Members of this year’s MU scientific expedition to Antarctica have travelled nearly 14,000 kilometres back home to the Czech Republic. They spent a week aboard the Lautaro, a Chilean naval vessel, crossing the treacherous seas of the Drake Passage, where they encountered waves up to five metres tall. It took the expedition 14 days to make its way back home from the southernmost continent.
The team members spent 41 days working at and around the Czech research base on James Ross Island. Their main objective was to study glaciers, snow cover, permafrost, streams, and the microorganisms occurring on one of the largest deglaciated areas of the Antarctic Peninsula.
The researchers took snow and soil samples, collected water from melting glaciers and thawed-out freshwater lakes, and performed microbial swabs on sea creatures.
The MU scientists also maintained and operated the measurement equipment that is permanently installed at the base. Using special tools, they studied changes in the environmental conditions and the ecological requirements of plants and animals in this part of Antarctica. The data they have collected will also allow them to evaluate climate change and its impact on glacial retreat, the thawing of permafrost, and coastal ecosystems.
Although most other European countries cancelled their Antarctic expeditions at the last minute due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Czech researchers managed to meet all the scientific goals they had set.
The eight-member team spent nearly three months away from Brno. The journey began on 16 December 2020. On their way to the base, the researchers spent three weeks in the Chilean port city of Punta Arenas in quarantine before boarding the Chilean naval ship Marinero Fuentealba, which took them to Antarctica. During their entire stay, the researchers followed strict hygienic standards due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They returned to the Czech Republic on 12 March.