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Science Ticker

Science Ticker

Critter-finding mission to Antarctica’s Larsen C iceberg scrapped

Too much ice prevented the research vessel from reaching the calving site

Antarctic ice

PACKED ICE  Floating ice — 4- or 5-meters-thick in some places — choking the Weddell Sea ended a British Antarctic Survey research vessel’s mission to the Larsen C ice shelf in February. The mission planned to explore seafloor life newly exposed after a giant iceberg split off from the shelf last July.

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Thick sea ice has thwarted researchers’ plans to explore what creatures lived beneath an Antarctic ice shelf. A mission to study seafloor life suddenly exposed by the breaking away of the Larsen C iceberg last July was delayed as it tried to navigate through floating ice, some chunks as thick as 5 meters. With 400 kilometers still to go, the captain of the vessel, the RRS James Clark Ross, canceled the mission February 28.

"It was nature [that] defeated us," said principal investigator and marine biologist Katrin Linse of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge in a video released by BAS March 2. “We knew this mission was high risk and high reward.”

Not all is lost, though. The vessel is now heading to the nearby Larsen A ice shelf, where an iceberg broke away in 1995. There, researchers will study a never-explored deep-sea seafloor ecosystem 1,000 meters beneath the ocean’s surface.

Linse will have another opportunity to visit Larsen C, however. She’ll join a 2019 expedition led by the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany.

New target

Researchers were headed to iceberg A68, which split off from the Larsen C ice shelf last July. But some 400 kilometers from their destination, ice forced the researchers to change course. They are now heading through relatively ice-free waters to the Larsen A ice shelf, where a giant iceberg broke off in 1995. No biological expedition has examined the seafloor since the break, said marine biologist Katrin Linse in a news release March 2. “We’re excited about what deep-sea creatures we might find.”


Penguin supercolony discovered in Antarctica

By Katy Daigle 6:26pm, March 2, 2018
Scientists have found a penguin supercolony living on tiny, remote Antarctic islands.
Astronomy,, Materials

Watch an experimental space shield shred a speeding bullet

By Lisa Grossman 3:45pm, February 27, 2018
Engineers tested how well a prototype shield for spacecraft would stand up to space debris by shooting it with a solid aluminum pellet.
Conservation,, Animals,, Pollution

Shipping noise can disturb porpoises and disrupt their mealtime

By Dan Garisto 7:05pm, February 13, 2018
Noise from ships may disturb harbor porpoises enough to keep them from getting the food they need.
Animals,, Health

Even after bedbugs are eradicated, their waste lingers

By Laurel Hamers 6:30pm, February 12, 2018
Bedbug waste contains high levels of the allergy-triggering chemical histamine, which stays behind even after the insects are eradicated.

SpaceX just launched its biggest rocket for the first time

By Lisa Grossman 4:09pm, February 6, 2018
SpaceX just launched the Falcon Heavy — the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V — for the first time.
Biomedicine,, Animals

Here’s the key ingredient that lets a centipede’s bite take down prey

By Susan Milius 5:25pm, January 22, 2018
A newly identified “spooky toxin” launches a broad attack but might be eased with a version of a known drug.
Biophysics,, Technology

A robotic arm made of DNA moves at dizzying speed

By Maria Temming 2:00pm, January 18, 2018
A DNA machine with a high-speed arm could pave the way for nanoscale factories.

See a 360-degree visualization of the center of the Milky Way

By Emily Conover 6:00am, January 12, 2018
A 360-degree simulation, made with data from several telescopes, shows the center of the Milky Way as seen from the galaxy’s supermassive black hole.

The largest known prime number has 23 million-plus digits

By Laurel Hamers 7:00am, January 5, 2018
A newly found prime number smashes the previous record for largest prime.
Planetary Science,, Earth

NASA is headed to Earth’s outermost edge

By Carolyn Gramling 6:03pm, January 4, 2018
NASA’s upcoming GOLD mission will study the charged border between Earth and space.
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