The uniqueness of the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition is demonstrated in the huge variety and nature of the data collected. Simultaneously collecting data and samples from a circumnavigation of Antarctica over a period of 90 days in the southern summer of 2016/17 will hopefully give us a holistic view of the Southern Ocean and aid with our understanding of this region.
Over 20 terabytes (TB) of data were collected during the expedition. This is not a volume to be underestimated: it is approximately equivalent to the amount of data held on 4,500 DVDs, or enough music to listen to for 40 years! We are expecting to produce around 100 TB of data by the time we have fully processed and analysed the data.
You might wonder, “what kind of data were collected?”. Well, as you can read about on the science pages, scientists on board were studying everything from the ocean, to the atmosphere, to what could be found on islands, therefore there was an enormous diversity in the data collection as well. Some data were collected by automated instruments, measuring properties of the atmosphere and sea water continuously. Other instruments were used to collect data at certain locations or when conditions were just right. Over 160 different instruments were used during the expedition.
In addition to data, scientists collected over 27,000 samples. A large proportion of these were water samples, from both the surface of the ocean, but also regularly down to a depth of 1,000 m. These are being studied to understand the chemical and physical properties of the water, but are being carefully studied under microscopes to find microscopic creatures and even small pieces of plastic. Air samples and snowflakes were also collected whilst at sea. On the islands, samples of ice, snow, soil, rocks, plants and invertebrates were collected to further our understanding of these remote and rarely-visited locations. Scientists are now working hard to process these samples around the world and turn them into data.
We are now working to make the data secure for the future and available to all, so that other scientists and the general public are able to explore it and utilise it to its full extent. We are also working with data scientists at the newly-formed Swiss Data Science Center to explore possible interactions between data sets that we hadn’t previously considered. This work will hopefully answer some questions about the interface between the sea and the atmosphere and may lead to further questions to be answered in the future.
Some interesting data about ACE
The following are great circle distances of how far the ship travelled on each leg of the expedition:
leg 1: 12055 km
leg 2: 12402 km
leg 3: 9006 km
Total circumnavigation: 33463 km
**Most southerly point**
-74 degrees south (at lat = -74.00, lon = -127.47)
-12 degrees C on 29th January 2017 (Mertz polynya area), although at times it felt colder with the wind chill!
171 people participated in the expedition and were on board the Akademik Tryoshnikov at some stage during the expedition (not including the crew).
147 of those formed the science party and support team.
21 countries were represented among the science and support team.
Images by J. Thomas