The Costa Rican scientist, Mario Protti, is in Antartica taking part in the WISSARD Project, as the team traversed successfully to the surface of Subglacial Lake Whillans after a historic trek of 628 miles across the Ross Ice Shelf.
This is the next step as scientists begin their push to study one of the final frontiers on Earth, the subglacial Antarctic environment. The Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD ) project is a multidisciplinary scientific initiative focused on the aquatic ecosystem that lies beneath the Whillans Ice Stream.
Protti, an expert at the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de la Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI) – Costa Rica’s Volcanological and Seismological Observatory, travelled to the South Pole at the beginning of this month to take part in the expidition to research the role of subglacial lakes in stabilizing or destabilizing the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and looking for microbial life in the lake.
The La Nacion ran an article on Protti including him in the “Personajes 2012” (personalities of the year) report in the REVISTA DOMINICAL section. for his exceptional work when at 8:42am on September 5, 2012, the earth in the Nicoya Peninsula shook violently. “During the earthquake, while others ran for safety, Jorge Marino Protti, stayed in his office and refined thes internal seismograph to determine the characteristics of the movement…”, writes La Nacion.
In May last year, Costa Rica’s climber Warner Rojas droudly Displayed the flag of Costa Rica at the top of Mount Everest. Rojas was the first Tico to climb Mount Everest.
Like Rojas, Protti will be the first Tico to “pisar” (set foot) on the South Pole.
On the WISSARD website the following update was posted today:
Another milestone has been achieved, the WISSARD traverse team has reached the lake!! WISSARD momentum is building as the deep field science and drill teams prepare for deployment. The first drill team flies to the lake tomorrow. Members of C-522-M (RAGES; R. Powell, lead) have recently returned to McMurdo for field operations and have worked on data analysis for proving instrumentation after the McMurdo Ice Shelf testing, and then getting the instruments readied for lake deployment.
The biology team (GBASE; C-523-M; J. Priscu, lead) has completed analyses from their recent MIS testing of the new ‘clean access’ hot water drilling system. This test demonstrated that the WISSARD drill successfully meets the environmental code of conduct established for clean access into Antarctic subglacial aquatic environments. The GPS team led by S. Tulaczyk (LISSARD; C-521-M) is currently on weather hold but hopes to deploy soon and meet the WISSARD traverse at the Lake Whillans Camp. Tulaczyk’s team will conduct survey work at the Whillans grounding line and, importantly, will confirm and then mark the spot where we will drill into the lake. This location was selected based on seismic and radar surveys from previous seasons and represents one of the deepest portions of Subglacial Lake Whillans.