Challenging Habitat

The team safely back in Argentina and preparing to go their separate ways to rejoin families and pick up their lives back home, Paul find time for a concluding message.

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I have explained the background to the scientific projects we are supporting in a number of blog posts and on our website.

Now I provid an insight into what ‘doing science’ on the ice actually entails, with the example of sampling snow for metal analysis.

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As Antarctic Quest 21 draws to a close, the science team find time to send some video footage of what they have been doing.

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It was such fun to do this webinar for school kids from different ages and I was truly astonished what well-considered and pertinent questions I was asked. Well done, all of you!

There was one question I couldn’t answer at the time, but I looked it up after the webinar:

The amount of snow falling on Antarctica has been estimated to be around 2000 Gigatons per year. This is enough to cover the whole of Antarctica in 14 cm of water if it melted (or, as the estimate comes from Belgium, it would cover that country in 66 m of water).

The centre of Antarctica is relatively dry and most of the snow falls on the margins of the continent, in particular in on the Antarctic Peninsula and the West Antarctic Ice Shelf. To put it into a Southwest UK context, in terms of water, the western Antarctic Peninsula receives about as much as Dartmoor (around 2000 – 2500 mm).

So, what is a Gigaton? ‘Giga’ is the prefix for one billion (1 000 000 000 or 109). So, we are talking about 2 x 1012 tons or 2 x 1015 kg (1 000 000 000 000 000 kg).

Our six Seas Your Future Scientists in Residence in Costa Rica have sailed the Pacific Coast off Puerto Rico for a few days now.

You might imagine their work to be a breeze, more of a holiday really, sailing tropical seas in great weather… and surely, the sun shines and watching dolphins riding the bow waves amidst bioluminescent plankton at midnight is magical and an experience nobody will ever forget.

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The Antarctic Quest 21 expedition I’m supporting as scientific advisor has been beset by most arduous weather conditions – storms alternating with snow blizzards and zero visibility…

Nevertheless, the team are in good spirit and ingenious in repairing the damage to their tents and kit – rising to each challenge with the resilience and team spirit any team anywhere aspires to.

If you have an hour to spare, watch the zoom record of their Shackleton commemoration, tales from the ice and thanks to sponsors and patrons…

As eight explorers turn their backs to the departing ship, they know that for the next six weeks, the team are totally self-reliant.

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If you have been travelling abroad at all in the past 12 months, you may be able to imagine the ‘fun’ of getting 8 people from UK, Sweden and the USA to Buenos Aires and from there to Ushuaia – especially in the early weeks of rapidly changing rules in the wake of the emerging Omicron variant of Covid-19.

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