Showing posts with label Research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Research. Show all posts

Video: Get a Whale's Eye View of Antarctica

As part of a research project to study and protect whales in the Southern Ocean, researchers have attached noninvasive cameras and sensors to some humpbacks. This has allowed them to track the animals and learn more about their habits. It has also allowed them to capture footage like that found in this short clip, which follows a whale as it zips through the water just off the coast of Antarctica. It is a unique and beautiful way to get a look at that part of the world as only a whale sees it.

Want to Take Part in A Groundbreaking Study on Kilimanjaro This Year?

Kilimanjaro is one of the most alluring challenges for outdoor enthusiasts and adventure travelers from around the globe. Each year, thousands flock to its slopes in an effort to reach its lofty summit – the highest in Africa at 5895 meters (19,341 ft). But, many of those climbers never make it to the top, and some even experience serious health issues along the way. There are even a surprisingly high number of deaths not he mountain each and every year, usually due to complications with altitude.

This year, a the University Hospital of Gießen and Marburg in Germany is conducting a study of how our bodies react to altitude in an effort to learn about how to threat this suffering from altitude sickness. To do that, researchers are looking for 25 people to participate in a study that will take place on Kilimanjaro this September. But, the study isn't looking for just your average trekker. Instead, they would like to find mountain bikers or mountain runners who are willing to join them on the mountain and consent to being tested throughout the climb.

The Kilimanjaro Summit Challenge will take place from September 24 through October 1, and will begin with a three-day training camp prior to the start of the climb. This will allow participants to acclimatize to the altitude and for the researchers to study how the altitude is impacting their bodies.

Rainer Braehler, who is organizing the event, tells adventure sports journalist Stefan Nestler "Up to now, pursing sport seriously on a mountain like Kilimanjaro was a dream limited to just a few elite athletes,but with this study, ambitious amateur athletes can now test their limits at very high altitudes – with the reassurance of full medical supervision.”

If you think you'd be interested in joining the study, you can find all of the information you need, including price, dates, and full agenda, and how to apply by clicking here. Not only will you be going on an adventure of a lifetime, you'll also be helping science find ways to help us be more efficient at altitude. 

An Antarctic Base is Being Relocated Because of Massive Crack

It seems we've been hearing a lot about the shifting ice sheets in the Antarctic lately. Last week we learned that climate change is causing those sheets to collapse into the sea, and a few days ago I posted a story about a 300-foot (91 meter) crack that was causing another ice shelf to begin its inevitable drop into the ocean as well. Now, we have yet another story of the ice breaking apart on the frozen continent, and this time it is threatening an actual research station that will now be relocated to avoid disaster.

Yesterday, the British Antarctic Survey announced that it was relocating its mobile Halley VI research station due to the possibility that the ice shelf it is resting on could break off and fall into the sea. If that were to happen, the station currently finds itself on the wrong side of the crack that is developing across East Antarctica, and it would end up floating off into the Southern Ocean along with the massive iceberg. To avoid this, the base – which was designed to be moveable – will be towed 23 km (14 miles) inland to a safer position.

The Halley VI has been in its current position since it was first constructed on the ice back in 2012. It rests on the Brunt Ice Shelf, where it has been conducting research on climate change, the ozone layer, and various other environmental projects over the past few years. One of the things that scientists have discovered is that a nearby crack in the ice – believed dormant for more than 35 years – has begun to widen, and the entire shelf could calve off into the ocean.

Now that the Antarctic summer has arrived, a team of engineers has traveled to the base to begin uncoupling its 8 different modules, and start the slow process of relocating the station. While they do that, scientists will continue to conduct research at is current site in temporary facilities before moving back into the Halley VI next year.

I had two take aways from this story. First, this seems like yet another sign of climate change having a dramatic impact of the Antarctic with the third story of massive chunks of ice potentially calving into the sea in less than a week. And secondly, I'm impressed at the foresight of the engineers who designed and built the station to be able to move it relatively easily. Yes, it is a massive undertaking to relocate the base, but in doing so they are saving millions of dollars and allowing important research there to continue. It is a pretty impressive feat of engineering to put this base together in such an extreme place, and to move it is no less impressive.

It appears that Antarctica is going through a dramatic shift right now, and there probably isn't a thing we can do to stop it.

New Study Finds Massive Collapse of Ice Sheets in Antarctica Almost Inevitable

A new scientific study published yesterday indicates that West Antarctica is going through some dramatic changes at the moment that include major collapses of the ice shelf found there. The study predicts that major shifts in the ice will occur in the years ahead, and it will have profound effects on the frozen continent, and the rest of the world as well.

Last year, a chunk of ice 225 square miles in size broke off from the Pine Island Glacier and slid into the ocean. At the time, researchers were at a loss to explain the phenomenon, but now believe they have discovered the root cause. A massive crack formed in the ice 20 miles (32 km) inland and deep beneath the surface. As the crack widened, the incredible weight of the ice gave way, causing it to collapse altogether and fall into the sea. It was unlike anything that anyone had ever seen in polar regions before. 

As we all know, Antarctica is covered in a massive ice field that is at much as 2555 meters (1.5 miles) thick in some points. That ice is held in place by large glaciers that ring much of the region. But now, those glaciers are in full retreat, particularly along the Amundsen Sea where the waters are warming, which is having an impact on the conditions there. If those glaciers continue to recede, and temperatures continue to go up, the Antarctic ice could melt and run into the sea, causing ocean levels to rise around the world. Worst of all, for many scientists this isn't a question of "if" but more like "when" it will happen. 

Researchers who studied the Pine Island incident say that the collapse of the ice shelf there isn't a new thing, and that it happens ever few years. What has them worried however is that the calving of the glacier started so far inland and so deep beneath he surface. They haven't seen that happen before, and it is an indication of what may be happening across the entire continent. 

The brief explanation for this unprecedented event is that melting due to rising temperatures is now occurring where the underlying bedrock meets the ice. And unfortunately Pine Island isn't the only place where this has been observed, as NASA also spotted similar activity in another part of Antarctica last month. If this becomes a common occurrence as it appears that it could, we are likely to see a dramatic loss of ice across the entire region. Worse yet, the results of the study indicate that it is taking place very quickly. Far more quickly than anyone had anticipated. 

This is just another example of how climate change – man-made or otherwise – is reshaping our planet. It is tough to deny that these things are happening, and while we have taken strides to help limit our impact on these conditions, it may be far too little and far too late. 

Video: The Harsh Conditions of the Antarctic

Ever wondered what it is like to live and work at the bottom of the world? If so, this short video will give you a few clues. In it, Tom Arnold – a field trainer for the Antarctic – tells us what it is like to conduct research and explore the seventh continent. It is one of the harshest environments on the planet, but it is also an incredibly beautiful and untouched place. You'll get a glimpse of that, and more, in this two minute clip.

Video: Expedition to the Valley of the Dinosaurs

The Badlands of North Dakota are the site for this video, which takes us on a dinosaur hunting expedition with Tyler Lyson, a man who seems to have a knack for finding fossils hidden in the Earth. In this short documentary, Tyler is attempting to recover a rare, intact skull from a triceratops with the help of a group of amateur fossil hunters that he has invited along for the ride. While working on that discovery, he comes across another one that is equally astounding. Enjoy.

Valley of the Last Dinosaurs from MEL Films on Vimeo.

Antarctica 2016: Italian to Attempt Traverse of the Frozen Continent Again, Researcher Dies in the Field

Preparation for the start of the 2016-2017 Antarctic season is now underway, with the advance team from ALE now arriving on the ice to prepare the permanent campsite at Patriot Hills for the arrival of the first skiers of the season. It will take them a few days to get the camp ready, and they'll spend a considerable amount of time preparing the runway that will allow the big Ilyushin aircraft to begin transporting supplies, crew, and explorers out to site. That typically begins around the end of October, although the weather ultimately decides when those flights out of Punta Arenas, Chile actually begin.

Elsewhere, the McMurdo Station on the Ross Iceshelf has started to return to life. The station is an important research outlet for the U.S., and during the Antarctic winter it is manned by just a skeleton crew. Now, essential personnel are arriving there to prepare for another busy season ahead as a full compliment of scientists, researchers, and military crew have started to flow in.

Similarly, the Russian base called Novolazarevskaya is also starting to come to life with its crew scheduled to begin arriving later this week. That station is manned and supplied out of Cape Town, South Africa, with the first flight planned for Friday, weather permitting of course. If all goes as planned, one of the passengers on that flight will be Italian kite-skier Michele Pontrandolfo, who will once again attempt to traverse the continent via the South Pole.

Last year, Pontrandolfo made the same attempt, hoping to use his kite to cover large chunks of ground at a rapid pace. Unfortunately, he never was able to capture the winds like he had expected, so as a result his expedition was much slower than planned. He never managed to get much momentum going, and eventually had to pull the plug. Now, he's back for another go. Hopefully this season he'll have better luck. We'll of course be following his progress in the days ahead.

There is some sad news coming our way from the Antarctic today as well. ExWeb is reporting that an Antarctic researcher has died in the field while collecting scientific data. Gordon Hamilton, who was on the frozen continent as part of a climate research team from the University of Maine, was killed when the vehicle he was driving fell into a crevasse. The accident occurred this past Saturday as Hamilton and his teammates were exploring an area known as the "Shear Zone" not far from McMurdo Station. According to the report, that region is known for being heavily crevassed, with ice that is as much as 650 feet (198 meters) thick at some points.

Hamilton's body was recovered from the crevasse and is being prepared to be taken back home to his family in Maine. My condolences go out to his friends and family after this tragic accident.

That's all for today. As we get closer to the start of the season, we'll have more updates. Most of the South Pole skiers are now preparing to depart for Punta Arenas, and head to Antarctica, which will soon be a very busy place once again.

Researchers Discover Two Hidden Chambers Inside Egypt's Great Pyramid

It seems the discoveries just keep coming in Egypt, a civilization thousands of years old with plenty of monuments to prove it. Researchers in Cairo now say that they have discovered "cavities" inside one of the most well known and iconic structures on Earth – the Great Pyramid itself.

The discovery was made using imaging technology called muography. This technique uses special equipment to analyze radioactive particles known as muons. Analysts can detect where the particles are most dense or least dense to help create an image of the interior of spaces. In this way, it works much like ground penetrating radar, providing a map of the interior of the pyramid itself. 

According to reports, the team conducting the study says that they are "now able to confirm the existence of a ‘void’ hidden behind the North Face, that could have the form of at least one corridor going inside the Great Pyramid.” The team added that “The precise shape, size, and exact position of this void is now under further investigation. It should be done with the help of 12 new Muon Emulsion plates that are installed in the descending corridor, and will be collected by the end of October 2016.”

The same researchers say that they have also located a second "void" in the structure that is located behind the descending corridor inside the pyramid as well. This corridor is the one that leads directly down into the structure to the tomb of the pharaoh Khufu, who had the pyramid constructed as his burial chamber some 4500 years ago. 

What does all of this mean? We'll just have to wait for further information to know for sure, but it could confirm the existence of hidden chambers inside the Great Pyramid. What those chambers could contain would be open to speculation of course, but anyone who has ever been inside these structures can tell you that they are unimpressive other than from an architectural/construction sense. Unlike the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Queens, the walls are not covered in hieroglyphs or painted in ornamental styles. Instead, they are bare, smooth, and colorless. The corridor and chambers are relatively small, and even a bit claustrophobic. But, it is possible that important items for Khufu were stashed in these spaces to prevent them from being looted by thieves.

Of course, it is also hard to get too excited about these "discoveries" considering the hype that was made last year about possibly finding the tomb of Nefertiti hidden inside that of the boy-king Tut. Those claims later seemed to have been proved false, although archaeologists continue to research the findings. Will this be a similar story? If these chambers inside the Pyramid are real, will they hold anything of value? Or are they just part of how the structure was made? It will likely be months before we know for sure, but it is definitely intriguing to think about. 

Polar Bears Trap Russian Research Team Inside Arctic Base

Think your job is rough? Consider the challenges that a team of five Russian scientists have been facing as they conduct weather research on the remote island of Troynoy in the Arctic Ocean. According to a report from TASS the group had become trapped inside its meteorological observation center by a group of ten polar bears who have taken up residence just outside the base.

Normally, in order to keep the bears at bay, the scientists use flares and have dogs at the base to scare off the animals. But, the team had run out of flares, and according to Mashable the bears even killed one of the dogs. Because of this aggressive nature, the researchers have had to abandon some of their projects, and had been instructed to only leave the base when absolutely necessary.

It was originally reported that it would take weeks to deliver new flares and dogs to the station, but apparently relief came earlier today when a passing research vessel made a detour to lend a hand. The ship resupplied the team with flares, which were used immediately to scare off the bears. The next resupply ship wasn't scheduled to arrive for another month, but this should help buy the team some time.

Apparently, the bears gather near the base to wait for the Arctic Ocean to freeze. That typically occurs in late October or early November, at which time they'll depart the area and head north. Considering the current state of the arctic sea ice, it may take longer than usual before the bears begin their migration, and it is possible that they'll return to that location again in the days ahead.

In the past only about 4-6 bears have spent their summers on Troynoy, but apparently this year there are at least 10, including some large female with small cubs as well. One of the females has even been spending her nights just below one of the windows of the weather station, making it even more difficult for the team to sneak outside to record readings for their research.

Hopefully there will be some relief for these scientists soon. While watching polar bears up close sounds like an amazing experience, being locked inside and unable to go out doesn't seem like a lot of fun.

Scientists Discover Massive Canyon in Antarctica

It is fascinating to me how much we are still learning about our own planet. It seems that despite the fact that we are sending space probes and rovers to other Mars, Pluto, Jupiter, comets, and other celestial bodies, we continue to discover new things right here at home. Case in point. Last week it was revealed that a team of researchers have discovered a massive canyon under the ice in Antarctica. It's so big in fact that it could dwarf even the Grand Canyon itself.

The canyon was discovered using satellite imagery and ground penetrating radar that was pulled along behind snowmobiles and small aircraft. This giant gorge is located in the western region of the Antarctic near the Ellsworth Subglacial Highlands. It is said to be buried under several miles of ice, but its dimensions are staggering to say the least.

According to preliminary estimates, the canyon is believed to be 3 km (1.9 miles) deep, and more than 25 km (15.5 miles) across. It is also believed to run more than 1000 km (621 miles) in length, and even more amazingly it reaches 2000 meters (6500 feet) below sea level at certain points. In comparison, the Grand Canyon 1.8 km (1.13 miles) deep and stretches for 433 km (277 miles) in length.

The scientists studying the Ellsworth region aren't sure how old the canyon is exactly, although they do know that Antarctica has been covered in ice for at least 34 million years. Over that time, the glaciers that cover the area have shifted dramatically, ranging in thickness while shaping the surface found underneath them. Because of its immense size, it is believed that it was ice – not an ancient river – that carved this massive gorge.

Unlike the Grand Canyon, it is unlikely that humans will ever see this natural monument. Because it is covered in snow and ice, it would take millions of more years – not to mention dramatic shifts in climate – for it to ever reveal itself. Still, it is fascinating to know that this place exists, and it makes you wonder what else is still out there, hidden under the ice.

Video: Searching for Meteorites in Antarctica

We follow the Antarctic exploration season pretty closely here at The Adventure Blog, watching as adventurers ski to the South Pole or climb Mt. Vinson in particular. But, there are a lot of other things happening on the frozen continent each year, including some important research projects. Case in point, int his video from the Los Alamos National Lab, we learn about an expedition to the Antarctic that is going in search of meteorites. The frozen landscape of region makes it much easier to locate these chunks of rock from space, allowing scientists to study materials from other parts of our solar system.

This clip is the first in a new series of vides from the Lab which will present a science lesson in just 60 seconds. It should be interesting to see what else they have for us in future episodes.

Body of Missing Arctic Explorer Recovered

Last week I shared the sad story of Dutch Explorers Marc Cornelissen and Philip de Roo who had gone missing while conducting research in the Arctic. At the time, it was uncertain what had happened to the two men, although it was speculated that they may have fallen through the ice and drowned. Now, the body of one of the men has been recovered, providing some clues as to what might have happened.

According to ExWeb, a team of Royal Canadian Mounted Police conducted a dangerous recovery mission above the Arctic Circle in an effort to retrieve the body. It was later identified as being Cornelissen, and the cause of death was determined to be "drowned by hypothermia." The body was found at the location where the explorers had set off an emergency beacon on April 29, but by the team rescue squads could get to that position a few days later they found only two sleds – one floating in the water – and a highly trained support dog that had been brought along on the expedition.

The dog was later rescued from the ice and returned home, and further investigation revealed the body of Cornelissen in the water. There was no sign of de Roo however, and it is believed that he suffered the same fate as his companion.

This latest news is sad of course, but it may bring a sense of closure for the two explorers' friends and family. ExWeb says that Cornelissen's body has been received by the Dutch embassy in Canada, and it is being transported home to the Netherlands soon.

This story underscores my feelings that the Arctic is an incredibly difficult place to travel, and remains one of the most dangerous environments on the planet. It is because of these challenges that we will see fewer people attempting to explore the Arctic in the near future. It is simply too hazardous to venture into that wilderness, and thanks to ongoing climate change, it is probably only going to get worse in the years ahead.

Two Norwegian Scientists Exploring the Arctic Ocean via Hovercraft

Two Norwegian scientists are on the expedition of a lifetime in the Arctic Ocean. The two men – 73-year old Yngve Kristoffersen and his partner Audun Tholfsen – have been exploring the mostly-unknown region of the world between Canada and Greenland aboard a hovercraft since last August, braving extreme cold, inhospitable weather, and months without sunlight for their research.

The 18-month long project has a number of goals, not the least of which is mapping a massive deep-sea ridge that runs from Ellesmere Island all the way to the North Pole. But they are also searching for a large meteorite that is believed to have crashed into the ice millions of years ago, as well as conducting research into what the Arctic was like back then, when the water was much warmer, and unique species of sea turtles and crocodiles lived there.

The two men have been living in a small hovercraft for the past four months, using it not only as their means of transportation, but also as a mobile research lab. The hovercraft is a vehicle that is well suited for travel in the Arctic, where the ice can get so thick at times that only specially equipped ice breakers are capable of breaking through. Riding on a cushion of air generated by two large turbines, their sturdy craft glides along above the ice however, rarely encountering any surface conditions hat it can't maneuver over or around.

The scientists will often park the hovercraft on an ice flow and stay stationary for days while they take samples of the ice and record atmospheric conditions. At other times, they're on the move, off to another location to explore a new area of the Arctic. As they go, they have witnessed the way the ice moves, breaks apart, and shifts, giving them a rare glimpse of the powerful forces that are at work at the top of the world. During their time exploring this part of the world, they have discovered indications of a tectonic fault line in the region and spotted a strange new species of fish that resembles an eel living in the cold mud of the sea floor. They have even stumbled across a Russian submarine patrolling the Arctic as well.

In a few months, Tholfsen will be airlifted home and replaced with another scientist, but Kristofferson will stay for the entirety of the expedition. You can follow their ambitious mission at the expedition's official website, which has more information about their goals, and regular updates on the team's progress as well.

Has the Mystery of Amelia Earhart's Disappearance Been Solved?

The disappearance of Amelia Earhart somewhere over the Pacific Ocean back in 1937 created one of the most compelling and enduring mysteries of the 20th century. The pioneering aviator, along with her navigator Fred Noonan, were attempting to fly around the world at the equator when they vanished while searching for a fuel stop on Howland Island. What became of them has been open to speculation for more than 77 years. Now, with the help of a piece of scrap metal, researchers believe they have solved that mystery at last.

Yesterday, The International Group of Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) reported that they had successfully linked a piece of scrap metal discovered on the island of Nikumaroro with Earhart's plane. The piece of metal in question is 19 inches wide (48.2 cm) and 23 inches (58.4 cm) long, and was installed on her aircraft on a layover in Miami. It was part of a modification to the Lockheed Electra aircraft that would have allowed the pilot to be able to look out her window more easily so that she could navigate by the stars at night.

According to the TIGHAR report, the piece of metal was originally found on Nikumaroro, an island in the Republic of Kiribati, back in 1991. Researchers claim that by studying the part, they have determined that it not only matches the size and shape of the one added to Earhart's plane, but it made up of the same type of metal, fits consistently with shape of the Electra, and has the same unique rivet pattern as the infield modification. Those variables virtually ensure that it is a part from the missing aircraft.

Historians know that Earhart and Noonan were running low on fuel when they were approaching Howland Island. Somehow, they got off course and could not find the airstrip, but instead were forced to put down on Nikumaroro, which is about 350 miles from their intended destination. It is widely believed that they not only survived the landing, but existed on the island for a time, most likely eventually dying from dehydration. Nikumaroro has very little fresh water, and is said to be a harsh environment with extreme heat, little shelter, and not much to eat.

Examinations of radio records also show that Earhart most likely used the radio on her Electra to try to call for help, but the signals were ignored or not properly heard at all. The aircraft was most likely pulled out to sea by rising tides, which not only hid it from future search teams, but also removed the only resource that Earhart and Noonan would have had at their disposal. TIGHAR researchers believe that the plane is still there, on the west end of the island somewhere.

A few years after she crashed, a British colony was established on Nikumaroro, and existed there into the 1960's before it was abandoned due to a lack of resources. During that time, colonists discovered human bones on the island, which some now believe may have belong to Earhart or Noonan. The box of a sextant was also found there, and it was consistent with one that Noonan would have used for navigating as well. Over the years, these clues have disappeared however, so it is unlikely that they can be used to further establish a link to the final resting place of the aviator and her navigator.

TIGHAR researchers are hoping to return to Nikumaroro in the future, and search for more clues to the mystery. The group is currently seeking funding to mount another expedition, even though they have visited the island on multiple occasions in the past. Until they discover the Electra itself, there will likely always be some speculation as to the ultimate fate of Earhart. But this latest clue seems to give us the most likely ending to her historic flight.

Video: Adventure For A Purpose in the Himalaya

When professional snowboarder Jeremy Jones traveled to the Himalaya last year, he not only wanted to have a great adventure, he wanted to do something good as well. He teamed up with Gregg Treinish from Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, an organization that seeks to pair adventurers and explorers in the field, with scientists who need help collecting data. In Jeremy's case, that meant putting him in contact with researchers studying the retreat of glaciers across the globe. So, while he was in Nepal snowboarding, he also collected samples of snow and ice from the mountains that could provide crucial data to those researchers. The video below describes the project,  and provides some great footage of Jeremy in the Himalaya. It is an excellent story, and a good example of how we can use adventure for a purpose.

Antarctic Research Station Power Failure Leaves Crew In Desperate Conditions

One of the big stories that broke while I was away at Outdoor Retailer was the complete power loss at the Halley Research Station in Antarctica. The remote base suffered a failure of its generators back on July 30, although the story wasn't revealed until last week. The loss of power shutdown all electricity and heat, leaving the base in dire straits in the middle of winter. The skeleton crew of 13 researchers that live there during the offseason were then forced to scramble to find alternate ways to stay warm, while repairs to the generator could be conducted. The blackout couldn't have come at a worse time however, as temperatures plunged to a record low of -55ºC/-67ºF.

In order to focus on the task at hand, which included finding ways to restore power, and stay warm in the isolated base, all experiments at the station were shut down, and the crew was forced to evacuate to parts of the station that had been shuttered for the winter months. Since then, they have been sleeping on the floor of a garage, while they look for ways to get the Halley back up to full capacity. So far, they haven't had much luck in that department, although they have managed restore partial power and heat.

As if the struggle to stay warm wasn't enough of a challenge, storms have been frequent throughout the area surrounding the base in recent days, which has helped to keep temperatures, and the spirits of the crew, low. The sun did finally poke its way through the cloud cover however, and while it doesn't have much of a warming effect this time of year, it has at least helped to cheer the men and women stationed at the base.

It is unclear at this point whether or not full power can be restored without more staff and equipment. Considering how dangerous the winters in Antarctica are, that means that help may not arrive until October or November of this year. It doesn't seem that the Halley team is in any danger at the moment, although they aren't exactly comfortable either. The base, which has monitored atmosphere conditions above Antarctica since the 1950's, is only conducting the most basic of research at the moment, as all reserve power goes to keeping the crew as warm as possible.

The failure of the electrical system stemmed from a large coolant leak in the station's main heating system. That in turn led to the power generators overheating, which led to a complete failure of the system. The team has managed to keep things operating by not putting too much stress on the generators, even at the expense of their own comfort. We are assured that the crew is safe however, and that all efforts are being made to ensure that they stay that way.

Resupply operations aren't scheduled to take place until the start of the austral summer. Hopefully there won't be any further issues until then, at the Halley Research Station crew can maintain the base until help can arrive in a few months.