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Follow Li Ling´s journey to the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica

By January 7, 2022January 24th, 2022News

Follow Li Ling´s journey to the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica

Right now, Li Ling is getting prepared for a two and a half month-long expedition to Antarctica. She recently flew to San Franscisco to start her journey towards the Thwaites Glacier.

At the beginning of December, Li Ling, SMaRC Doctoral student, and Anna Wåhlin, Professor of Physical Oceanography at the University of Gothenburg, flew to San Francisco to start their journey towards Antarctica. It begins with a month-long quarantine- one week in San Fransico, two weeks in Puerto Natales, Chile, and at last 8 days on the research ship Nathaniel B. Palmer.

“I am not that concerned about quarantine itself, I will be able to work. However, we will continuously get tested for corona, and if someone tests positive, they will not be able to go. That worries me a bit”, Li explains.

The U.S. Antarctic Programs’ research ship Nathaniel B. Palmer, will be used for the expedition that departs from Punto Arenas, Chile, at the beginning of January. The ship then goes to the Thwaites Glacier, where the data for the project will be collected. In the middle of Mars, the ship will be back in Punto Arenas. A large group of scientists is cooperating to increase the knowledge about the glaciers. The research cruise hosts 32 people from three projects investigating conditions around the Thwaites glacier: TARSAN, THOR and ATERMIS. TARSAN focuses on the atmospheric and oceanic processes, THOR focuses on the geological properties of the seafloor, and ATERMIS focuses on trace metal measurements. The team on the expedition consists of oceanographists, biologists, and geologists and includes nationalities as Swedish, British, and Americans. The Swedish team, all affiliated with University of Gothenburg, is part of the TARSAN project and consists of Anna Wåhlin, Anders Sjövall, survey engineer and AUV technician at MMT, Mark Symons, survey engineer and AUV technician at MMT. SMaRC is represented by Li Ling and Anna Wåhlin.

The TARSAN project is part of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, which consists of eight projects focused on specific aspects of the glacier, and one coordinating project. TARSAN (Thwaites-Amundsen Regional Survey and Network Integrating Atmosphere-Ice-Ocean Processes) is a ship-based project studying how atmospheric and oceanic processes are influencing the behavior of the Thwaites and Dotson Ice Shelves – neighboring ice shelves which are behaving differently. This research will help identify how variations in atmospheric or oceanic conditions may influence the behavior and stability of ice shelves in the region. The expedition brings two AUVs. One of them is Swedish AUV RAN, which specializes in high-quality bathymetric mapping, something that Anna Wåhlin will be working on.

Normally Li works on navigation and machine learning, side-scan sonar, but during the trip, her responsibilities will look a bit different.

“I will work with mission planning and deployment of the two AUVs´ aboard, mostly RAN. I will let you know more later”, Li says.

Do you want to know more..? During the expedition, Li Ling and Anna Wåhlin will send weekly updates, that that can be found on the SMaRC webpage.