Britain-led expedition to investigate newly exposed Antarctic ecosystem

Looking out from the sea ice to iceberg A68 around November 2017 just months after the berg calved from Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf in July

Britain-led expedition to investigate newly exposed Antarctic ecosystem

This iceberg existed above the seafloor for thousands of years.

The team will not be the first to investigate the aftermath of the massive breakaway of the Larsen C Ice Shelf. While many things happening in Antarctica, including calving or melting of the ice, is attributed to climate changes, calving of this particular iceberg likely occurred naturally, according to the scientists.

They plan to spend three weeks aboard the BAS research ship, the RRS James Clark Ross.

The A68 calved off from Antarctica because of rising temperatures in the region, so as these scientists study how these changes in the environment are affecting local wildlife, we'll get a better understanding of the effects that our consumption of fossil fuels will have on the world as a whole, including (and especially) polar regions with their unique, freakish ecosystems.

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"We don't know anything about it, it has been covered by an ice shelf that is several hundred metres thick", Dr Katrin Linse, a marine biologist at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) who is leading the mission, told The Independent.

Under this agreement, exposed marine areas following the collapse or retreat of ice shelves in Antarctica, such as the one targeted by BAS, are designated Special Areas for Scientific Study.

Video cameras and a special underwater sledge will provide a picture of what life is like under the ice shelf, and will also allow for the tracking of any changes to the ecosystem over time, including marine mammals and birds that might have moved into the area.

"The calving of A-68 offers a new and unprecedented opportunity to establish an interdisciplinary scientific research programme in this climate-sensitive region".

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The expedition is somewhat fortunate - it's the first to benefit from an worldwide agreement signed in 2016 by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

View of the Larsen C iceberg. However, it took five to 12 years for the expeditions to make it to those areas, and by that time creatures from other areas had made their way to both spots, Live Science previously reported.

"We need to be bold on this one", said David Vaughan, science director of the British Antarctic Survey. "Larsen C is a long way south and there's lots of sea ice in the area, but this is important science, so we will try our best to get the team where they need to be", Vaughan said.

This time around, researchers hope to be there quick enough to possibly surprise some of the supposed alien-like life lurking in the depths.

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