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SAVING SCIENCE ON AN ICE FLOE: URGENT FUEL DROP SALVAGES ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION

 SAVING SCIENCE ON AN ICE FLOE:
 URGENT FUEL DROP SALVAGES ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION
 WASHINGTON, April 1 /PRNewswire/ -- An urgent fuel drop has salvaged a $9 million National Science Foundation (NSF) funded expedition in the Antarctic: a research station on an ice floe that will drift for more than five months and 400 miles through the Weddell Sea. The airdrop was made to replace aviation fuel which was contaminated, jeopardizing the scientific accomplishments of the expedition.
 A U.S. Air Force C-141 plane from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., departed on Sunday, March 29, for Punta Arenas, Chile. A total of 115 barrels containing 5,865 gallons of new fuel were dropped on Wednesday, April 1, by members of the 437th Airlift Wing onto the ice floe. The camp is at 70 degrees south latitude off the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.
 "This was not a life threatening situation," said David Bresnahan, an Antarctic operations manager at NSF. "The fuel was dropped to get helicopters back in the air and save the science. The drop was 100 percent successful, with all barrels recovered intact by the camp personnel."
 "This is the first manned Antarctic research station ever established on a drifting ice floe in the Southern Ocean," said Arnold Gordon, professor of oceanography at Columbia University and coordinator of the expedition's science programs.
 Using icebreaking vessels, satellites, helicopters, airplanes and experiments on and below the ice floe, 10 American and 10 Russian scientists and 12 support personnel are studying the relatively unexplored western Weddell Sea. The delicate balance there between the air, ice and ocean has critical effects on the world's climate and ocean currents; understanding their complex interactions is crucial to determining how changes such as global warming might affect Earth's climate.
 Scientific instruments were loaded Jan. 10-14 at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory in Palisades, N.Y., and sent to Montevideo, Uruguay, for a rendezvous with the Russian icebreaking research ship Akademik Federov. The ship departed Jan. 22 and traveled to a destination 1,300 miles south of the tip of South America. Between Jan. 28 and Feb. 13, the researchers selected a floe about one mile long and a half-mile wide, where they set up the research station and an airstrip.
 After drifting northward on the moving ice floe at a rate of several miles per day, the researchers will finish their work in June and will be picked up by the new American icebreaking research ship Nathaniel B. Palmer, before the ice floe reaches the open ocean or begins to melt.
 The scientists' mission is to collect the first extensive data on sea-air-ice interactions in the sea ice field of the Southern Ocean. They will study the exchange of heat and gases between the atmosphere, the ice and the ocean, movement of the sea ice, and the circulation of heat and salt in the water below the ice.
 At present, scientists have such a rudimentary understanding of this system that they cannot reliably predict whether global warming may cause the ice cover to disappear or to expand, or whether it may cause the ocean to absorb more or less heat and carbon dioxide.
 The National Science Foundation is an independent agency of the federal government established in 1950 to promote and advance scientific progress in the United States. NSF accomplishes its mission primarily by competitively awarding grants to educational institutions for research and education in the sciences, mathematics and engineering.
 This and other information is available electronically on STIS, NSF's Science and Technology Information System. For more information about STIS contact the Publications Section at 202-357-7861 and request the "STIS Flyer," NSF Publication No. 91-10.
 -0- 4/1/92
 /CONTACT: Cheryl Dybas of National Science Foundation, 202-357-9498/ CO: National Science Foundation ST: District of Columbia IN: SU:


MK -- DC027 -- 4062 04/01/92 16:49 EST
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Date:Apr 1, 1992
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