ice shelf.

They are also looking to predict its stability. This would help the team aboard the RSS James Clark Ross as well. According to Professor David Vaughan, the BAS science director, the calving of this iceberg provided a fantastic study opportunity.

He explains that the scientists need to be very bold. Mainly because it may be one of their only chances to find out how continental polar shelves cope with the effects of climate change.

It’s worth noting that the mission became possible after a 2016 agreement. This helped establish specific areas where research was possible. Most of those were areas that were exposed by ice shelves as they collapsed or retreated.

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources gave the Larsen C iceberg a 10-year designation. This means that nobody will be allowed to conduct commercial fishing in the area. As it is, this will keep it free of any interruptions during the mission.

aerial view of the larsen c ice shelf

This expedition is of crucial importance when it comes to understanding the effects that climate change has on icebergs. The fact that this mystery ecosystem has now been exposed offers probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study what actually happened there.

Scientists consider that the possibilities are now practically endless. This becomes even more true when taking considering the advanced technologies and instruments that the research team reportedly intends to use.

Image source: Wikimedia

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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