Scott’s scientific legacy helps to understand climate change effects

The Discovery Hut on Ross Island with the US Antarctic McMurdo station in the background. From here, Scott had started his scientific and exploring expedition deep into Antarctica. Credit: Taylor & Francis

During Scott’s famous Discovery Expedition 1901 – 1904, the team collected numerous samples to enhance the scientific knowledge on Antarctica. More than 100 years later, scientists from the UK and the USA have now analyzed some these valuable samples. Their findings give a sneak peek into Antarctic ecology prior to the extensive human activity there and the rest of the world.

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Totten Glacier tongue even bigger than assumed

A team of scientists from Australia and the US had spent all summer on the Totten glacier tongue to investigate what is underneath the ice. Surprisingly, they found water instead of bedrock. Credit: AAD / Ben Galton Fenzi

Totten Glacier is one of the largest and fastest flowing glaciers in Antarctica. It is assumed to be one of the main ice drainage systems in the east of the Antarctic continent, flowing out over the Totten Glacier tongue. However, little is known about the tongue and its size. An international research team has now seismologically surveyed the tongue and found that it is even longer than assumed. This could make it more vulnerable to melting.

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Research mission to Larsen C Ice Shelf thwarted by sea ice

Emperor Penguins on the sea ice in front of RRS James Clark Ross. (Picture: BAS)

Heavy sea ice conditions have thwarted a science mission from reaching the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica from which a large iceberg broke off in July 2017. A team of scientists, led by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), are on board the RRS James Clark Ross.  Sea ice, up to 4-5 metres thick, made progress for the ship very slow and the ship’s captain made the difficult decision not to continue.

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Fossilized marine predator found in Antarctica

The Argentine station Marambio is situated at the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula and is the largest of the 13 Argentine stations. It has an airfield on which planes can land by using their normal landing gear.

To find fossilized remains of dinosaurs in Antarctica is quiet difficult not only due to the conditions. Because of the glaciation that had started 40 million years ago, most of any fossils have been washed into the ocean. Ironically, also remains of marine dinosaurs also found their way back into their original habitat. However, near the Argentine station Marambio on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, scientists now found the fossil of a huge plesiosaur.

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Greenhouse for research purpose built in Antarctica

The parts of the greenhouse were sent by an icebreaker close to the German research station Neumayer III and there unloaded. Credit: DLR

With the arrival and unloading of the EDEN ISS greenhouse at the edge of the Antarctic ice shelf, the construction process has begun. In the coming weeks, a team from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) will set up the greenhouse, designed for extreme environments, just 400 metres from the German Neumayer Station III in the Antarctic. It will be run by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), which is working on the EDEN ISS project together with DLR.

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Last round for South Georgia’s rat eradication program

Since 2011, the largest eradication program against invasive species takes place on the Subantarctic island of South Georgia. Thousands of square kilometers had been baited in an attempt to get rid of rats and mice, which had caused massive havoc among the bird population. Now, the program steps into its final phase with surveying the island for traces of any remaining rodents. With any luck, the island soon will be declared rodent-free.

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Antarctic Microbes live off Antarctic air

Life in Antarctica consists of more than penguins and seals. A rich microbial community exists on the ice, the fresh water ponds and in the soil. However, it was unclear how these organisms thrive in their habitat. Now, a team of scientists led by the University of New South Wales Sydney has discovered that microbes have a previously unknown ability to scavenge trace gases from the air to stay alive in these extreme conditions.

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What is underneath Antarctica’s fastest melting glacier?

A UK team of researchers has produced high-resolution maps of the bed beneath a major glacier in West Antarctica, which will help them predict future sea-level rise from this region. Radar surveys of the land beneath Pine Island Glacier have revealed a diverse landscape under the ice with some surprises. The results are published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Super-cooled Southern Ocean clouds aimed for investigation

Atmospheric scientists will use ships, aircraft and satellites to study super-cooled Southern Ocean clouds this summer. The project involving Australian and United States researchers will gather data on super-cooled cloud formations, which are clouds that remain as liquid water well below freezing.

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Why albatross can sail the Southern Oceans

Albatrosses sail the Southern Oceans almost effortlessly. Even though known for centuries, only now, engineers have developed a new model to simulate dynamic soaring, and have used it to identify the optimal flight pattern that an albatross should take in order to harvest the most wind and energy. They found that as an albatross banks or turns to dive down and soar up, it should do so in shallow arcs, keeping almost to a straight, forward trajectory.

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