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Scientists launch unprecedented Antarctic research mission

LONDON – More than 50 researchers from 30 countries are to carry out the first scientific full circumnavigation of Antarctica in an attempt to measure pollution and climate change, with the official launch held on Monday.

The international team will cruise on Russian research vessel Akademik Treshnikov, leaving Cape Town on December 20 and returning on March 18 next year, braving hostile conditions in an effort to gain a deeper understanding of humankind’s effect on the Southern Ocean.

 

The Antarctic Circumpolar Expedition will help scientists better understand the effect humankind is having on the Southern Ocean. While there’s been a good amount of recent research about the Arctic and the changes occurring as the northern ice cap melts, the southern pole is vastly less understood./Photo by Andreas Kambanis via inhabitat.com

The Antarctic Circumpolar Expedition will help scientists better understand the effect humankind is having on the Southern Ocean. While there’s been a good amount of recent research about the Arctic and the changes occurring as the northern ice cap melts, the southern pole is vastly less understood./Photo by Andreas Kambanis via inhabitat.com

 

The Antarctic Circumpolar Expedition (ACE) will be the first scientific mission to study all the major islands in the vast ocean, as well as the Antarctic land mass.

“The idea is to visit the islands around Antarctica, which is scientifically extraordinarily interesting,” businessman Frederik Paulsen, a founder of the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI) and ACE instigator, told AFP at the project’s official launch in London.

“The changes that are going on around Antarctica are less well understood than in the Arctic and the islands… (and) are a thermometer of what’s going on.

“This is a project that has been waiting to happen,” he said, adding that “something on this scale has never been done, and I don’t think it will ever be done again.”

Researchers will work on a number of interrelated fields, from biology to climatology to oceanography.

“Scientific progress depends more than ever on communication between diverse scientific domains,” said the project’s brochure.

“For example, marine biology depends on complex mathematical models currently being developed by oceanographers.” (AFP)