As it becomes springtime in New Zealand, it’s finally time to return to the icy coolness of Antarctica. This field season, however, I step up from my simple PhD life and lead an expedition to the Priestley Glacier, Victoria Land. The team consists of our German collaborator Reinhard Drews, our kiwi-mountain guide Richard Bottomley and Patrick Power for logistical support. In contrast to previous trips, we will operate out of the South Korean base “Jang Bogo”, a state-of-the-art research station in Terra Nova Bay which is only 350 km north of Scott Base.
What are we doing in Antarctica ?
After arrival at Jang Bogo and a few days to settle in, we travel to the nearby Priestley Glacier. Here we set-up a camp for the next couple of weeks from where we plan to deploy several scientific instruments on the glacier. But these stations only complement our main instrument – a GPRI radar system. This instrument measures ice-ocean interaction on the glacier’s surface at very very high resolution; but because it is more sensitive than a raw egg, it has never been deployed in Antarctica before. We will try to change this and teamed up with our colleagues in South Korea to organize an unprecedented scientific operation.
Why is this important ?
An alarming number of glaciers around Antarctica are accelerating, thinning or experience rapid ice loss, while others remain stable. Likewise, many ice-shelves (the floating extension of glaciers into the ocean) are thinning, driven by ocean warming, show early symptoms of disintegration or have completely collapsed already. This is particularly important because ice-shelf buttress glaciers from further outflow and thus control Antarctica’s contribution to the rate of global sea-level rise. Our high-precision measurements help us to understand what is happening along the Antarctic coast-line, where ice is transitioning from the continent to the ocean.
“Follow us on this adventure and learn why Antarctica is the
coolest of all continents”