Science Caturday: Trapped in Antarctica(t)


A group of scientists, journalists and volunteers on an excursion to Antarctica have had an even whiter Christmas than they dreamed of, as their ship became trapped in heavy ice off the coat of Antarctica on December 25. The Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) commemorates the 100th anniversary of Sir Douglas Mawson’s expedition to the eastern Antarctic. The current voyage aims to replicate many of the measurements made by Mawson’s crew in 1911-13, to record changes in the region over the last century.

Two journalists from the UK’s Guardian, Alok Jha and Laurence Topham, are aboard the ship and have been blogging and tweeting about the expedition as it made its way to Antarctica. On December 26, Jha reported that the ship, the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, had been hit by a blizzard on Christmas Eve. By Christmas day, it was beset by ice and unable to move. Yesterday, December 27th, a Chinese ice-breaking ship, the Xue Long, attempted to reach the Akademik Shokalskiy but was unable to navigate through the thick ice.

As they await help from other vessels, Jha and Expedition leader Chris Turney both reiterated that the ship’s passengers are not in any danger, and that the scientists are using the extra time to do research. As Jha wrote, “Being on this continent is a privilege. Not just because it is so remote, unique or because you hear indescribable silence or see epic empty landscapes. The privilege comes from being in a place that requires you to engage with it, become attuned to it and make a serious attempt to understanding it…Right now the continent has us in its grasp and, though help is coming, the continent will decide when to let us go.”

You can follow the Guardian’s coverage of the AAE in its special Antarctica Live section  and follow Alok Jha on twitter.

Lake Vostok Bacteria & the Power of Social Media

Click here for full press release (PDF)
Click here for full press release (PDF)

Today, I had to explain to my 4-year-old that Daddy was a little later than usual (I was not “late”) picking her up from school because he was helping facilitate and curate a live tweeted translation/paraphrasing of a press release in Russian (by @PsiWavefunction) about the odd bacteria that may or may not have been discovered by a research program to drill into and investigate a gigantic sub-glacial lake that has been sealed off from the rest of the world for millions of years.

You can follow the translation by PsiWavefunction on the Storify I created as we went. The take home message from the press release was Russian scientists are not incompetent doofuses and:

My daughter’s response? “Antarctica is where penguins and King Cryolophosaurus live!”

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