Summer in Antarctica will be a busy one this year. We have the British Ice Maidens heading out on their way to reach the South Pole as the first ever all-female team to do so, Lieutenant Scott Sears leaving on 15 Nov. for his solo trek to the South Pole in his attempt to be the youngest man ever to do so and we have other scientific crews heading out to conduct more research on Earth’s final frontier.
One of these crews are the members of the 59th Antarctic expedition, which will be boarding the Japanese icebreaker Shirase in Australia on 28 Nov. The icebreaker left Tokyo on 13 Nov. headed for the continent down under to pick up a crew of 180 and 1,000 tons of provisions, gear and other goods.
The Shirase is operated by the Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The mission of the 59th Antarctic Expedition is to study ice cores of exceptional age; the crew hopes to reach depths of ice that are older than previously recorded as having been studied. In 2007, a Japanese mission took samples from ice cores that aged around 720,000-years-old; the team studied them in their Dome Fuji Station located in inland Antarctica. These cores were located at a depth of 3,035 meters.
That previous Japanese expedition did not yield the oldest ice ever tested. In 2004, a European expedition collected ice cores that dated back to around 800,000-years-old.
The goal of the coming Japanese mission is to study the information regarding climate change that the ice holds, hoping to one day be able to mitigate the causes of the changes or just be able to predict how the “cause and effect” will affect future warming patterns. However, time is reserved on the expedition to conduct scientific studies on marine creatures, particularly penguins, and to make observations of the current state of atmospheric and marine health.
The icebreaker Shirase is expected to reach Antarctica’s Showa Station on 31 Dec. The current schedule for return shows a departure of mid-February from the continent and return to Japan on 11 April.