[Note: this Web site documents Hamilton's research expedition to Antarctica in May and June 2000.]

Geology Professor 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 Foundation’s 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 exposed area.

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.