The Antarctic 2015-16 summer season has now started at New Zealand’s Scott Base with the first flights leaving from Christchurch, New Zealand for Antarctica.
Antarctica received new visitors in the first week of October as an ambitious summer of research projects gets under way. Eighteen staff members from Antarctica New Zealand ventured south for the start of the Antarctic summer season. Another 18 flew to Antarctica a few days later on board the US Airforce C-17 Globemaster III aircraft.
The aircraft was stripped down to a shell ahead of Antarctica's summer season to carry more payload. Three helicopters could fit inside the large craft, which can carry more than 54,000 kilograms of cargo, and was used to transport President Barack Obama's bullet-proof limousine and helicopters on occasion. During its missions to Antarctica, the aircraft will be loaded up with 35,000kg of people and supplies, including fresh produce, construction materials and science equipment.
Antarctica New Zealand chief scientific advisor Gary Wilson is preparing to leave for Antarctica for his 26th trip to the pristine continent. "The novelty has worn off but the importance, no. The more we know, the more we need to know," Wilson said. He will lead a scientific expedition at Cape Adare for two weeks, aiming to identify species that might help scientists monitor long-term changes in the eco-system and what effect it had globally. Issues including sea level rise and the impacts on species were important, as was how they translated to New Zealand, he said.
A total of 319 Kiwis will head to Antarctica between September 2015 and March 2016 to complete an ambitious portfolio of research. This year's season would be a particularly challenging one for Antarctica New Zealand, with a number of projects spread across the continent, including one involving the Ross Ice Shelf. Wilson said researchers planned to investigate the water column and sediment under and within the Ross Ice Shelf to work out how vulnerable the shelf was to a warming climate. One of the predictions is that actually the ocean is the thing that does the most heat transfer, rather than atmosphere."
After some delays due to bad weather the first visitors have arrived at Scott Base. To mark the change from winter to summer a traditional flag changing ceremony took place at Scott Base. The smaller winter storm flag was lowered, and the larger summer flag replaces it.