this Web site documents Hamilton's research expedition to Antarctica in
May and June 2000.]
Eugene Domack and Biology Professor Patrick Reynolds have been funded
by the National Science Foundation to research marine geology and biology
on the eastern Antarctic Peninsula. An expedition made up of Hamilton
students and faculty departed Punta Arenas, Chile on May 9 aboard the
National Science Foundations R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer for a three
week expedition to the Antarctic .
While on board, the researchers will take a variety of samples from the
marine environment, including water samples, faunal samples, and sediment
cores. The cores, some over 10 meters long, will be cut into sections,
cut open, photographed, labeled, and frozen, and later sent to a lab in
Florida where the group will return later this year for further analysis.
The biologists on the trip dredge and grab sample seafloor invertebrates,
sort and identify the organisms found, and return the samples to Hamilton
College where they will survey the communities of organisms in this newly
Please visit the daily JOURNAL reports of
the 2000 expedition.
This research is directed at understanding the dynamics of the northern
Larsen Ice Shelf during the Holocene epoch (the last 10,000 years). The
Larsen Ice Shelf is located in the NW Weddell Sea along the eastern side
of the Antarctic Peninsula and is currently undergoing a rapid, catastrophic
retreat as documented by satellite imagery over the past five years; icebergs
the size of small states have broken off. While the region of the northern
Antarctic Peninsula has experienced a pronounced warming trend over the
last 40 years, the links between this warming and global change (ie. greenhouse
warming) are far from clear. Yet the ice shelf is clearly receding at
a rate unprecedented in historic time, leaving vast areas of the seafloor
uncovered and in an open marine setting.
The research will include collection of a series of short gravity cores
and sediment grab samples within the Larsen Inlet and in areas that were
recently covered by the Larsen Ice Shelf. By applying established sedimentologic,
paleontologic, and biologic criteria to the cores and grab samples, it
is hoped to demonstrate whether the Larsen Ice Shelf has experienced similar
periods of retreat and subsequent readvance within the last 10,000 years.
This proposed research will go a long way in understanding the dynamics
of ice shelf systems and their role in past and future climate oscillations.
When they return, the scientists and their undergraduate students will
continue analysis of the sedimentological and biological samples, and
develop insights into patterns of ice shelf melting and reformation, and
examine the ecological structure of this newly exposed area to assess
future colonization and invasion of species from other areas. Previous
studies on the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula have discovered
complex and diverse marine communities.
This Website serves to showcase the progress of their expedition to the
bottom of the world, to the icy continent of Antarctica.