BAS kicked off the Antarctic field season with an ambitious series of projects called MercoPress

BAS has started its Antarctic field season with an ambitious series of projects

Saturday, November 5, 2022 – 10:48 UTC


RRS Sir David Attenborough will house scientific instruments, along with sea-ice and ocean observations.

The British Antarctic Survey, BAS, has begun its Antarctic field season. With challenging and ambitious projects to be presented at five BAS research stations and across the wider continent. More than 500 people are working in Antarctica this season at BAS research stations, RRS Sir David Attenborough, in the field and in collaboration with other Antarctic operators.

Through our Specialist Operations Group, we help deliver world-class field science that informs policymakers and governments on some of the key challenges of our day, including at international committees and stakeholder meetings such as COP 27.

Professor Dame Jane Francis, Director of British Antarctic Survey, said: “We continue to work with scientists around the world to help further our understanding of the frozen continent and beyond.

There are many interesting projects in this field season. As Antarctica has the closest conditions to the red planet, testing the HABIT science instrument to Mars at our Sky-Blu Field Station is an example. After two extremely difficult years due to Covid, we look forward to a busy summer science program in Antarctica.”

We are committed to reducing our carbon emissions and becoming net zero by 2040. This season we will be testing Prion, a new autonomous aircraft system, for the first time in Antarctica. It can support a range of science and provide data at a fraction of the carbon emissions compared to existing airborne science platforms such as the Twin Otter aircraft.

We collaborate with scientists around the world to solve the big scientific questions of our time. The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) is a US-UK scientific project in Antarctica for the past 70 years. Thwaites Glacier is the size of Great Britain and its rapid melting is causing widespread concern; could contribute several centimeters to sea level rise by the end of the century. This season, a number of projects are being implemented that will allow us to make reliable predictions about the future of this critical region of West Antarctica.

Rothera Research Station

More than 10 projects are being carried out at Rothera Research Station, Britain’s largest Antarctic facility, this season. Long-term monitoring is ongoing in a number of projects, including ice-slope research and seabed monitoring adjacent to the station.

For the second season, the new Rothera Clean Air Facility will conduct ground-based measurements in conjunction with the Twin Otter aircraft, which takes air measurements directly inside the clouds as part of the Southern Ocean Clouds project. The joint UKRI-NERC-NSF funded project will investigate how crayfish seals are responding to ongoing environmental change in the western Antarctic Peninsula.

Halley VI Research Station

Since the calving of several large icebergs from the Brunt Ice Shelf in 2021, monitoring of the most observed ice shelf on Earth continues to help us understand any risks to our operations and infrastructure.

The Antarctic Ozone Hole, first discovered by BAS scientists at the Halley Research Station in 1985, will be investigated using an automated Dobson spectrophotometer and SAOZ instrument to measure stratospheric ozone.

Developments on the Halley Automation Project continue this season to provide power for experiments and scientific data when the station is not in use during the winter period.

King Edward Point (KEP) Research Station

Several wildlife surveys will be conducted this season on whales, fur seals, gentoo penguins, fish larvae and landfish to create long-term data sets to understand population changes.

Seabirds are among the most globally threatened birds from fishing, and South Georgia has important populations of white-chinned birds. Tracking devices will be placed on the bird island and KEP to provide information during the breeding and breeding season.

Bird Island Research Station

Our long-term scientific project on marine predators continues this season, providing scientists and conservationists with indicators of change in the Scotia Sea and elsewhere in the south-west Atlantic. The study will cover the survival and breeding histories of black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses, which roam alongside northern and southern giant puffins, macaroni penguins and Antarctic fur and leopard seals. We will also monitor the population and breeding success of light-mantled albatrosses and gentoo penguins.

Signy Research Station

Various scientific projects will be implemented this season. Chinstrap penguins will be tracked from multiple colonies from South Orkneys and South Shetland to help understand their migration routes.

The Belgica Antarctica midge is the southernmost free-living insect, and a new study will help identify adaptations at the population and species level.

Long-term monitoring of seals, penguins and flying seabirds, bivalves is ongoing to understand the main drivers of environmental variability and predict future changes in Antarctic ecosystems.

RRS Sir David Attenborough and Dash 7 aircraft

The goal of the DEFIANT project is to understand the atmospheric and oceanic processes that control seasonal and long-term trends in sea ice in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. The project will use our polar ship RRS Sir David Attenborough and polar aircraft Dash 7 for research.

RRS Sir David Attenborough will house scientific instruments, along with sea-ice and ocean observations. The ship will also undergo polar water trials, another critical step in its commissioning. These tests will involve testing trace metal systems and deploying scientific instruments in deep and polar waters that are colder and harsher than the waters around the UK where initial scientific tests were carried out earlier this year.

Dash 7 will fly for science equipped with a wide range of science sensors, including radar, lidar, cameras, gravimeters and radiometers.

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