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Demise of Antarctic Ice Shelf Reveals New Life

Ice shelf and sea

The remains of the Larsen B ice shelf seen in front of Cape Fairweather (taken February 2005). Since the collapse of the former ice shelf in 2002, the area had not been surveyed. In 2005, an Antarctic research expedition studying sediments in the exposed region of the Weddell Sea stumbled across an ecosystem living in its cold, sunless depths.

Credit: Dave Tewksbury


Four scenes from underwater video of the seafloor

Images from underwater video footage of the seafloor, modified after publication in the journal Eos. (a) View of the pustular white mat covering approximately 75 percent of the seafloor. The yellow circles indicate ascending gas bubbles of unknown composition. Water depth is 2,756 feet (840 meters). (b) View of a small boulder dropstone resting on the white mat. (c) Close-up view of the white mat with recent, gray-colored silt and clay. (d) View of mudflow channels and suspended particulate near the vent opening.

Credit: Eugene Domack, Hamilton College, et al., 2005


R/V Laurence M. Gould

The 2005 Antarctic research team spent four weeks on board the R/V Laurence M. Gould. The Gould is a multi-disciplinary research platform, ice-strengthened for year-round polar operations. The ship is 249 feet (76 meters) in length and can accomodate 26 research scientists for missions up to 75 days long. It was built in 1997 by Edison Chousest Offshore, Inc., Galliano, La.

Credit: Zee Evans, National Science Foundation


Photo of ice shelf and sea

The remains of the Larsen B ice shelf with the Bruce Plateau in the background.

Credit: Dave Tewksbury


Domack and crew

Eugene Domack of Hamilton College and members of the research team analyze the first Kasten core of the cruise. A Kasten core is a metal tube that is heavily weighted to penetrate the seafloor. This one collected just over 3.28 feet (one meter) of marine sediment. Many members of the crew were undergraduate students. Domack believes in involving his students in his research, and has taken more than 100 undergraduates to Antarctica since 1987.

Credit: Dave Tewksbury


Mooring Recovery

Members of the crew recover moorings that had been deployed in 2001 by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. The instruments measure and record the temperature and currents of water deep in the ocean.

Credit: Dave Tewksbury