The Russian research vessel, the Akademik Tryoshnikov, arrived in Cape Town on Monday. (Wikipedia)
About 150 international researchers have arrived in Cape Town, following a three-month-long expedition to Antarctica to study climate change. Chief scientist David Walton says the journey combined 22 projects where land, atmospheric and ocean research were undertaken.
The scientists say the Antarctic region influences weather conditions and how oceans circulate around the world. The research project covers fields such oceanography, climatology and biology. Travelling on the Russian research vessel, the Akademik Tryoshnikov, 150 scientists from all over the world are looking for a breakthrough in understanding climate change in one of the most pristine regions on earth.
Chief Scientist from the British Antarctica Survey, David Walton, says they brought back about 20 000 samples from Antarctica. “We explored new frontiers, we went out to the continent, we went out to the islands and we managed in the face of the very difficult weather and new places where people have never been. We found micro plastics in places where there should never have been plastics, we found more whales than we possibly thought would exist down there and we saw many more birds in places that have never been visited before.”
UCT's Dr Peter Ryan studied the impact of microplastic pollution on the Southern Ocean. While the analysis of the data will still continue, he says preliminary findings are shocking. “We duly went in front of the ship while it was moving and we threw the bucket over and we filtered it. To my shock and horror, instead of being clean, it has loads of fibre, it just flipped everything. Instead of seeing this pristine ocean, I saw this environment full of bits of fibre from people's clothing. So we continued this sampling and everywhere we went we found this piece of clothing; it is really surprising.”
The scientists say the data will be made public on the internet for other researchers who were not part of the Swiss Polar Institute's team. Research results are expected in about two years' time.