UK team to lead exploration to newly exposed Antarctic ecosystem

Posted Feb 13, 2018 by Karen Graham
An exciting research mission is set to begin that will study the seabed ecosystem exposed after a massive iceberg, now designated as iceberg A-68, calved off the Larsen C Ice shelf in July 2017.
A team of scientists  led by British Antarctic Survey  heads to Antarctica this week to investigate ...
A team of scientists, led by British Antarctic Survey, heads to Antarctica this week to investigate a mysterious marine ecosystem that’s been hidden beneath an Antarctic ice shelf for up to 120,000 years.
BAS/Ali Rose
A team of scientists, led by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), will leave for Antarctica on February 14 to investigate the seabed that has been exposed after the massive chunk of ice, four times the size of London broke away from the ice shelf.
The now exposed seabed has been hidden beneath the ice shelf for over 120,000 years. British Antarctic Survey marine biologist Dr. Katrin Linse, who is leading the mission, said that the calving of A-68 provides the researchers with "a unique opportunity to study marine life as it responds to a dramatic environmental change."
A secret world of animals and plants -- including unknown species -- may live in warm caves under An...
A secret world of animals and plants -- including unknown species -- may live in warm caves under Antarctica's glaciers, scientists say
"It's important we get there quickly before the undersea environment changes as sunlight enters the water and new species begin to colonize," she explained, adding that the mission was "very exciting".
The first video of A-68 released
The first video of the iceberg can be seen below. It covers almost 6,000 square kilometers (2,240 square miles) and weighs about one trillion tons. It has been drifting away from the Larsen C Ice shelf for months now and is slowly disintegrating, spawning numerous smaller icebergs that are treacherous to shipping.
Professor David Vaughan, science director at BAS, said, "The calving of A68 offers a new and unprecedented opportunity to establish an interdisciplinary scientific research programme in this climate-sensitive region. Now is the time to address fundamental questions about the sustainability of polar continental shelves under climate change."
The research mission
The mission will begin on February 21 and last for three weeks. The science team will depart from the Falkland Islands aboard the James Clark Ross research vessel. The ship will be using satellite imagery to avoid the many icebergs in the region, according to Gizmodo.
The research ship RRS James Clark Ross  navigating ice-infested waters.
The research ship RRS James Clark Ross, navigating ice-infested waters.
Once on location, the research team will be using video cameras and a special-designed sledge pulled along the seafloor to collect tiny animals. The team will also be collecting microbes, plankton, sediments and water samples from the depths.
Of interest also is the documentation of any birds or animals that may have moved into the newly-freed area. Their findings will provide a picture of what life under the ice shelf was like so changes to the ecosystem can be tracked, according to the BAS.
The Larsen C research expedition is led by British Antarctic Survey and involves scientists from the following research institutes: University of Aberdeen, University of Newcastle, Natural History Museum, University of Southampton, Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, Senckenberg Research Institute and Museum in Germany, University of Gothenburg in Sweden, University of Ghent in Belgium and Museums Victoria in Australia.