Next Sunday December 6 research vessel Polarstern departs Cape Town for Antarctica.
We will navigate to the south Atlantic towards the German, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research station, Neumayer III, fixed on top of more than 600 ft (200 m) of ice, which is the thickness of the Ekström ice shelf, approximately at 70º 40’S. The station owes its name to the German explorer Georg von Neumayer, who navigated Antarctic waters while doing nautical, magnetic and meteorological observations in the early XX century. Neumayer station is occupied throughout the year with scientists mainly devoted to the study of the Earth’s magnetic field, seismological registers, air chemistry and meteorology. “Polarstern” also provides logistical support to the base; that is why our first stop will be at Atka Bay just in front of the station. After supplying the station with the goods from “Polarstern”, including the fuel that will provide energy to the base for the whole year –in winter the outside temperature could reach -50ºC (-58ºF) – we will go on with the plan, on the route to the southernmost Atlantic above the Filchner Trough. On our way to the main study area, we will carry out few stations along a coastal transect to get information on sediment and benthos characteristics. There will be a special stop at Drescher Inlet, where a group of scientists will set a camp to study Weddell seals from above and below the ice with the aid of a ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle). We all are ready to start a very interesting expedition to discover and learn many things specially about the western flank of the Trough, where we could not reach during the earlier PS 82 / ECOWED II expedition. We hope this time the meteorological conditions, particularly sea ice, let us arrive where we want.