Forty intrepid adventurers are about to leave New Zealand for a six-week scientific voyage to Antarctica.
The Tangaroa will travel 3400km south of Wellington, next Thursday, to take part in a science research programme that has several aims, including to better understand climate change, the marine microbial community and the role of whales in the Antarctic ecosystem.
The programme involves several disciplines and fitting in all the work that needs to be done will require both careful planning and luck, says voyage leader Dr David Bowden.
"Voyage planning is a juggling act that needs a very efficient crystal ball. We want to squeeze in as much science as possible but we know before we even get to Antarctica that the weather, ice conditions, and sea state will affect us at some point."
The ship will carry 23 scientists and 17 crew, whose work will range from taking atmospheric and oceanographic observations and samples, to whale spotting, maintaining the vessel, and cooking meals around the clock to service the 24-hour operation of the ship.
Research voyages to Antarctica are undertaken by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) once every two years and this will make it their twelfth voyage.
ANTARCTIC VOYAGE FACTS
* Tangaroa will travel about 7800km on the six-week voyage
* The 70m-long ship is ice-strengthened but is not an ice breaker
* Supplies on board include 400kg potatoes, 100kg onions, 30kg kiwifruit, 30kg of bacon, 20 legs of lamb and 28kg coffee
* A full tank of diesel costs more than $500,000 and will take the ship to Antarctica and back several times over