Century of Antarctic science celebrated by Australia, UK and Switzerland 19 May 2021

Australian Antarctic Division

More than a century of scientific collaboration in Antarctica between Australia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom is to be celebrated in Hobart with a public lecture by three leading polar scientists.

Our entwined history started with the 1911-1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition led by Sir Douglas Mawson, which saw Swiss Dr Xavier Mertz and Englishman Belgrave Ninnis lose their lives.

On 25 May, eminent UK, Australian and Swiss scientists will discuss the progress of Antarctic science over this period, some of the significant achievements, current areas of research focus and future cooperative endeavours:

Prof Dame Jane Francis is Director of British Antarctic Survey, the UK’s national Antarctic program. A geologist with research interests in past climate change, Jane has undertaken over 15 scientific expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (DCMG) for her services to UK polar science and diplomacy. She was also awarded the UK Polar Medal, is Chancellor of the University of Leeds, and a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Prof Thomas Stocker is professor of climate and environmental physics at the University of Bern in Switzerland. The focus of his research is the development of models of climate change based on the analysis of polar ice cores, amongst other data sources. From 2008 to 2015 he served as Co-Chair of Working Group I of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that provided the scientific foundation of the Paris Agreement.

Dr Tas van Ommen leads the Antarctic Climate research program with the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart. With six field expeditions to Antarctica, his specialty areas of research are the study of past climate using ice cores and airborne studies of the Antarctic ice sheet. Tas is co-chair of the International Partnerships in Ice Core Sciences (IPICS), a 24-nation international organisation of ice core scientists and drillers who coordinate international ice core science.

As Antarctica and the Southern Ocean face global climate change and environmental pressures, a cooperative international approach to scientific research and environmental management is as important as ever.

In collaboration with other nations, Australian science studies the ocean, the atmosphere and ice to understand how past and future changes in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica will affect Australia and the world.

For example, Dr Tas van Ommen from the Australian Antarctic Division oversees Australia’s project to drill the oldest ice core from Antarctica, and extend our climate record to well beyond a million years.

The Million Year Ice Core project is one of the most ambitious field projects ever undertaken by the Australian Antarctic Division. The drilling site is 1200 kilometres inland from Casey research station, with an elevation over 3000 metres above sea level, and a mean annual temperature below -50°C. Drilling of the 2.8 kilometre ice core will take four to five years of work.

“Australia and a European team will lead two drill operations near Little Dome C, 1200 kilometres inland from Casey research station. Each team is building ice core drills to suit the conditions they will face and their operational methods and experience,” Dr van Ommen said.

“Scientists from British Antarctic Survey and University of Bern are involved in the European consortium. Our collaboration will be one of the scientific projects discussed at the event to celebrate more than a century of the UK, Switzerland and Australia working together in Antarctica.”

The public lecture will be held in Hobart at the Aurora Lecture Theatre in the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies on 25 May 2021, from 6:00pm to 7:30pm AEST (9:00am to 10:30am in the UK, and 10:00am to 11:30am in Switzerland).

There will be a live-streamed webinar. To register and receive a link to participate, please enter your contact details HERE before 9:00 am AEST 24th May.

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