University Academics complete first leg of Antarctic ISTAR mission

A team of British scientists including Anna Hogg & Thomas Flament (School of Earth and Environment) from the University has returned from a gruelling 1500km journey across the ice of West Antarctica.

Anna Hogg by David Vaughan and Thomas Flament by Pete Lambert


The team have recently completed the first leg of their groundbreaking mission. The iSTAR science programme brings together multi-disciplinary teams to investigate ice loss from Pine Island Glacier, the biggest single contributor to worldwide sea level rise. The next step of the programme, an ocean investigation, is now underway.

iSTAR is an ambitious scientific programme, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), uniting leading scientists from 11 UK universities and from British Antarctic Survey (BAS). Using state-of-the-art technologies to measure changes to the flow and thickness of glaciers, and to investigate the role that the ocean plays in transporting warm water beneath ice shelves, this multi-disciplinary mission is the first of its kind for the UK. 

Scientists recognise the urgent need to understand the causes and impact of recent rapid ice loss from Pine Island Glacier.  The impact on global sea-level rise could be significant – this mission is designed to find out just how significant. This new knowledge about its stability is critical for making better predictions about how the ocean and ice will respond to future environmental change.

This season’s deep-field campaign was to travel 1500km [932 miles] by ‘tractor train’ across the glacier ice, taking samples and measurements as they went.  This is the first time in recent British history that this method of crossing the ice has been undertaken. Sophisticated equipment, supplies and fuel were loaded on to specially designed rubber mats and towed by huge tractors.  A ‘caboose’ (a caravan-like office and living space) housed technical equipment and provide a warm space for the science team to plan their days’ work.

For more information about the ISTAR mission visit their website.


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