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Victoria company heads on expedition to Antarctica

Victoria company heads on expedition to Antarctica

Technology Sector Ocean Sciences and Marine Technology

Ocean Networks Canada joins the Spanish and the penguins

Antarctica, the fifth largest continent in the world, has no countries and no permanent human population, although it does have nearly five million penguins – perhaps preferable. Sometimes referred to as the “world’s most important natural laboratory,” the isolated continent plays an essential role in understanding the impact of climate change on our planet. And it’s exactly where the team from Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) is headed.

Canadian and European experts in polar observation are joining forces in a new partnership that will see ONC operating a subsea observatory at the Spanish Antarctic Station, providing year-round, near real-time data on ocean conditions there. This is the first time that ONC will extend its ocean monitoring outside Canadian waters.

The partnership between ONC, a University of Victoria initiative, and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) will advance scientific understanding of one of the most under-observed parts of the planet, the Antarctic Ocean, also known as the Southern Ocean.

“ONC’s expertise in designing and successfully operating underwater observatories able to withstand harsh polar conditions will contribute to Spain’s scientific expertise in monitoring Antarctica, a continent that is critical to this planet’s climate system, and is undergoing rapid, consequential changes that we need to understand,” said Kate Moran, president and CEO of Ocean Networks Canada.

The announcement from ONC and CSIC follows a recent call for the urgent expansion of monitoring in the Antarctic Ocean. In a joint statement released at the 2023 Southern Ocean Observing System Symposium, 300 scientists from 25 nations raised concerns over challenges in identifying and analyzing environmental impacts as a result of a lack of observation in the Antarctic Ocean.

“This partnership with Ocean Networks Canada will provide vital ocean science data in the Southern Ocean, not least because the new observatory will operate year-round outside of the station’s staffed summer months,” said Jordi Sorribas Cervantes, director of the Unit of Marine Technology of the CSIC. “Having access to this near-continuous data, from anywhere in the world, will help meet the current data gap challenge in the Southern Ocean.”

The ONC observatory, including two ONC deep-sea Argo floats to be deployed in the Drake Passage during transit, is currently aboard the Spanish vessel Hespérides.

The Hespérides and its crew began the long journey from Barcelona last fall and are scheduled to leave Argentina this week, arriving at the Spanish Antarctic Station (BAE) Juan Carlos I, located on Livingston Island in the South Shetlands Archipelago, later this month.

Curious onlookers can track the live passage of the Hespérides on its journey.

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