Environment: Italian Antarctica campaign kicks off with 210 researchers and 50 research projects

9/11/2017

50 research projects on ecosystems and the climate and 210 national and international technicians and researchers will be the protagonist of the XXXIII Italian Summer Campaign of the National Research Programme in Antarctica (PNRA), which starts officialy with the opening of the “Mario Zucchelli” station.

The 2017-2018 Campaign, funded with 23 million euro by the Ministry of Education, University and Research with ENEA responsible for the logistics and the CNR for the scientific planning and coordination, will last four months, with the participation of researchers conducting activities also at other antarctic bases, in the spirit of international collaboration typical of science in one of the remotest places on earth.

In order to conduct research, scientists and technicians in their red jumpsuits, will face the challenging environment with harsh winds and temperatures close to -50°C (recorded this time of the year at the French-Italian  Station Concordia, at the heart of the continent, at an altitude of 3,300 meters), less available oxygen due  to the altitude and to the alterations in the circadian rhythm- related to the alternation of day and night- caused by continuous daylight.

After an eight-hour flight from New Zealand, the first 17 participants to the mission arrived at the American McMurdo Station in Antarctica; from here they reached the Italian base “Mario Zucchelli” in Newfoundland Bay, landing on the ice of the Ross Sea. The expedition leader Alberto Della Rovere, specialized technicians of ENEA, Armed Forces personnel of the operation room, helicopter pilots, a physician and a cook will have the task of re-opening the base, closed down during the long antarctic winter, when the “milder” temperatures on the coast drop to -40°C. Before the arrival of the other participants, this “vanguard” will organize a more suitable landing airstrip on the iced sea and restore the connectivity at the base, where snowfall is especially heavy this year.

There is no science field, from ecology to medicine, from astronomy to pharmacology, which doesn’t benefit from the discovieries made in this extraordinary “frozen” laboratory. The sole continent totally reserved to science, Antarctica is one of the engines of the climate system of our planet, an actual encyclopedia available to scientists to consult.

This year, among various research activities, scientists will work at detecting new antarctic bacteria, a source of innovative molecules to be tested in vitro and used as an adjuvant to the human immune system. Reserchears are still also set out to determine the ideal drilling site to get clues on the  composition of the atmosphere of the past, up to a million and a half years ago.

The study of two key species of the antarctic marine ecosystem will  continue, also with advanced marine technologies, notably the Antarctic Silverfish and the Antarctic Toothfish, also as part of the newly created Ross Sea Marine Protected Area, the largest on earth, covering 1.55 million square kilometers.

The ambitious italian project aiming at the creation of a gravel runway in the Boulder Clay site, - to become a reference point also for the bases nearby and crucial for the self-sufficiency of air transportation of the PNRA after the breaking of the ice pack, will go ahead. The personnel opening the Summer Campaign at the French-Italian Station Concordia at Dome C on the Antarctic plateau, will relieve the 13-member crew “Winter Over”, 7 italians of the PNRA, 5 french of the IPEV (Polar Institute Paule Emile Victor) and one physician of the ESA (European Space Agency), who have worked in complete isolation at the base over the nine months of the Winter Campaign, during which Dome C reaches temperatures  of -80° degrees. At the Concordia station scientific research in the fields of glaciology, atmospheric physics and chemistry, astrophysics, astronomy, geophysics and biomedicine will be conducted.

 

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