In partnership with the Flotilla Foundation, Scott Polar Research Institute, Nelson Mandela University, University of Cape Town and the University of Canterbury – The Weddell Sea Expedition deployed AUVs and ROVs to investigate life beneath the ice and the potential implications of climate change. The expedition was one of the largest and most ambitious non-governmental Antarctic scientific expeditions for decades.

In 2019, 36 scientists, surveyors and technicians embarked on a 45-day voyage of science and discovery in one of the most remote and least studied regions of the world. These modern day explorers examined the marine life of the western Weddell Sea ecosystem looking up from the seabed at the under surface of the ice to discover new communities of sympagic fauna for the very first time in this region.

Laboratory Research: Microplastics

Following field research in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica by the Nekton team, Nekton scientists with forensic experts from University of Staffordshire and climate modelling experts from Nelson Mandela University, and the University of Cape Town (South Africa) completed analysis to discover:

  • Microplastic sink found in Antarctica, one of the last remaining pristine environment on Earth.
  • Microplastic fibres discovered in all samples (air, seawater, sediment and sea-ice).
  • Synthetic fibres were found in Antarctic air for the first time – confirming Antarctic animals and sea-birds, such as penguins could likely be breathing in plastic.
  • Modelling analysis reveals South America to be a major source of airborne microfiber pollution in Antarctica.
  • Researchers say that these new results make the need for a globally-agreed Plastics Treaty even more urgent and provide key recommendations for policy and individuals.
  • Field research undertaken during an expedition to discover Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship, the Endurance.
  • Laboratory analysis combined forensic science techniques (more commonly associated with ‘CSI')

The Publication: ‘The transport and fate of microplastic fibres in the Antarctic: The role of multiple global processes’.