Past. Present. Future.
“I am honoured to take the lead of the ‘Songs of the Polar Current Expedition’ Arctic science programme and to contribute with our technology to achieve ORI’s key scientific objectives.”
Oceanic Research Institute’s Multi-disciplinary Ocean Science
This expedition program will be a multi-disciplinary scientific and educational one. This will be Big Picture science, in the traditions of the Australian Antarctic Division, the Royal Geographical Society and NASA. It will include glaciology, hydrology, bathymetry, bioacoustics, archaeology and even mountaineering on virgin peaks to document emergent crevasse structures.
Earle leading expedition on exploring yacht Eleanor Rymill,
West Greenland, 1988.
There are more than 200 local glaciers reaching sea level and potentially affected by up welling warm waters from the Irminger Current.
Satellite imagery gives us the positions of glacier terminations, but human ‘ground-truthing’ is needed to give us the actual ice conditions. A condition report of these glaciers will help scientists to forecast the speed and volume of future melt.
We will make a video portrait of each glacier and make all our results available to all scientists via open source.
Conductivity, temperature, density
There are over 20 major fjords (and many minor ones) in the study region.
NASA scientists on board will test fjord water columns for conductivity, temperature and density (CTD) to complement their large-scale Greenland bathymetry and climate program.
Professor Michel Andre, Director of the Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics, University of Catalonia, Spain, will conduct two pioneering programs in Bioacoustics.
The first will be the world’s first bioacoustic baseline survey of the ambient acoustic signature of unpolluted Arctic waters, covering 2,000 km southwards from high above the Arctic Circle. This will create a benchmark for acoustic pollution and alert scientists to the potential for acoustic trauma in Arctic waters from heavy maritime traffic.
The second will be the first bioacoustic survey of cetaceans in East Greenland, where previously no reliable continuous observations of whale species or distribution has been possible. Current estimates derive from projections based on limited observation by infrequent ice-observing aircraft. The benchmark we create will help measure the diversity and distribution of cetaceans and help predict the effects of climate change on them.
Professor Peter Harrison, Director of the Marine Ecology Research Centre, Southern Cross University, Australia, will conduct pioneering research on Arctic corals.
While there has been recent research into cold water corals, in Arctic Norway, it is unknown if true Arctic coral occurs in the unique environment of East Greenland. If they do exist they potentially offer science a complete environmental record for the last 10,000 years.
Arctic Scientific Outputs 2023-2026
The Arctic is Ground Zero for climate crisis. It contributes 64% of melt-water driving sea level rise with East Greenland providing most of this. Science cannot explain it, as the region is so under-researched. ORI will deploy its Arctic expertise to support NASA in exploring this mystery and providing crucial data to global climate forecasters. ORI plans to deliver these outcomes:
Baseline video database recording the current state of the some 200 glaciers that reach sea level in southeast Greenland. This database will include the last kilometre of ice flow and the terminal headwalls at or very near the sea.
While the primary beneficiary of this database will be NASA’s program, it is proposed that this database be placed in an accessible repository, such as a university, and made available at no cost to scientists and institutions around the world. A NASA scientist will be present on board.
Extensive CTD record of seawater salinity, temperature and density readings from fjord and open sea, in locations from the Arctic Circle to the western entrance to Prins Christiansund, to determine if warm water is rising into the major fjords.
ORI will help NASA to complete its Bathymetric mapping of the sea floor close to the East Greenland coast, using multi-beam sonar.
This will enable oceanographers to determine if and where warm sea waters, including the Irminger Current, might potentially upwell into coastal fjords and impact melting of sea level glaciers.
A database compiled of historical film and photographs, in particular the leader’s slide and 35mm film records from 1930-32 and 1985-86, plus current equivalents of the same sections of coastline, indicating the historical changes in glaciers and icecap.
Locate and record Inuit and Viking coastal sites. Report to archaeologists on potential for future field research.
Report published on results from sonar scans of fjord bottom profiles revealing depth and curvature. To be done in selected fjords.
Report published on results from sonar location of underwater terminal sills from the Last Glacial Maximum. To be undertaken with a selection of smaller fjords with water depth up to 1,000m.
Bioacoustic Baseline Survey - Arctic Seawater
Research findings of naturally occurring ambient noise from long line recordings covering 2,000 km will be used to create a baseline ambient acoustic signature of Arctic waters as a zero point for monitoring acoustic pollution caused by new shipping in the North West and North East Passages.
Data will also be used to have Southeast Greenland to be declared a Marine Protected Area (MPA), with commercial shipping banned.
Professor Michel André will use these findings to help develop early detection and avoidance strategies to help ships to protect cetaceans from collisions and death.
Bioacoustic Cetacean Survey - Diversity & Distribution
Research findings from what is believed to be the first underwater survey of whales on the East Greenland coast, using leading edge equipment and methodology.
Results using this comprehensive methodology can be compared to reports based on very limited physical sightings in order to estimate the presence and abundance of species.
Results may be used to strengthen the case for declaring a MPA.
Arctic Corals - Low Salinity, super-cooled water
Research findings will reveal if new species of corals have evolved in the unique environment of East Greenland’s low salinity, super-cooled and high speed currents. It is hoped to extract DNA to trace the coral’s origins and to explore the post ice-age fossil and environment record of old corals.
Greenland Sharks - Distribution
Research will aim to quantify the distribution and concentrations of the Greenland shark population in East Greenland waters, and where they may be at risk from anthropogenic and climate influences.
Micro-plastics – Health of Glaciers & Ponds
Conduct an onshore survey in snow, ice and local water bodies for the presence, concentration and composition of micro-plastics.
Arctic reconnaissance - 2023
ORI’s Arctic reconnaissance expedition in 2023 will be Australia’s first scientific research conducted in the North Polar Region. With international scientists and film-makers, ORI will scope a three-year multidisciplinary program of scientific research. This will elevate Australia to the league of major polar climate research countries.
Secrets of the hidden fjords - 2023/2024
Science does not know why Greenland’s East Coast glaciers are melting so fast, raising global sea levels. ORI scientists will map and record 200 glaciers to discover the secrets of melting within the multitude of fjords. Working with NASA, ORI will help create a map of the sea floor to determine details of currents involved in ocean warming.
songs of the polar current - 2024/2025
Because this region is so remote, there is limited knowledge of the species and populations of whales. The Arctic Ocean’s south-going Polar Current poses major questions about species behaviour and warming. ORI will work with scientists from Spain’s Laboratory of Applied Bioacoustics to chart whale and seal populations.