Deep sea coral expert off on exciting Weddell Sea Expedition

  • Date

    Fri 21 Dec 18

Essex deep sea coral expert Dr Michelle Taylor is taking part in a major expedition to explore one of the coldest, harshest and most remote locations in the world.

The Weddell Sea Expedition 2019 aims to navigate its way through the heavy sea ice and freezing temperatures and harsh weather in order to solve unanswered questions about one of the most remote areas of our planet.

Dr Taylor, from our School of Life Sciences (formerly our School of Biological Sciences), will join world-leading glaciologists and marine archaeologists for a 45-day scientific expedition on the Weddell Sea off Antarctica.

The expedition aims are to investigate the ice shelves around the Weddell Sea and document the rich and little-studied marine life of the western Weddell Sea ecosystem. It will also attempt to locate and survey the wreck of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance, which was trapped and crushed by the ice and sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915.

“This is an unusual expedition for me, with many firsts,” explained Dr Taylor. “It's the first time I’ve had the opportunity to work with glaciologists and marine archaeologists. Such different fields of research means I will get to learn new techniques for studying Antarctica and its history. It’s also the first time I will have flown to Antarctica to get a ship!

“The primary aim of the expedition is to look at the environments under Larsen C ice shelf. It will be 18 months since it calved off the main ice shelf and conditions will have certainly changed in that time period so we shall be looking for clues as to what life under the ice was like. We will hopefully get to see it first hand by sending automated robots under the ice to see too.”

Dr Taylor, who is heading off at the end next week to join the expedition, said: “The deep sea is the largest habitat on the planet, but at the same time the least explored habitat on the planet. More people have been to the moon than to the deep sea.”

Following the expedition Dr Taylor will return to Essex in order to analyse the samples she will have collected during the voyage. “I will have access to a very unique specimen and data set with which to undertake studies of deep-sea connectivity and evolution right here, at Essex."