S. African research ship departs for Antarctica on anti-climate change expedition

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CAPE TOWN, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- A South African research ship, the SA Agulhas II, departed Cape Town for the Antarctica on Thursday, undertaking a historic anti-climate change expedition.

The mission entails a program of marine and glaciological research in the Antarctica through the use of highly sophisticated state of the art technology, and with the SA Agulhas II as a base.

The expedition team will collect long-term data such as sea surface temperature, oxygen and carbon measurements, which is instrumental to further enhance understanding of present day global climate change, for fundamental research in a number of areas, said Minister of Environmental Affairs Nomvula Mokonyane who bid farewell to the team.

"For example, South African and international weather forecasts rely heavily on the availability of data inputs from this region and having this continuous data set will enable better prediction of severe weather phenomena in the context of global climate change," Mokonyane said.

During this voyage, the SA Agulhas II will also play a starring role in the historic, international multi-disciplinary Weddell Sea Expedition, the most important non-governmental scientific expedition for two decades.

The expedition, which will take place in January and February 2019, comprises world-leading glaciologists, marine biologists, oceanographers and marine archaeologists who will venture into remote regions of the Weddell Sea and uncover vital new scientific data to improve understanding of the area, using that knowledge to contribute towards the protection of the region.

Research will be focused on the Larsen C Ice Shelf to provide valuable new insights into the local ecosystem, documenting the rich and little-studied marine environment, surveying the seafloor and under the ice and documenting the little-studied biological systems that lie beneath the ice shelf.

"In addition, the expedition will undertake research to help us better understand the oceanography and sea ice conditions of the Weddell Sea and the implications for climate change and global ocean currents," Mokonyane said.

South African scientists and research entities, working alongside their international peers, will play a key role in the Weddell Sea Expedition, she said.

"We hope the Weddell Sea Expedition will inspire more of our young scientists about Antarctica, its importance to our young democracy and South Africa's presence there," the minister said.

South Africa is one of the original 12 signatories of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 which regulates international relations with respect to Antarctica, the Earth's only continent without a native human population.

The first South African National Antarctic Expedition was undertaken in 1959. The expedition established a permanent presence for South Africa in Antarctica that still exists to date. Enditem

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