Interactions of the Totten Glacier with the Southern Ocean through multiple glacial cycles

Examining the sediment record from the Totten Glacier to understand past and future climate change.
Voyage No


13 Jan, 2017


05 Mar, 2017




Chief Scientist

Dr Leanne Armand


Macquarie University

Voyage summary

Research voyage to Antarctica to study past climate cycles by sampling the sediment record on the continental shelf.

The area of study will be the coast off the Totten Glacier, a large outlet glacier in East Antarctica which is thinning rapidly. The glacier drains a very deep subglacial basin, which has the thickest ice in Antarctica. This rapid thinning could cause accelerated melting of the ice sheet. Understanding the processes that have affected the Totten Glacier in the past is an important step in making future sea level predictions.

This survey will study how the Totten Glacier behaved during past times of warming climate by examining the sediment it delivered to the continental slope. These deposits will help understand the role of ocean warming in melting the ice sheet. The survey will also be the first sea floor habitat mapping campaign for a proposed Marine Protected Area.

Voyage blog: Women showing science who’s boss in icy Antarctica

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we’d like you to meet some incredible women in science who are breaking the seafarer mould. They’ve just returned from RV Investigator’s recent 51 day Antarctic voyage, where they kicked some serious science butt! Although they have different backgrounds, these women came together to help us understand what Antarctica was like in the ancient past, to try to predict its future.
Read more on CSIROscope
Two people on the deck, in hard hats, one smiling and looking at the camera.

Voyage impact

The voyage was successful in gathering data to examine the physical interaction between the Totten Glacier and Southern Ocean through multiple glacial cycles. Outputs have included:

  • The first detailed seafloor map of the Sabrina Coast slope north of the Totten Glacier
  • Identification of major canyons and regionalised sediment deposits from the Totten Glacier and Aurora Basin
  • Recovery of both long and short cores that will enable biological, geological and geochemical analyses that can provide insights to past environmental and climatological states continuously over the last ~350 thousand years and other Epochs of time
  • Video of seafloor environments, oceanographic characterisation of the warm water masses going onto and cool water masses coming off of the continental shelf.

Improved sea level predictions gained on this voyage will provide critical information for to authorities with responsibility for coastal communities and infrastructure.
Studies of marine biota and water mass chemistry undertaken will enhance the future interpretation of the sedimentary record and will also assist in Australia’s role in protecting the Antarctic environment.

Additional research projects conducted on board have produced the second ever analysis of Antarctic atmospheric aerosols, doubling the available atmospheric measurement data in the East Antarctic sea ice region. The measurements will help understand seasonal changes and weather and climate drivers for a region poorly represented in climate models.