Minister Mokonyane wishes SANAE 58 Scientific Expedition a safe journey to Antarctica

06 December 2018

 

The Minister of Environmental Affairs has wished the Antarctica bound SANAE 58 scientific expedition team, a safe journey and a voyage full of discovery.

“These adventurous and brave members of the SANAE 58 team, leaving for the Antarctica today, on board the SA Agulhas II, will face extreme weather conditions while conducting important national research in Antarctica,” said Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

The SA Agulhas II – dedicated to the Miriam Makeba, left for Antarctica today. On board South Africa’s polar research and supply vessel, the SA Agulhas II, is the 58th scientific expedition team to Antarctica. The team will spend 14 months at the South African research base, SANAE IV.

South Africa is one of the original 12 signatories of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and the first South African National Antarctic Expedition (SANAE) was undertaken in 1959. The expedition established a permanent presence for South Africa in Antarctica that still exists to date.

“The SANAE 58 team will collect long term data, such as, sea surface temperature, oxygen and carbon measurements, which is instrumental to further enhance our understanding of present day global climate change, will be used for fundamental research in a number of areas. For example, South African and international weather forecasts rely heavily on the availability of data inputs from this region and having this continuous data set will enable better prediction of severe weather phenomena in the context of global climate change,” said Minister Mokonyane.

During this voyage, the SA Agulhas II will also play a starring role in the historic, international multi-disciplinary Weddell Sea Expedition.

This expedition taking place in January and February 2019, is the most important non-governmental scientific expedition for two decades. With funding from the Flotilla Foundation, the team of world-leading glaciologists, marine biologists, oceanographers and marine archaeologists will venture into remote regions of the Weddell Sea and uncover vital new scientific data to improve our understanding of the area, using that knowledge to contribute towards the protection of the region. Research will be focused on the Larsen C Ice Shelf to provide valuable new insights into the local ecosystem, documenting the rich and little-studied marine environment, surveying the seafloor and under the ice and documenting the little-studied biological systems that lie beneath the ice shelf. This is now possible with the use of the latest Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) that will be taken on board the expedition vessel, the S.A Agulhas II.

In addition, the expedition will undertake research to help us better understand the oceanography and sea ice conditions of the Weddell Sea and the implications for climate change and global ocean currents.

Depending on the ice conditions, the expedition also hopes to be in a position to use the AUVs, to survey the wreck of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance, not seen since she was crushed by ice and lost in the Weddell Sea in 1915.

“South African scientists and research entities, working alongside, their international peers, will play a key role in the 45-day Weddell Sea Expedition. We hope the Weddell Sea Expedition will inspire more of our young scientists about Antarctica, its importance to our young democracy and South Africa’s presence there,” Minister Mokonyane said.

The Department on Monday announced plans to establish an Antarctic Centre in Cape Town with the purpose of bringing the Antarctic continent closer to the citizens of South Africa and promote various opportunities that the ice continent offers. The Antarctic Centre will accommodate the Antarctic Logistics Network and provide a base for a number of countries that access their Antarctic bases through South Africa. These countries include Germany, Norway, Russia, Belgium, Japan, United Kingdom, India, Sweden, Netherlands and Finland.

For media enquiries contact:

Zolile Nqayi
Cell: 082 898 6483/
E-mail: znqayi@environment.gov.za