Aurora Australis returns with promise of joint Australia-Indonesia Antarctic science cooperation

7 March 2002

Among the summer expeditioners returning to Hobart on board the icebreaker Aurora Australis tomorrow (Friday 8 March) are two Indonesian scientists who visited Davis station, presenting a plaque signed by President Megawati Soekarnoputri, with a message of friendship and cooperation between near neighbours.

The Indonesian scientists - Dr Muhammad Lukman, a biologist from Hasanuddin University and Dr Agus Supangat, an oceanographer from the Institute of Technology in Bandung - are the first Indonesians to set foot on the Antarctic continent, and form part of Indonesia's first Antarctic expedition.

"I am delighted that we were able to host the Indonesian scientists in their first visit to Antarctica and look forward to ongoing collaboration with them," Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Antarctic, said today.

In other Antarctic news…

Dr Stone said that the extensive and varied 2001–02 research program on the Antarctic continent had yielded some unexpected discoveries.

When scientists drilled a borehole almost 500 m long through the Amery Ice Shelf, they expected to find a very solid layer of refrozen ice near the base. Instead they found a layer of ice 100 m thick, honeycombed with brine channels. The full significance of this is still being investigated.

Despite a heavy and unusually persistent cover of pack ice in the area of the Amery Ice Shelf, data collecting instruments were located and retrieved after spending a year in the area. This is the same pack ice in which the Polar Bird was trapped for a month earlier in the season.

At Davis, a sophisticated atmospheric sensing device called a LIDAR (light detection and ranging instrument) has been successfully modified so that it can measure temperature and winds between 20 and 60 km above the Earth's surface, through a 90 degree cone-shaped area of space. It is thought that this is the most comprehensive atmospheric measuring system in use in Antarctica.

On a lighter note, Mawson's resident plastic guide dog "Stay" raised $1200 for the Royal Guide Dogs association. She will return to Davis next season, with a challenge to better the Mawson effort. A representative from the charity will meet the ship to accept the donation.

Aurora Australis is scheduled for one last science and resupply voyage to Macquarie Island in the subantarctic before the shipping season is scheduled to end in late March.

Further information: Aurora Australis is scheduled to dock at Macquarie No 4 wharf at 9:00 am on Friday 8 March. The voyage leader and researchers will be available for interview soon after the ship docks.