Cruise reveals history of Holocene Larsen Ice Shelf


  • Eugene Domack,

    1. Department of Geology, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY 13323 USA
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  • Amy Leventer,

  • Robert Gilbert,

  • Stefanie Brachfeld,

  • Scott Ishman,

  • Angelo Camerlenghi,

  • Kathleen Gavahan,

  • David Carlson,

  • Athen Barkoukis


In May 2000 the U.S. Antarctic Research Vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer braved extensive ice and the frigid temperatures of the Northwest Weddell Sea to penetrate the coastal leads along the Nordenskold Coast (Figures 1–3). The scientific objective of this international endeavor was to understand the natural variability of the Larsen Ice Shelf, the largest of several ice shelves along the northern extremities of the Antarctic Peninsula to have undergone catastrophic decay over recent years (Figure 2) [Vaughan and Doake, 1996; Skvarca et al., 1999].

The study sought to determine the history of the Larsen Ice Shelf beyond the limits of our historical observations. Such knowledge is needed in order to assess the potentially unique nature of the current disintegration pattern and to determine the role of regional versus global warming scenarios on the future of the break-up trend.