News from the Columbia Climate School

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A Change in Plans

ship_in_iceIn 1914, Ernest Shackleton wrote “Pack-ice might be described as a gigantic  and interminable jigsaw-puzzle devised by nature.” Shackleton was a great Antarctic explorer. He wanted to be the first to cross the continent of Antarctica, but his expedition ran into unexpectedly icy conditions. He is famous now, not for achieving his goal, but for surviving the loss of his ship and keeping all of his men alive through terrible conditions.

I’ve been thinking about his story because we’re working in the same area that he sailed, and we also have an unusually icy year. But unlike Shackleton, we have helicopters, satellite pictures of the ice, and reliable communication with land. We’re also in a much bigger and safer ship!

I took that photo from the bridge of the ship (the bridge is like the cockpit of an airplane). You can see that the ship is entering the ice. We can break through the ice, but we can’t go all that quickly. We sent a helicopter to check on the ice ahead of us and determined that it gets thicker further south and we can’t get through. So we’ve done what Shackleton couldn’t: we turned around and we’ll be exploring the western side of the Antarctic peninsula instead of the eastern side.

In a few weeks, we’ll try again to reach our original goal on the eastern side of the peninsula. Until then, we’re going to do the best research that we can on the western side. We have a ship full of great scientists and equipment, so you can bet that we’re not going to waste our time complaining about what we can’t change. We’ve been working together to plan some cool projects on the ice-free western side. I’ll start gathering data tonight and should be able to post some of my results soon.

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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