SA Agul­has team break­ing the ice on ex­plor­ing global warm­ing

Cape Times - - PAGE 2 - STAFF WRITER

EN­VI­RON­MEN­TAL Af­fairs Min­is­ter Nomvula Mokonyane wished the Antarc­tica-bound SA Na­tional Antarc­tic Ex­pe­di­tion (Sanae) 58 sci­en­tific re­search team a safe jour­ney and a voy­age full of dis­cov­ery.

The SA Agul­has II – ded­i­cated to Miriam Makeba – left for Antarc­tica yes­ter­day.

On board South Africa’s po­lar re­search and sup­ply ves­sel is the 58th sci­en­tific ex­pe­di­tion team to Antarc­tica.

They will spend 14 months at the South African re­search base, Sanae IV.

“These ad­ven­tur­ous and brave mem­bers of the Sanae 58 team, leav­ing for Antarc­tica, on board the SA Agul­has II, will face ex­treme weather con­di­tions while con­duct­ing im­por­tant na­tional re­search in Antarc­tica,” Mokonyane said.

South Africa is one of the orig­i­nal 12 sig­na­to­ries of the Antarc­tic Treaty of 1959 and the first Sanae was un­der­taken in 1959.

The ex­pe­di­tion es­tab­lished a per­ma­nent pres­ence for South Africa in Antarc­tica that still ex­ists.

“The Sanae 58 team will col­lect long-term data, such as sea sur­face tem­per­a­ture, oxy­gen and car­bon mea­sure­ments, which are in­stru­men­tal to fur­ther en­hanc­ing our un­der­stand­ing of present day global cli­mate change, and will be used for fun­da­men­tal re­search in a num­ber of ar­eas.

“For ex­am­ple, South African and in­ter­na­tional weather fore­casts rely heav­ily on the avail­abil­ity of 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,” Mokonyane said.

Dur­ing this voy­age, the SA Agul­has II will also play a star­ring role in the his­toric, in­ter­na­tional mul­ti­dis­ci­plinary Wed­dell Sea Ex­pe­di­tion.

This ex­pe­di­tion, which will be tak­ing place in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary, is the most im­por­tant non-gov­ern­men­tal sci­en­tific ex­pe­di­tion for two decades.

With fund­ing from the Flotilla Foun­da­tion, the team of world-lead­ing glaciol­o­gists, ma­rine bi­ol­o­gists, oceanog­ra­phers and ma­rine ar­chae­ol­o­gists will ven­ture into re­mote re­gions of the Wed­dell Sea.

They will un­cover vi­tal new sci­en­tific data to im­prove the un­der­stand­ing of the area, us­ing that knowl­edge to con­trib­ute to­wards the pro­tec­tion of the re­gion.

Re­search will be fo­cused on the Larsen C ice shelf to pro­vide valu­able new in­sights into the lo­cal ecosys­tem, doc­u­ment­ing the rich and lit­tle-stud­ied ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment, sur­vey­ing the sea floor and un­der the ice, and doc­u­ment­ing the lit­tle-stud­ied bi­o­log­i­cal sys­tems that lie be­neath the ice shelf.

This is now pos­si­ble with the use of the lat­est au­ton­o­mous un­der­wa­ter ve­hi­cles that will be taken on board the SA Agul­has II.

“South African sci­en­tists and re­search en­ti­ties, work­ing along­side their in­ter­na­tional peers, will play a key role in the 45-day Wed­dell Sea Ex­pe­di­tion.

“We hope the Wed­dell Sea Ex­pe­di­tion will in­spire more of our young sci­en­tists about Antarc­tica, its im­por­tance to our young democ­racy and South Africa’s pres­ence there,” Mokonyane said.

The Sanae 58 team will col­lect long-term data such as sea sur­face tem­per­a­ture, oxy­gen and car­bon mea­sure­ments Nomvula Mokonyane

Min­is­ter of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs

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