Archive for 10/13/2011

Under-ice lake survey

Posted: 10/13/2011 in all marine news

Hydro International – 

A British engineering team is heading off to Antarctica for the first stage of a scientific mission to collect water and sediment samples from a lake buried beneath three kilometres of solid ice.

Transporting nearly 70 tonnes of equipment, the ‘advance party’ will journey almost 16,000km from the UK to subglacial Lake Ellsworth on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). It is one of the most remote and hostile environments on Earth, with temperatures of –25°C.

Their task is to prepare the way for the ‘deep-field’ research mission that will take place one year later. In October 2012, a team of ten scientists and engineers will use hot-water drilling technology to make a three kilometre bore hole through the ice.

They will then lower a titanium probe to measure and sample the water followed by a corer to extract sediment from the lake. Lake Ellsworth is likely to be the first of Antarctica’s 387 known subglacial lakes to be measured and sampled directly through the design and manufacture of space-industry standard ‘clean technology’.

For years scientists have speculated that new and unique forms of microbial life could have evolved in this cold, pitch black and isolated environment. Sediments on the lake bed are likely to reveal vital clues about the history of life in the lake and the ancient history of the WAIS, including past collapse.

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gCaptain – 

A cargo vessel carrying oil and other substances that is stranded off the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island is continuing to spill oil and might break apart.

Prime Minister John Key, who traveled to the area, told local media Wednesday that stress fractures have been identified on the ship, the Rena, and that its disintegration cannot be ruled out.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Nick Smith said some 1,300 tons of heavy oil remain on the vessel and every effort is being made to contain it. He said the oil posed a far bigger environmental risk than anything else the vessel is carrying.

“If the ship breaks apart and those stern tanks release the…oil, that is when this thing will get even worse,” he said.

Approximately 70 containers out of a total of 1,368 have fallen off the ship so far, and it is highly likely more will be lost due to the current severe weather conditions and the vessel’s heavy list, Maritime New Zealand said Wednesday.

Eleven of the containers are filled with hazardous substances but those are still on board, it added.

Navigational warnings have been issued to mariners and major ships have been rerouted, the maritime authority said. In addition, the captain of the stranded vessel has been arrested and charged “for operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk.

Full story…