Ross Sea Voyage 2024 RV Laura Bassi travels along the Ross Ice Shelf January 2024 Photo by Lana Young

Ross Sea Voyage 2024

The Antarctic Science Platform is collaborating with the Italian Antarctic Research Programme on a voyage to the Ross Sea in Antarctica. In January 2024, twelve members of the New Zealand team will join Italian colleagues on the RV Laura Bassi for a two-month voyage of discovery.

Voyage track

Our team will spend two months at sea, witnessing sea-ice retreat firsthand.

The planned voyage track is anti-clockwise around the Ross Sea.

The RV Laura Bassi departed from the Port of Lyttelton, New Zealand, on 6 January. It entered the Ross Sea at the western side a week later, working along the Victoria Land Coast and in Terra Nova Bay.

The ship called in at the Italian Antarctic research station, Mario Zuchelli, to collect scientists who had flown in from McMurdo Station/Scott Base.

The vessel is then transiting along the front of the Ross Ice Shelf, then north and west along the continental shelf break.

Our team aims to arrive in Lyttelton on about 3 March.

You can follow the RV Laura Bassi's 39th PNRA Antarctic Campaign in real-time on ship operator OGC's web site

The track of the Laura Bassi in Antarctica 29 February 2024 Position data kindly provided by Starboard Maritime Intelligence Starboard nz

The track of the Laura Bassi in Antarctica, position data kindly provided by Starboard Maritime Intelligence, The Ross Sea region Marina Protected Area (MPA) is outlined in blue.

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RV Laura Bassi. Photo: Lana Young

Voyage Science

The New Zealand science plan has three key objectives.

Ross Sea Polynya

Polynya are sea ice production factories. They are (i) difficult places to make measurements and (ii) poorly represented in climate models – and knowledge of them is critical at a time of rapidly declining sea ice. Our goal for the voyage is to deploy state of the art sensors designed to operate and gather information over a range of spatial and temporal scales, to develop new knowledge of Antarctica’s most productive polynya – the Ross Sea Polynya.

Ross Sea region Marine Protected Area (MPA)

We will use a range of current research tools, including isotopic analysis, gene-scaping, eDNA, acoustics, gathering of key environmental measurements, and deployment of ROVs and ocean gliders, to study Ross Sea pelagic and benthic (coastal) ecosystems. This data will be used, along with existing and future research, to establish a baseline of the Ross Sea region MPA ecosystem function and coastal biodiversity to determine how vulnerable this ecosystem is to the future changes anticipated for this region.

Seabed coring

An important aspect of Platform research is to use sediment records to better understand how the Ross Sea responded to historic climatic conditions. Knowing how sea ice was distributed, and how that impacted on primary production at times when the climate was naturally warmer can inform predictions of how things will respond when such conditions return. To support this research, we aim to collect and analyse shallow cores along the front of the Ross Ice Shelf, areas that we have seldom visited, to enhance existing transfer functions.

Ross Sea Voyage 2024 Craig Stevenson and Liv preparing acoustic releases for mooring Photo credit Lana Young

Preparing acoustic releases for a mooring. Photo: Lana Young

Growing Antarctic careers

We are creating inter-generational knowledge in real time.

The New Zealand-Italy research voyage provides an opportunity for Early Career Researchers (ECR) and postgraduate students. The New Zealand contingent includes five ECRs and four PhD students.

MAC3 Impact Philanthropies have provided funding to facilitate New Zealand and Italian ECRs with a passion for Antarctica to use the 2024 Ross Sea Voyage to grow their Antarctic research careers. The recipients will put this support, after the voyage is completed, towards expenses for research time, for undertaking additional lab analyses, producing high quality publications, media engagement and conference travel.

The joint voyage provides an exciting opportunity to build a cohort of Antarctic ECRs.

Ross Sea Voyage 2024 MAC3 flag Photo credit unknown

A world-wide collaboration

The following organisations are providing funding, personnel or equipment for the voyage:

Antarctica New Zealand

Antarctic Science Platform

British Antarctic Survey

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica Sperimentale (OGS)

MAC3 Impact Philanthropies

Monash University

National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Sciences (NIWA)

Programma Nazionale di Ricerche in Antartide (PNRA)

Te Herenga Waka - Victoria University of Wellington

University of Otago | Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo

University of Waikato | Te Whare Wananga o Waikato

Meet the team

Craig Stevens (NIWA) – Voyage Leader, Ross Sea Polynya

Jasmin McInerney (NIWA) - Ross Sea Polynya

Craig Stewart (NIWA) - Ross Sea Polynya

Liv Cornelissen (University of Auckland / NIWA) - Ross Sea Polynya

Christina Riesselman (University of Otago) – Seabed coring

Meghan Duffy (University of Otago) – Seabed coring

Luisa Fontanot (University of Otago) – Seabed coring

Svenja Halfter (NIWA) – Marine ecology: zooplankton

Georgia Pollard (University of Waikato) – Marine ecology: zooplankton

Alina Madita Wieczorek (NIWA) – Marine ecology: acoustics

Gert-Jan Jeunen (University of Otago) – Marine ecology: DNA/benthos

Matthias Dehling (Monash University) – Marine ecology: seabirds

Lana Young (NIWA) – Videographer & Science Communicator

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Back row. (left to right) Gianluca Colorito, Pasquale Castagno, Paola Rivaro, Giovanni Zambardino, Alessio Andreani, Craig Stevens, Giuseppe Asaro, Gianpaolo Visnovic, Giacomo Prato, Alessandro Bubbi, Massimiliano Esposito, Filippo Azzaro, Andrea Cova, Arturo De Alteris, Simone di Palma, Fabrizio Zgur, Francisco Ardini, Stefano Kuchler, Pierpaolo Falco, Svenja Halfter, Mathias Dehling, Ciro Rappazzo, Davide Siciliano, Giovanni Valastro.

Middle row. (left to right) Angela Garzia, Emilio Femiano, Cecilia Balestra, Benedetta Beltramelli, Roberto Romeo, Daniela Accettella, Alina Wieczorek, Liv Cornelissen, Luisa Fontanot, Naomi Krauzig, Meghan Duffy, Salvatore Napoli, Antonio Sposito, Antonio Sannino, Claudio Ingalisi, Salvatore Marino, Luigi Verde, Francesco Bellettini, Franco Sedmak, Diego De Nardi

Front row (kneeling) Lana Young, Jasmin McInerney, Georgia Pollard, Craig Stewart, Nancy Lucà, Massimo De Stefano, Mauro Celussi, Giuseppe Balsamo. Photo: Lana Young.