02 March 2005

Antarctic voyagers come back form the cold

Three University of Pretoria students have returned from Antarctica aboard the polar supply ship SA Agulhas laden with data to help understand weather patterns in some of the most remote regions on Earth.

Noelien le Roux, Belinda Gerber and Santjie du Toit, honours candidates from the university's meteorology unit, spent two and a half months measuring winds, radiation, temperatures and humidity to try to get a better idea of weather patterns in the Southern Ocean.

The area has up to now been one of the most neglected in the world in terms of research.

The project was funded by the department of environmental affairs. The group was anchored for much of the time next to Neumayer, the German base in Antarctica.

The team had to measure temperatures and winds every 10 minutes and the data collected will be used as a comparison with information gathered from satellite pictures.

The three also went on a mission in the Southern Ocean to release weather buoys which will assist in collecting data. At times they braved 10m waves, temperatures of minus 15�C and winds of 60 knots.

Le Roux said some days they could not even go outside. "We'd just huddle around drinking coffee to keep warm."

She said the buoy run to Thuli Island in the Southern Ocean was the most incredible experience.

"We walked between hundreds of penguins and seals in a place few people have been to."

Gerber said the views and the vastness of Antarctica were indescribable. "It brings a calmness to you and an appreciation of the greatness of nature."


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