Icebreaker Oden left Punta Arenas, historically a gateway city for Antarctic research, on Dec. 12 . On its way south, the ship will transit the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica, and then follow the Antarctic Peninsula and the coastline of the southernmost continent before entering the Ross Sea.
Along the way, scientists from the U.S., Sweden and Chile will conduct a variety of observations, while two classroom educators selected by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), and a Swedish teacher selected by the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat will work alongside a Chilean colleague and the scientists. The teachers also will interact with students at home, using shipboard telecommunications to file journals and conduct teleconferences, bringing the excitement of polar research to life for the next generation.
The research will include various projects undertaken by the international science team. The scientists will obtain data on the biological and chemical oceanography of these relatively unstudied regions, including such variables as nutrients, chlorophyll, and carbon dioxide, and will also test for the presence of man-made contaminants. This information will be paired with physical measurements that provide clues to water mass movement and sea ice formation, and observations that document the presence and behavior of marine mammals and seabirds. Scientists will work closely with educators and media to inform the public about ocean research in Antarctic waters and to develop educational materials for use in classrooms worldwide.
José Retamales, Director of the Chilean Antarctic Institute, said that this kind of research is “a major achievement, and especially the participation of scientists and educators of three different nations is something that, I hope, we will see a lot more of during the IPY, but also beyond the IPY. To study phenomena in Antarctica is definitely a matter that is complex enough to require the support of not just one country, but many”.
Scientific and teacher teams
The scientific team includes Víctor Hernández, from Universidad de Concepción in Chile; Verónica Vallejos, from the Chilean Antarctic Institute; Agneta Fransson and Melissa Chierici, both of Sweden’s Göteborg University, Hongjie Xie of University of Texas, San Antonio, Brent Stewart, of Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in San Diego, Calif, and technical staff working on behalf of scientists from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
The teacher team includes Ute Kaden, of Brownsville, Texas; Allan Miller, an NSF Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow from Alaska, Sandra Williams, teacher from Instituto de Humanidades, and Ingela Hagström, teacher from Uddevalla Gymnasieskola.
The educators will be posting blogs and journals from their trip on the Polar TREC Web site: http://www.polartrec.com/odenexpedition/overview, and on the SWEDARP 2006-07 Web site: http://www.polar.se/expeditioner/swedarp2006_07/index.html.
PolarTREC is an NSF-funded initiative of the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS).
Oden is eventually headed for McMurdo Station, Antarctica, the logistics hub for the U.S. Antarctic Program. Once the ship arrives at McMurdo, around the 24th of December, it will disembark the scientists and teachers and begin the work of breaking and maintaining a channel through the sea ice of McMurdo Sound to allow the annual supply and fuel ships to reach McMurdo.
During the transit to McMurdo Station, the Oden is operated by the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat. NSF is chartering the ship to conduct its annual Antarctic icebreaking operations.
The ship’s departure from Punta Arenas is a direct link to previous worldwide scientific campaigns known as International Polar Year. For additional information visit: www.inach.cl/circuito/eng.pdf.
“With International Polar Year set to begin in the spring of 2007, this expedition demonstrates the spirit of cooperation among Antarctic national programs and a sign of greater collaborations to come”, said Karl Erb, Director of Polar Programs at NSF. Officials of the three nations involved hope that the cruise will create strong and lasting bonds between scientists and educators that will become the basis of a positive and lasting IPY legacy.