South African scientists departed on the 58th research expedition to the Antarctic on December 6 to gather data that will further our understanding of climate change. In addition,  research on the untouched Weddell Sea will be conducted.

The research team, called SANAE (South African National Antarctic Expedition) 58, is made up of world-leading glaciologists, marine biologists, oceanographers, and marine archaeologists. The group is travelling on board the SA Agulhas II, a polar research and supply vessel.

SANAE 58 will spend 14 months at the research base SANAE IV in Antarctica.

Long-term data will be collected on sea surface temperature, oxygen and carbon measurements to understand climate change. Mokonyane explains that the information gathered will help in the forecasting of weather patterns.

“South African and international weather forecasts rely heavily on data inputs from this region and having this continuous data set will enable better prediction of severe weather phenomena in the context of global climate change,” says Mokonyane.

The Minister of Environmental Affairs, Nomvula Mokonyane comments on the sacrifice members of the expedition are taking to gather this crucial information.

“These adventurous and brave members of the SANAE 58 team, … on board the SA Agulhas II, will face extreme weather conditions while conducting important national research,” she says.

According to Mokonyane, the international multi-disciplinary Weddell Sea Expedition is the most important non-governmental scientific expedition to take place in 20 years.

Over 45 days in January and February 2019, researchers will trek out to the Weddell sea to gather first-hand information on its eco-system.

“Research will be focused on the Larsen C Ice Shelf … documenting the rich and little-studied marine environment, surveying the seafloor and under the ice and documenting the little-studied biological systems that lie beneath the ice shelf,” the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) reports.

Use of the latests Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVS) taken on board the SA Agulhas II to aid in the Weddell Sea expedition.

Another aim of the expedition is to survey the wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance, which was crushed by ice and lost in the Weddell Sea in 1915.

Picture: Twitter/ Antarcticlegacy

Article written by

Ishani Chetty

Ishani is a vegetarian who is passionate about social issues, the environment and current affairs.