On Thursday, April 11, 18 members of the LARISSA (Larsen Ice Shelf System Antarctica) science team and 26 additional scientists from the Korean Polar Research Institute (KOPRI) sailed from Puntas Arenas, Chile, toward the Antarctic Peninsula on the Korean Icebreaker Research Vessel ARAON. Among the LARISSA researchers are Eugene Domack, the J. W. Johnson Family Professorship of Environmental Studies, and his former advisee, alumnus Andrew Christ ’11.
The expedition was originally focused on reaching the east Antarctic Peninsula to study the former Larsen A ice shelf area, but severe sea ice initially rendered that plan impossible. Instead the scientists traveled to the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Weather conditions during the trip have continued to dictate where the ARAON has been able to travel during the cruise. The scientists have studied unexplored fjords, Leroux Bay and the adjacent Bigo Bay. Research has included a multibeam swath bathymetric survey of the fjord to reveal the morphology of the fjord, sediment core collection, CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth) surveys, ocean water sampling from various depths and areas in the fjord, and biological surveys of phytoplankton and zooplankton. The sediment will be subjected to multiple analyses providing insight into the paleoenvironmental history and current oceanographic and ecological conditions in the fjord.
A couple days later, weather and ice again diverted the ship. Their travel foiled by ice, members of the marine biology groups disembarked to collect sea ice cores to analyze the phytoplankton assemblages and sea ice chemistry. The ship was finally able to break through to open waters along the former Larsen A area, and the scientists retrieved a mooring, an anchored cable with oceanographic and sedimentological instruments that had been placed nearly a year ago by LARISSA researchers.
The ARAON is again headed south towards the Larsen B ice shelf area, the site of an ice shelf collapse in 2002.
Andrew Christ ’11 is providing more detailed and continuing information and images throughout the expedition via a blog on the LARISSA site. This fall Christ will be attending Boston University to begin a doctorate in earth science and will be returning to Antarctica to study the McMurdo Dry Valleys.