Technology Scientists Set To Explore Mysterious Seafloor Exposed By Antarctica's Giant Iceberg

14:15  13 february  2018
14:15  13 february  2018 Source:   Gizmodo Australia

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Remember the massive iceberg that split away from Antarctica last year? An international team of scientists is about to embark on a mission to For thousands of years, this chunk of ice rested above the seafloor , but it’ s gone now, and scientists are eager to explore the mysterious world underneath.

Remember the massive iceberg that split away from Antarctica last year? An international team of scientists is about to embark on a mission to explore the newly exposed marine ecosystem underneath - one that' s been hidden for over 100,000 years.

a view of a beach next to a body of water© Provided by Business Insider Australia

Remember the massive iceberg that split away from Antarctica last year? An international team of scientists is about to embark on a mission to explore the newly exposed marine ecosystem underneath - one that's been hidden for over 100,000 years.

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A mind-blowing shot of A-68, revealing the extent of its size. The iceberg is about 192m thick, of which 30m rests above the surface. (Image: NASA/John Sonntag)

Iceberg A-68, as it's called, calved from Antarctica's Larsen C Ice Shelf on 12 July 2017. Weighing about a trillion tonnes and featuring a surface area of 5800 square kilometres, the iceberg is about the size of Delaware, or about four times the size of London, England. It's been drifting away from the area for months now, slowly disintegrating into smaller and smaller bits (and spawning treacherous many icebergs in the process). For thousands of years, this chunk of ice rested above the seafloor, but it's gone now, and scientists are eager to explore the mysterious world underneath.

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Scientists Set to Explore Mysterious Seafloor Exposed by Antarctica ’ s Giant Iceberg . Today 11:25am. Gizmodo.

Scientists Set to Explore Mysterious Seafloor Exposed by Antarctica ’ s Giant Iceberg . Today 11:25am. Gizmodo.

a mountain with water in the background© Provided by Business Insider AustraliaView of the Larsen C iceberg. (Image: BAS)

An international team led by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) will travel to the area aboard the RRS James Clark Ross for a three-week mission beginning on 21 February 2018. The scientists will depart from the Falkland islands and use satellite imagery to avoid the many icebergs in the region. Once at the Larsen Ice Shelf (which is now 10 per cent smaller than it was when it broke off from Antarctica), the scientists will collect samples from the newly exposed seafloor - but time is of the essence.

"The calving of A-68 provides us with a unique opportunity [to] study marine life as it responds to a dramatic environmental change," Katrin Linse, a marine biologist with the BAS, said in a statement. "It's important we get there quickly before the undersea environment changes as sunlight enters the water and new species begin to colonize. We've put together a team with a wide range of scientific skills so that we can collect as much information as possible in a short time. It's very exciting."

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Scientists Set to Explore Mysterious Seafloor Exposed by Antarctica ’ s Giant Iceberg . Today 11:25am. Gizmodo.

Scientists Set to Explore Mysterious Seafloor Exposed by Antarctica ’ s Giant Iceberg .

a close up of an animal© Provided by Business Insider AustraliaAntarctic Brittle Star. (Image: BAS)

Using video cameras and a special sled that will scoop up samples from the bottom, the researchers are hoping to collect seafloor animals, microbes, plankton and sediment. Specifically, the they will be looking for things such as sea sponges, brittle stars, urchins, sea cucumbers, sea stars, and anything else that may have taken root under the ice. They're also going to see if any new life has taken residence in the area, including birds and marine mammals.

This mission marks the first time that scientists will explore an area protected by an international agreement made in 2016 by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). This agreement designates Special Areas for Scientific Study that have been exposed by collapses or retreating ice shelves across the Antarctic Peninsula region.

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Scientists Set to Explore Mysterious Seafloor Exposed by Antarctica ’ s Giant Iceberg .

Scientists Set to Explore Mysterious Seafloor Exposed by Antarctica ’ s Giant Iceberg .

a large ship in the snow© Provided by Business Insider AustraliaThe team will spend three weeks exploring the region on board the BAS research ship RRS James Clark Ross (pictured). (Image: BAS)

"The calving of A-68 offers a new and unprecedented opportunity to establish an interdisciplinary scientific research programme in this climate sensitive region," said David Vaughan, Science Director at BAS. "Now is the time to address fundamental questions about the sustainability of polar continental shelves under climate change. We need to be bold on this one. Larsen C is a long way south and there's lots of sea ice in the area, but this is important science, so we will try our best to get the team where they need to be."

So, a very cool and important mission! We'll be following the team's progress to keep you up to date on their findings.

[British Antarctic Survey]

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