As part of a research mission in Antarctica, the ship “Laura Bassi” of the National Institute of Oceanography and Applied Geophysics (OGS) – the only Italian icebreaker capable of operating in the polar seas – has set an absolute world record by reaching the previously unexplored area of the Bay of Whales in the Ross Sea, the southernmost point ever reached by a ship, at a latitude of 78° 44.280’ S.
Here, the researchers and technicians on board carried out the sampling included in the BIOCLEVER (Biophysical coupling structuring the larval and juvenile fish community of the Ross Sea continental shelf: a multidisciplinary approach) project coordinated by the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council (ISP-CNR) in collaboration with the MORSea Marine Observatory of the Parthenope University of Naples.
The first results obtained from the study of the physical parameters of the water confirmed the importance of the data collected for understanding the dynamics of currents in the Ross Sea. The analysis of the sampled material showed a high density of larval and juvenile stages of fish species, highlighting the presence of some species rarely observed in that area, as well as a large amount of unicellular algae, all elements that encourage further research.
The record was set by the “Laura Bassi” during the first of two oceanographic research campaigns that are part of the thirty-eighth expedition of the National Research Programme in Antarctica (PNRA), funded by the Ministry of University and Research (MUR) and coordinated by ENEA, for the logistics part, and by the CNR, for the research planning activities.
The icebreaker’s mission to the White Continent began on 5 January 2023, when the ship left the port of Lyttelton headed for Mario Zucchelli Station and the Ross Sea. The ship’s voyage had, however, begun on 17 November 2022 when the vessel left Trieste to reach Ravenna from where she began a 40-day voyage to New Zealand. The return to Lyttelton is scheduled for 6 March while the return to Italy is expected in the second half of April 2023.