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RTD info logoMagazine on European Research Special issue - May 2005   

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Title  Research milestones since 1818

1840-43Sir James Clark Ross discovers the Ross ice shelf, showed it floated and source of tabular icebergs.
1893-96 F. Nansen's ship the Fram becomes imprisoned by pack ice and drifts to the vicinity of the Pole, demonstrating the drift of the pack ice under the influence of the wind (Ekman drift).
1949-52Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition set the standard for: seismic shooting for subglacial and ice thickness; snow stratigraphy; ice movement and strain network.
1954W. Dansgaard (University of Copenhagen) shows how seasonal changes in deposited snow can be interpreted by isotopic composition, enabling a high precision dating technique.
1963First field test (by M. Walford) in Antarctica of the SPRI MARK I equipment for radio echo sounding, developed by Stan Evans at Scott Polar Research Institute.
1966The first deep ice core to penetrate the total ice thickness (1387 m) at Camp Century, NW Greenland. Opens the door to reconstruct global climatic history from snow sediments.
1971Launch of Earth Resources Technology Satellite and successors allowed mapping of untouched terrain and inferring ice surface velocities from sequential imagery.
1985First deep drilling results at Vostok span a full glacial cycle (150 000yr). High correlation between isotope temperature signal and greenhouse gas concentration demonstrated in 1987.
1992The European funded Greenland ice core project GRIP reaches bedrock and discovers the Dansgaard-Oeschger events – very rapid climatic changes over 100 yrs and less.
2004EPICA (European Project on Ice coring in Antarctica) reaches a drilling depth of 3270 m (virtually bedrock) at Dome C (Concordia) and covers around 900 000 years of climate history.

1897-99The Belgica – first purely scientific Antarctic expedition; important results on plankton biology; bathymetric charting, hydrological soundings (Drake Passage and Gerlache Strait).
1918-25Maud tried for North Pole on board a ship lodged in floating ice. Amundsen attempt.
1925Large scale circumpolar oceanographic investigations of Southern Ocean begin (also researching whales’ food supply and krill stocks and migration patterns).
1951-52SKIJUMP operation: anticyclonic surface circulation, now called the Beaufort Gyre, detected and Lomonosov ridge, separating the waters of east and west Arctic detected.
1958-60First modern theory that cold, deep water formation in the Labrador Sea and the Weddell Sea are key drivers of global ocean circulation.
1979-82Repeat of Nansen’s 19th century ice drift experiment advances Arctic research.
1980Intensive research into the structure and dynamic functioning of the Antarctic marine ecosystem under the BIOMASS Programme (34 voyages through to 1985).
1990Hypothesis that the Southern Ocean productivity is presently limited by iron availability. This forms the basis of subsequent iron fertilization experiments worldwide.
1993-98SCICEX programme observed inflow of Atlantic water to the Arctic had decreased.
2004Arctic coring expedition to the Lomonosov ridge. Retrieval of the deepest Arctic sedimentary core ever, 233 km from the North Pole – an archive of the past 40 million years.

1820-23William Scoresby Jr publishes several books describing Arctic environments, whaling and whale biology, and several new Arctic animals species.
1843Publication of ‘The Zoology of the Antarctic Voyage of HM Ships Erebus and Terror’. Includes the first definitive description of the emperor penguin.
1876H.W. Fielden and H.C. Hart publish ‘The Greenland Manual’ which includes the study of plants and their relation to climate.
1897 Discovery of small mites and collumbola abundant among the mosses and lichens in Antarctica.
1901-12Edward Wilson studies the characteristics, life-histories and behaviour of Antarctic sea birds both on Captain Scott’s Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions.
1933-35 Lichens discovered half way up the Scott Glacier by the second Byrd Expedition are the most southerly plants yet found.
1926-62 Alwin Pedersen publishes the first detailed accounts on the ecology of Arctic birds and mammals in Northeast Greenland.
1964-74 Four programmes of the International Biological Program (IBP) are implemented in the Arctic Tundra, providing the first complete overview of the biodiversity and function productivity of these ecosystems.
1972Laurence Irving publishes the first comprehensive work on the physiological adaptations of Arctic birds and mammals (including man).
2000-04 The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) report highlights Arctic climate change and its impact on (among many other things) the flora and fauna of the region.

1882-83First International Polar Year. An international network of scientific stations is established all around the Arctic circle for synchronous meteorological and magnetic observations.
1910-13 G.C. Simpson, meteorologist on R.F. Scotts ill-fated expedition, carries out pioneering studies of the meteorology of the Ross Sea region, including the first upper-air measurements from Antarctica.
1930-31 A British expedition makes the first weather observations high inland on Greenland's icecap.
1950 Discovery of Polar Lows: Small cyclones forming within Arctic air masses during the cold season.
1956 F.K. Ball publishes his theory of the generation of Antarctic katabatic winds
1957-58 Many new meteorological observatories established during the International Geophysical Year, enabling synoptic studies of Antarctic meteorology for the first time.
1985 Discovery of the Antarctic Ozone Hole by Farman, Gardiner and Shanklin (British Antarctic Survey)
1989 Discovery of Dansgaard-Oeschger events. These intensify thermohaline circulation and destabilize northern ice caps by augmenting snow accumulation on their surface.
1994-95 The First Regional Observing Study of the Troposphere (FROST) uses remote sensing data and numerical weather prediction products to advance understanding of Antarctic atmospheric processes.
2005-06 The WECCON (Weddell Sea Convection Control) sets out to better understand the role of the Southern Ocean in global climate variability through the investigation of atmosphere-ice-ocean interaction processes which occur in the Weddell Sea.

Geology and geophysics
1818-1824The John Ross and John Franklin expeditions to the Canadian Arctic both return with many geological specimens.
1831Sir James Clark Ross is the first to reach the Magnetic North Pole.
1830-33The first report of fossil remains (fragment of carbonized wood) during the first American expedition to Antarctica in 1830.
1840First official rock sample of a volcanic rock collected from Possession Island by James Clark Ross Expedition
1841The first active volcano, Mount Erebus, was discovered by Sir James Clark Ross
1901-04Geologist Hartley Ferrar mapped sedimentary rocks known today as the Beacon Supergroup and recognized that the region must have been warmer because of plant traces and animal burrows
1908-09Members of Shackleton’s expedition found important fossils in the Beardmore Glacier region and found coal seams indicating a previous wetter and warmer climate
1910-13Members of Scott’s expedition discovered the first fossil Glossopteris leaves indicating an important link with other continents that once formed a supercontinent Gondwana
1955-58Discoveries of the oldest Cambrian body fossils in Spitsbergen (by Norwegian and Polish geologists)
1960 First studies of sub ice topography of Antarctica by radio echo soundings revealing hidden mountain ranges
1986First dinosaur discovered from Antarctica on James Ross Island (Olivero, E., Scasso, R. and C. Rinaldi)
1991SWEAT hypothesis introduced linking SW North America and Antarctica in a Precambrian supercontinent called Rodinia
1997A geological synthesis of Svalbard (by W. B. Harland and co-authors, British)
2002-05Discovery of the first Cenozoic (Middle Eocene) glaciers in West Antarctica (on King George Island by Polish scientists).
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