Science this season

It’s an exciting time on board RRS Sir David Attenborough.

The first big science season on board our big red ship is about to begin!

The first team of the science season are on their way to the Falkland Islands where they will board the ship, which will head then to the Weddell Sea (via Signy and Rothera!). The science cruise will take place over 10 days in December and is part of the BIOPOLE project, a £9m project which is investigating a fundamental knowledge gap: how polar ecosystems regulate the balance of carbon and nutrients in the world’s oceans, driving primary productivity, fisheries production and the global carbon cycle.  

During the spring, the huge area of sea ice around Antarctica begins to melt and retreat towards the continent. This changes the physical dynamics of the water column and releases high concentrations of the vital nutrients the ice has been storing all winter which fuels the spring phytoplankton bloom.  

This bloom provides carbon-rich food for copepods to begin building their lipid sac, ahead of their descent into deep waters for the winter. The spring bloom also supports the proliferation of other zooplankton, fuelling vast animal populations – from fish to seabirds to whales – across the Antarctic. 

This is the first cruise of the BIOPOLE project and will focus on investigating the relationship between physical, biogeochemical and ecological processes during spring sea ice edge retreat – from open water to pack ice interior.  

12 intrepid scientists will be on board for this cruise, including physicists, ecologists and biogeochemical experts. Watch this space for more information over the coming weeks….


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Where is RRS Sir David Attenborough?

The view from the Bridge: