ACE was the first project carried out by the newly created Swiss Polar Institute (SPI). From December 2016 to March 2017, scientific teams from all over the world took part in this ground-breaking expedition aboard the Russian research vessel Akademik Treshnikov. From biology to climatology to oceanography, the researchers worked in a number of interrelated fields as they sought to expand our understanding of the White Continent.

ACE’s starting point was Cape Town, South Africa. During the Akademik Treshnikov’s pre-expedition voyage from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Cape Town in November 2016, the ship hosted the ACE Maritime University under the auspices of the Russian Geographical Society. During this voyage, some 50 up-and-coming scientists attended onboard lectures and engaged in oceanographic work.

The SPI was founded by EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), ETH Zurich, the University of Bern and Editions Paulsen. It was designed to enhance international relations and scientific collaborations and to spark the interest of a new generation of young scientists and explorers in polar research.

A broad range of disciplines

In order to foster an interdisciplinary culture, ACE drew on the skills and know-how of scientists representing a broad range of disciplines. The SPI believes that this approach is the best way to understand Antarctica and its role in current and future climate issues and their impact on our planet.

Today, scientific progress depends more than ever on collaboration between diverse scientific domains. Polar studies are no exception. For example, marine biology depends on complex mathematical models currently being developed by oceanographers; and greater insight into the important role of microorganisms in atmospheric change can help climatologists make more accurate weather predictions.

A better understanding of Antarctica is critical, not just for its future, but for that of the entire planet. The poles are affected by climate change more than any other region on Earth. They also play a fundamental role in the strong ocean currents between the poles and the equator that regulate the world’s climate.

Some interesting facts about ACE

Distance travelled:
The following are distances of how far the ship travelled on each leg of the expedition:
Cape Town to Hobart, leg 1: 12055 km
Hobart to Punta Arenas, leg 2: 12402 km
Punta Arenas to Cape Town, leg 3: 9006 km
Total circumnavigation: 33463 km

Most southerly point:
-74 degrees south (at lat = -74.00, lon = -127.47)

Minimum temperature:
-12 degrees C on 29th January 2017 (Mertz polynya area), although at times it felt colder with the wind chill!

171 people participated in the expedition and were on board the R/V Akademik Tryoshnikov at some stage during the expedition (plus the crew, which numbered about 60).
147 of those formed the science party and support team.
21 countries were represented among the science and support team.