About SIPEX-2


More than 50 scientists from eight countries will conduct the Sea Ice Physics and Ecosystem eXperiment 2012 (SIPEX-2). The 2012 voyage will build on information and observations collected in 2007, by re-visiting the study area at about 100-120° East. This is the culmination of years of preparation for the Australian Antarctic Division and, more specifically, the ACE CRC sea-ice group who will lead this international, multi-disciplinary, sea ice voyage to East Antarctica.

Investigations in, on and under the sea ice: A photograph of sea ice taken from underwater using a ROV (remotely operated vehicle)

Work will begin at the sea-ice edge and the aim will be to penetrate the pack ice towards the coastal land-fast ice. The purpose of SIPEX-2 is to investigate relationships between the physical sea-ice environment, marine biogeochemistry and the structure of Southern Ocean ecosystems. While the scientists and crew will not set foot on Antarctic terra firma, about 10 multi-day research stations will be set up on suitable sea ice floes, and a range of novel and state-of-the-art instruments will be used. These include:
  • A Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to observe and film (with an on-board video camera) krill, and to quantify the distribution and amount of sea ice algae associated with  ice floes.
  • An Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to study the three-dimensional under-ice topography of ice floes.
  • Helicopter-borne instruments to measure snow and ice thickness, floe size and sea ice type. Instruments include a scanning laser altimeter, infrared radiometer, microwave radiometer, camera and GPS.
  • Sea ice accelerometer buoys to measure sea ice wave interaction and its effect on floe-size distribution.
  • Customized pumping systems and light-traps to catch krill from below the ice and on the sea floor.

An autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) is a robot which travels underwater without requiring input from an operator. AUVs constitute part of a larger group of undersea systems known as unmanned underwater vehicles, a classification that includes non-autonomous remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) – controlled and powered from the surface by an operator/pilot via an umbilical or using remote control.

ACE CRC/AAD sea-ice ecologist Dr Klaus Meiners is the chief scientist of the project. “We aim to achieve from this voyage an expansion of the multi-disciplinary observational record of East Antarctic sea ice characteristics and processes, and an assessment of impacts of climate change on the physical and biological elements of the Antarctic sea ice zone,” he said. “We will measure a large number of environmental and ecological parameters across different sea ice regimes to understand the physical processes and their impact on the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean. Data collected during the voyage will be used to improve satellite estimates of sea-ice thickness, provide input to sea-ice physical and ecosystem models and will help to detect climate change impacts in the Southern Ocean.”