Melting moments …

On 2 December 1911 Douglas Mawson departed from Hobart as leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. The good ship Aurora landed them in Commonwealth Bay on 8 January 1912. He and two companions set out on a sledging expedition – Mawson was the sole survivor. He arrived back at his base to find that the Aurora had departed. Some of the party had stayed behind in the hope that his party would return. The group had to wait until December 1913 before they could depart Antarctica’s shore.

In 2007 United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Antarctica in an effort to highlight global warming the BBC reported

Mr Ban – the first UN chief to visit the continent – wanted to see for himself the effects of climate change on the world’s largest wilderness.

After flying over melting glaciers, he told reporters that what he had seen had been both “extraordinarily beautiful” and “disturbing”.

Just a quick look and he was able to see for himself that disaster lay just around the corner. The glaciers are melting.

This year a party led by Professor Chris Turney, calling itself the Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013, set out to follow in Mr Moon and Mawson’s footsteps and highlight the disaster of increasing temperatures and melting ice. As the ABC reported on Lateline of 25 November …

$1.5 million Australian expedition to Antarctica Professor Chris Turney from the University of NSW is mounting the largest Australian science expeditions to the Antarctic with an 85-person team to try to answer questions about how climate change in the frozen continent might be already shifting weather patterns in Australia.
ABC’s MARGOT O’NEILL: The research stakes are high. Antarctica is one of the great engines driving the world’s oceans, winds and weather, especially in Australia. But there’s ominous signs of climate change.
CHRIS TURNEY: The Southern Hemisphere westerly winds encircle Antarctica, and over the last 20 or 30 years or so, they’ve been pushing further south. Now – so actually in a way it’s almost like Antarctica’s withdrawing itself from the rest of the world…

They thoughtfully took with them reporters for the BBC and the Guardian and initially things were going very much to plan

Several scout teams had investigated the ice sheet between the ship and the hut in the three days we had been at the frozen continent, however, and their news didn’t look good: a recent warm spell had melted lots of the snow cover on the fast ice, and the route across it was riddled with pools of water covered with thin, easily broken ice.

Clear evidence of melting here … although it had been open water in 1912.

The warm spell did not continue. The ice closed in. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority received a distress call on Christmas morning. The expedition ship was stuck fast. and the Weather Channel brought us the news that very day. I don’t know if they had a reporter on board.

Eventually the Guardian brought the news from its intrepid reporter …

Trapped in heavy pack ice just off the coast of Cape de la Motte for the past two days, we await icebreaker assistance.

There’s nothing like a scoop, eh …

Since then a couple of icebreakers have tried to bust them free. If all else fails they will be helicoptered to safety. Just think of the carbon footprint.

Well, you gotta take risks if you want to do science. But think about it, comparing 2013 with 1912 when weather can be so variable, maybe that wasn’t going to be great science to start with.

Perhaps they should have looked at the data for a number of years …


That’s one difference … more ice this year.





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