To Antarctica, and back again

November 26, 2012 2:00 PM

Kathryn Hobgood Ray

A scientific journey to the Antarctic Peninsula to study the history of ice shelves is one that Tulane professor Brad Rosenheim will not soon forget.  Hurricane-like conditions on rolling seas, iceberg-dodging, dogged exhaustion and seasickness for the crew, and of course, science happening in the spectacular glacial landscapes, were all part of the adventures he will share at a public lecture in Freeman Auditorium at 6 p.m. on Tuesday (Nov. 27).

Tulane researcher Brad Rosenheim is studying environmental change in Antarctica's Larsen Ice Shelf System.
Brad Rosenheim, an assistant professor at Tulane, is studying the abrupt environmental change in Antarctica's Larsen Ice Shelf System.

Rosenheim, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, was invited on the Oct.-Nov. 2012 expedition as part of the LARISSA project, a National Science Foundation-funded initiative studying the abrupt environmental change in Antarctica's Larsen Ice Shelf System.

“The shipboard science operations involved water sampling, particulate sampling and gathering of sediment cores from strategic locations to gain knowledge about climate change and ice shelf history of the peninsula,” said Rosenheim.

Rosenheim blogged about his experiences as he and fellow scientists crossed the dangerous Drake Passage aboard the Laurence M. Gould research vessel, an icebreaker for U.S. NSF Polar Programs research, to Palmer Station and southern regions beyond.  The fascinating account gives a preview of his talk on Tuesday on the uptown campus.

Rosenheim discusses the signs and implications of climate change in Antarctica and the “political football” nature of polar research for the United States, in addition to details about life on the ship.  Among their adventures, the crew encountered equipment malfunctions, storms and pitching seas, and ominously close encounters with icebergs. But the expedition was a success.

“We have 34 meters of sediment core aboard the ship, likely spanning a history of deglaciation in the area extending back to 16,000 years before present,” wrote Rosenheim. “We have our hands full of valuable samples from which we will learn a lot about the Earth’s natural history. Yes, it could have gone more smoothly, but it will be worth the challenges in the end. ”

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