Project Summary

The Larsen Ice Shelf, located on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, to the south of South America, is the third largest ice shelf in Antarctica. Since the mid 1990s, the Larsen Ice Shelf has been breaking apart. Most recently, in early 2002, an area of the ice shelf larger than the state of Rhode Island broke off from the shelf.

During our 2005 expedition, we will continue to study the area of this shelf that was most recently exposed by the breakup, as well as areas in front of the existing ice shelf, to determine if the ice shelf has broken apart in the past or if this is an unprecedented event precipitated by warming caused by human activity.


Facts about the Expedition

20 scientists and students make their home on the Gould for one month.

During Antarctica's late summer season, the temperature in the Peninsula region will be about the same as it is here at Hamilton.

The core samples collected will be up to 30 and 40 feet deep. 

The team plans to see many penguins, but no polar bears -- they only live at the North Pole.

We will conduct our studies by collecting sediment samples from the sea floor and water samples from the ocean. We will use grab samplers, which are shaped like two scoops that collect sediment samples from the sea floor, and cores, which collect a column of sediment reaching depths of up to 30 feet, that we will later sample, both on the ship and in lab. We will also view the surface of the sea floor using camera and video systems. We will use a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) to measure water properties and collect water samples. Also, we will set out sediment traps, which will be suspended for a year in the water at specific depths to collect floating sediment. We plan to recover the sediment traps during next year's expedition.

We will analyze our samples in our labs to determine if changes exist in the sedimentology, paleontology, and geophysical character throughout the cores that might indicate whether the Larsen Ice Shelf has undergone similarly dramatic changes in its history or if current changes are truly unique.




Scientific operations occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the ship. There are two shifts, a night shift starting at midnight and working until noon and a day shift starting at noon and working until midnight. Although there is no typical day, because we never know how the weather might change or where we might be located, there are a few things that we can count on. Meals are one, of which there are four a day, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and mid-rats (midnight rations). Lunch and mid-rats occur during shift changes and allow people to see those on the other shift and get caught up on what happened during the past 12 hours. There is generally enough time after a shift ends to go to the gym or to watch a movie in the lounge before going to sleep around 3 a.m., or p.m. and getting up around 11 a.m., or p.m., to start another day.