51st Liège colloquium on ocean dynamics: Polar oceans facing changes

6 to 10  May 2019

Place of the Conference: University of Liège – Place du XX-Août, 7 – 4000 Liège – Belgium

Polar oceans are facing profound changes. The Arctic Ocean and the waters west of the Antarctic Peninsula are at the forefront of global warming, while the rest of the polar oceans will face changes in the very near future. The changes to face are not limited to a raise in atmospheric temperature and modification in the freshwater budget. Increases of economic activities (shipping, tourism, fisheries and mineral extraction), contaminants and invasive species also put polar oceans at risk. Changes are already witnessed in terms of ice shelves volume, wind patterns and precipitation, sea ice extent, ocean circulation, ocean acidification and freshening, primary productivity, biodiversity and community structure or ecosystem functioning. As polar oceans are key components of the Earth system, changes there will have global impacts such as sea level rise, changes in low latitudes oceanic productivity, and oceanic CO2 uptake, among other ecosystem services.
The 51st Liège colloquium on ocean dynamics will address the observation and prediction of these changes and their consequences.

More specifically, the following topics will be covered:

  • Measuring anthropogenic impact and pollutants. This spans from measurement of physical parameters, trace contaminants, inventory of climate related gases, micro plastics measurement, bio-indicators, monitoring economic activities
  • Observing changes. Remote sensing is key to monitor sea ice and ice sheet shrinkage, ocean warming and freshening, changes in ocean circulation and environmental forcing. In parallel, several initiatives (e.g. AMAP, SOOS, SOCCOM, ASPeCt, ANTOS, INTAROS, SAON, CAFF, BEPSII among others) have developed to reinforce monitoring of the polar oceans and provide insights on current changes
  • Assessing impacts. Anthropogenic forcing are impacting physical processes and biogeochemistry but also biodiversity and foodweb functioning. Tracking changes in an evolutionary perspective is challenging
  • Specific cryosphere-oceans interaction. At the interface between land and polar oceans, ocean interactions with ice sheets and sea ice are key in controlling ice-sheet balance, sea level rise and water mass transformation rates
  • Enlarge our temporal perspective: paleo-oceanographic changes. Ocean sediment records provide paleoclimate proxy indicators of past changes. These benchmarks allow a better grasp on current changes in term of level, significance and rapidity
  • Predicting future changes. Modeling is a major tool to understand past and present changes and to predict future changes from a local to a global perspective. More specifically, simple ocean model, ice sheet or sea ice- ocean coupled model, biogeochemical model, dynamic energy budget, species/trait distribution model among others are well suited to investigate changes in polar oceans.
  • Teleconnection and global perspective. As a result of the teleconnection of polar oceans to the global ocean, changes in polar oceans can propagate more globally. Assessing such impacts is critical to understand actual and future changes of the global ocean
  • Mitigation. Several tools can be used to mitigate or limit the impact of some anthropogenic pressures: enforcement of conservation measures, marine protected areas, sewage treatment, education and awareness raising that need to be further developed to tackle polar ocean changes.

Special sessions on dedicated projects are welcome.

Papers dealing with the above-described subject are welcome and will be published in a special issue.Further details (submission, registration, deadlines, venue, …) are available on the web site : http://labos.ulg.ac.be/gher/home//

Deadline: Submission of abstracts – 1st March 2019

 

[Free entrance] Belgium and Antarctica… Researchers’ views

Archives Antarctiques Belges – Belgische Antarctische Archieven (AABBAA – asbl) and APECS Belgium are proud to present a conference evening where researchers share their findings and experiences in Antarctica!

Belgium and Antarctica… Researchers’ views
21 March 2018 (Wednesday)
19:00
Campus Solbosch, ULB Building D Local DC2.223
Open to public and FREE of charge!

AABBAA is a non-profit organization which gathers archives on Belgian Antarctic expeditions. Please join us for this great initiative!

original announcement https://apecsbelgium.wordpress.com

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From B120 to B121: a team is born

The Belgica120 crew left Ushuaia on Feb the 25th, around 10 am, next stop Antarctica. After finalising the last details, going through the initial briefings and getting the Australis ready, we set sails out of the Beagle Channel, towards the Melchior Islands along the Antarctic Peninsula.
The initial timing was set to an initial 12 hours to get to Cape Horn, then 2.5 days to cross the Drake Passage to the Peninsula. Everything was going fine, we were getting familiar with the boat (and with sea sickness) and steaming at 8 knots towards the South. On the second day of navigation, something went wrong with the engine’s gearbox (there was a big “bang” and rumble, like a rolling bag of bolts), and we had to stop the engine, after approximately 1/3 of the distance. The Australis is a 50/50 boat: it is designed to steam using to propulsions modes: engine and sails. Without the engine, Australis cannot be manoeuvred precisely, and the general design of the boat (shape of the hull and sails) does not allow here to sail close to the wind.
After stopping the engine, Ben and Simon (the captain and first mate of Australis) started investigating the mechanics and tried to find a solution to fix the gearbox. Unfortunately, it was impossible: the part that snapped was a shaft inside the gearbox. Ben called me to the wheelhouse to inform me there was no way they could fix the problem at sea. Simon and Kari (our cook) were there as well. There was this dreadful moment of silence, as I realised we were in an actually delicate situation. We were well engaged in the Drake Passage, our engine was useless, and we could only rely on our sails to turn back to Ushuaia. At this moment, the wind was in the right direction. We swiftly decided to tack, set all sails and head north. At the same time we decided to inform all ships around us that we would probably need assistance in a reasonable delay. I informed the team about the situation, and that we would probably have to delay our attempt. There was a big disappointment of course, especially given the amount of effort that went into preparing this expedition, and the high hopes we all had… but there was not much more to do than accept the situation and work our way out of the Drake.
The other “detail” we were worried about was the weather: strong winds were announced to hit us in a couple of days.
Under sails, with the wind strong enough and in the right direction, Australis made an amazing job. She was actually sailing at 8 knots in 25 knots of wind. But we couldn’t get closer than 60 degrees in the wind. Thanks to her speed we beat the storm, which passed behind us: one problem less.
Meanwhile we managed to get in touch, by radio, with an Argentinian navy vessel, the Puerto Argentino, who confirmed they would give us a tow, as soon as they cached up with us (they were about 100 nm behind when we first contacted them). So the situation was more or less under control. A few sailboats passed us on our way to the North, always making contact to make sure we were alright. Our situation was never critical, nobody felt unsafe at any moment. On our way back, we had many contacts, including also with a Chilean Navy ship, the Sibbald. They offered to escort us up to the coastline. We didn’t really understand the purpose of that offer, as we were in need of a tow, before the situation became actually dangerous.
The wind was now coming from the North, and we were making extremely slow progress. If we didn’t get a tow, it would take us days to get back. The more time we spend at sea, the higher the chances we get hit by bad weather.
At this point we were about 30 nm East of Cape Horn. The Puerto Argentino had catched up with us, in the morning of the 28th of February. After some contacts with the vessel to coordinate the towing manoeuvre, which is always risky, the navy ship sent us a towing cable, which we successfully attached to the bollard. This was a great relief for me, until about 3’ later, the captain called us on the radio to inform us he had received the order not to tow us and let go the cable. At first I thought I was dreaming alive. I couldn’t believe this nonsense. Why would they let us go after risking a manoeuvre to start the tow, knowing we could never make our way back to safety? Two extremely tense, nerve-wearing hours started: we were trying to save time, hoping we would at least be towed over a reasonable distance, but the navy ship was just staying in place, probably on purpose. Ben was trying to call everyone he could to unlock the situation, so that the captain would get the authorisation to tow us. We also tried to call our networks in the area to get things moving. But the captain of the Puerto Argentino kept insisting on the radio that we should let go the tow cable. He sounded more and more nervous as the Chilean Navy vessel was approaching. Our nerves were worn, and we finally let go the cable, despite the fact that we didn’t get the point. As the Puerto Argentino left us behind, we got in touch with the Sibbald, which was now very close, and which again offered to escort us. We didn’t set the sails, and let ourselves drift to make a clear point that we couldn’t manoeuvre to safety. After about 10 minutes, they contacted us on the radio and offered a tow. Instead of being relieved, I was still wondering what kind of last minute trick would happen to us. But everything went well apart that the Sibbald was going to let us go somewhere in the Beagle Channel, as we were getting close to the Argentinian border.
Ben arranged a pickup by a tugboat from Ushuaia, and after a few more hours of towing we were safely brought back to our dock.
During the whole process, we had some time to think about how we could turn this into something positive. Even if its been a huge disappointment (and I think its safe to say especially for Ben and myself), the Belgica120 expedition was a first attempt. Its an expedition, and its Antarctica. We’ve learnt a lot during these few days, about the Australis, about ourselves and about our future project. Thanks to the B120 team keeping very calm and positive, and moreover to the Australis crew for handling the situation with amazing skill, we got ourselves out of a situation which could have become critical.
We now have a year to prepare for our next attempt, which of course will go by the name of Belgica121… stay tuned, photos will follow.
Bruno

Belgica120-Arrival

After two days of traveling we have finally arrived in Ushuaia. Ben (our skipper) picked us up from the airport. Even though we were tired and exhausted, we went directly to the harbour and had a first look at the Australis, the ship we are going to call home for the next few weeks. Stowing away all our equipment and luggage was another challenge, however now is everything is packed and ready. Customs clearence tomorrow … planned departure on Sunday the 25th!!

 

Belgica120-Departure

Time is a relative thing. We left Belgium only 4 days ago – feels much longer with all that happened. Now, it accelerates again, throttle down and off: last dinner, shower, night, and right now breakfast on land. We got a security briefing yesterday already. Departure within the next hour. Approx. 8h until Cape Horn and then enter the Drake Passage. Drake lake or Drake shake? Either way, here we go!

Security Briefing

Belgica120-Buenos Peres

We arrived safely in Buenos Aires. After 14h of flight, the warmth and humidity of northern Argentina is giving us a brief respite before it is getting colder again. Having one day to our next flight (to Ushuaia), we are using the time to explore the city, having brief science meetings for some of us (Charlène) and generally stacking up on sun and warmth.

Belgica120-Checked in!

Some gear is already in Ushuaia, the remaining stuff is now ready for our flight from Paris. We checked it in already at the train station in Brussels. That was a good call – we did have a lot of extra bags and weight, especially due to all the diving equipment. My little bag has now a heavy lead belt on top. Hope nothing gets crushed… Next stop Buenos Aires!

Belgica120-Gear

Equipment on the pier

The countdown’s ticking very fast… only two days until departure in Brussels. In the meantime our scientific equipment has already arrived and was taken aboard. Hooray! Sending oftentimes valuable, sometimes unique (think ROV, special diving & fishing devices, …) gear half way round the world and back can be challenging, to say the least. A lot of administration and paperwork (and patience) is needed to get everything on track. Luckily our chief has been very persistent and eventually managed to master the bureaucracy jungle attached to the task. So, now it’s there and we have some graphic proof, which is great… but, hey, wait what is that?! What happened to our box (very solid and sturdy aluminum box that is)?

That’s not how it’s supposed to look

Things rarely go as planned with end of the world exploration. And so our first surprise is an equipment box already punched in before it even got on board. We’re still lucky though. Nothing absolutely crucial seems to be in that box and also while the box itself has definitely changed shape, the content seems largely intact. Phew. Back in Europe our next immediate challenge is to not overload our bags and get everything checked in.

Henrik.

Everything on deck

Belgica120-Weather Check

With only 4 days to departure for Argentina and just a week for the planned departure from Ushuaia, things are getting serious. For most greater endeavours I undertake, I tend to start dreaming about it in advance. Same for this expedition; at least for that matter. My dream, as most dreams go, was a bit incoherent, but I do clearly remember being on a sailing ship, which unsurprisingly resembled the ‘Australis’ quite a bit. I was sitting on deck just before the mast and tried to keep my mind off these insanely high waves, which towered over our ship like mountains. In my dream I wasn’t particularity worried … but neither was I particularly calm.

So naturally, as I woke up, the first thing was to check the weather forecast for the Drake: for the next 3 days winds between 9 to 17 m/s, waves between 3 and 7 meters and temperatures around 4°C. Hopefully we will be lucky with the weather and we can proceed with our planned departure from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula on the 24th.

Franz.

Belgica120-Final preparations

The duffel bags are (nearly) packed and ready, waiting at the entry of my flat for departure. Last minute preparations are still to be completed. The lion’s share of our (scientific) equipment has already been shipped months ago and is waiting for us in Ushuaia. However, there are always some last purchases to be made. Five days until departure: we will meet at the train station Brussel Zuid (Midi) and together take the train to Charles de Gaulle, Paris. From there we will board the plane to Buenos Aires. Ready for our low-emission expedition to the Antarctic Peninsula!

Franz.