The Swiss-run Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition has completed its three-month voyage around the continent of Antarctica – returning with a boatload of data that scientists can now use to study global warming.
“Until now, no one had ever gathered data over an entire season on one expedition or simultaneously conducted land, ocean and atmospheric research. Taken together, these projects will give us a fuller picture of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean,” explained David Walton, the chief scientist on board.
The Swiss Polar Instituteexternal link (SPI), established last April, organised the expedition – which involved some 150 international scientists working on 22 projects. Their Russian research vessel – the Akademik Treshnikovship – returned to Cape Town in South Africa on Sunday, having departed from there on December 20, 2016.
Over the course of their travels to various islands, scientists did things like extract ice cores, collect plant samples, measure methane … and dodge penguins.
Their findings should make it possible to more accurately predict how the climate will change. According to the Swiss Polar Institute, the Antarctic region is “crucial to the planet’s health” – firstly because it serves as a major carbon sink.
“And in addition to influencing the weather conditions in the southern hemisphere, the Antarctic continent plays a key role in how the oceans circulate around the world,” noted the SPI in a statement.
The expedition’s researchers now have two years to publish their findings, after which they will share the data with the wider scientific community.