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Antarctica Concordia 13 winterers 20th winter campaign (@PNRA)

Antarctica: Winter mission to study climate, biomedicine and astronomy kicks off

The PNRA's 20th winter campaign kicks off at the Italian-French Concordia base, while at Terra Nova Bay the Mario Zucchelli station, where the 39th summer campaign took place -which will continue until the beginning of March on the icebreaker Laura Bassi- closes. The data collected during the summer campaign will be processed and analyzed in the laboratories of various Italian research institutions and universities.

The 20th winter campaign of the National Antarctic Research Program (PNRA), funded by the Ministry of University and Research (MUR) managed by ENEA for logistic planning and organization, by the National Research Council (Cnr) for scientific planning and coordination and by the National Institute of Oceanography and Experimental Geophysics - OGS for technical and scientific management of its research vessel Laura Bassi, has just begun at the Italian-French Concordia base on the Antarctic plateau, at over 3,000 meters above sea level and 1,200 kilometers from the coast.

A selected team of 13 'winterers' -6 from the PNRA, 6 from the French Paul Emile Polar Institute Victor (IPEV) and 1 physician from the European Space Agency (ESA), will spend nine months in Concordia in complete isolation due to the temperature, which during the southern winter can reach -80 degrees. The team will conduct activities as part of the 29 Italian-French projects, on climatology, glaciology, atmospheric physics and chemistry and biomedicine, also carrying out maintenance at the station.

While the winter season opens in Concordia, the Mario Zucchelli coastal station closes in Baia Terra Nova and will reopen next October with the arrival of the new summer expedition crew. The 39th summer campaign involved, among the Mario Zucchelli and Concordia bases and the vessel Laura Bassi, 130 researchers and technicians, engaged in 31 research projects on atmospheric sciences, geology, paleoclimate, biology, oceanography and astronomy. The data collected will be processed and analyzed in the laboratories of various research institutions and Italian universities. The expedition was also supported by the Armed Forces who participated with 16 military experts from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Carabinieri, committed to supporting the researchers in the field. The activities of the 39th summer campaign will continue until March on the Laura Bassi, which is carrying out three research projects in the Ross Sea on the physical and biogeochemical dynamics of specific Antarctic areas.

The end of the summer expedition at the bases also coincides with the conclusion of the 3rd drilling campaign of the international Beyond EPICA-Oldest Ice project, coordinated by the Institute of Polar Sciences of the CNR in which the Ca' Foscari University and ENEA, which manages logistics together with the IPEV, also participate for Italy. The project aims to analyse an ice core extracted from a depth of 2.7 km to enable the reconstruction of the world’s climate history, going back in time by 1.5 million years to discover information on temperature and on the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

At the end of this drilling season the team reached a depth of 1836.18 metres, while 1367 meters of ice cores were processed and sent to the Mario Zucchelli Station to reach Europe.

 “During this 39th summer campaign we have witnessed 31 research projects from which we expect to collect important scientific data in the fields of atmospheric sciences, geology, paleoclimatology, biology, oceanography and astronomy”, said Carlo Barbante, director of the Institute of Polar Sciences of the Cnr. “We will continue to receive data from the automatic acquisition systems, the permanent observatories and the Laura Bassi vessel, which will only leave the Antarctic area at the beginning of March. An important effort that has shown how the coordinated work of universities and research bodies, supported by logistics, can do science at the highest level".

 “This year too, all the planned objectives were achieved, thanks to the technical and scientific staff in Antarctica, and also thanks to the contribution of those who worked from Italy, planning the activities and guaranteeing all the necessary supplies”, pointed out Elena Campana, head of the ENEA Technical Unit for Antarctica.

Expedition team
Antartide Base Mario Zucchelli Partenza ultimo gruppo 39 Spedizione (@PNRA)