Image of Professor Julian Dowdeswell

Iceshelves and Endurance

A planned scientific expedition to the Antarctic to vist and study the Larsen C Ice Shelf - and explore the area where Endurance, Sir Ernest Shackleton's ship was last seen - will be led by College Fellow Professor Julian Dowdeswell next year.

Professor Dowdeswell, Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute and Brian Buckley Fellow in Polar Science at Jesus College, will lead the international Weddell Sea Expedition 2019 next spring. It will bring together leading resarcher from the Institute as well as the Nekton Foundation, the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, the University of Cape Town and the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, Professor Dowdeswell explained that the expedition will survey the underside of the iceshelf using underwater submersibles, to ascertain whether conditions leading to the calving of an enormous iceberg from Larsen C in 2017 means that the shelf may collapse: "Iceshelves butress the interior of the Antarctic icesheet, they effectively act to hold back the ice that flows from the interior of the Antarctic to the edge. They are in some senses vulnerable because not only can they lose mass by the production of icebergs at their edge but also because they're floating, beneath they have ocean water flowing in and that ocean water can lead to meltrates at the base of a number of metres per year and this is what's been happening to some areas of Antarctica."

Listen again to Professor Dowdeswell speaking on Today (available until 9 May) from 1:44 onwards. Further coverage also features on BBC News, Telegraph and Independent websites.