jeudi 7 janvier 2010

The Schirmacher Oasis

Dear reader,
Maybe that you are wondering what the BELDIVA team is going to do in the Schirmacher Oasis? Indeed, when they will leave the Princess Elisabeth station at the end of January, the four scientists will go to the Novolazarevskaya Station (abbreviated “Novo”, I guess you imagine why :)). It is located in the Schirmacher Oasis, an ice-free plateau of about 35 kms2. In Antarctica, ‘oases’ is the name of ‘ice-free’ regions. It is one of the smallest one, with a width of around 3.5 km, a length of about 20 km and an average altitude of 100 meters above sea level. The average annual temperature is -10.5 C, ranging from -0.9 C in summer, to -22 C [2] in winter. A number of theories exist about the formation of the oasis that include geothermal heating, intense insolation, or the ice flow being blocked by a geological feature such as a mountain (see Wikipedia). The Oasis contains Maitri (India's second permanent Antarctic research station) and Novolazarevskaya Station (a Russian research station).

When we were waiting in Novo last year, Irina organized a small excursion for the group with a Russian guy. He took us to a small deglaciated area, from which we had a nice view of the Schirmacher Oasis. We could see a big blue lake, an amazing view in the middle of the white ice cover!

In fact, there are about 100 freshwater lakes in this Oasis. So, this is a very interesting region to study from the point of view of its microbial diversity. Moreover, sediment cores taken in the lakes could probably give information on the past climate.
Cheers, Annick

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