Nov. 28, 2003 – In spite of numerous setbacks and the interference of the continuous rains of last week, a team of scientists from the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS) and Göteborg University (Sweden) completed their expedition intended to unveil clues about past global climate. The most significant setback was a delay in the release of their scientific equipment by U.S. Customs in San Juan. Planned to begin on Nov. 18, the expedition could not start until the equipment was allowed to be moved to the Research Vessel Chapman. The vessel was chartered from the University of Puerto Rico at a cost of $6,000 per day but the team had to wait for three days for the release of the equipment.
The expedition was carried out within the framework of the EU-funded 'PACLIVA' project (Patterns of Climate Variability in the North Atlantic), which deals with North Atlantic ocean and atmospheric circulation changes that have occurred within the past 10,000 years. (More details of the specific coring experiment were discussed in the Source's earlier article, Scientists search for past under the sea.)
The scientific team was led by Dr. Antoon Kuijpers of GEUS assisted by Dr. Björn Malmgren of Göteborg. Others in their scientific party were Dominika Kozakiewicz, Robert Nordh and Ursula Schwarz. The University of the Virgin Islands team included Dr. Stan Latesky and Dr. Jennifer Carroll, and was coordinated by UVI Professor Roy Watlington. The UVI Center for Marine and Environmental Sciences served as the base for the expedition.
UVI student Kristian Alfsnes assisted aboard the research vessel. He helped to collect samples of bottom sediment for analysis at UVI by Carroll, whose serendipitous goal is to obtain salt-water obligate fungi from deep-water sediment samples and screen them for antibacterial activity. It is her hope that new compounds will be discovered which will be useful in the development of new antibiotics. An interesting twist is that Alfsnes is actually visiting UVI from Scandinavia (Norway) this year.
With the equipment finally on board, the Chapman reached St. Thomas, received the scientists and left for the first station of the expedition at midnight on Friday, Nov. 21. Sediments were sampled at locations between St. Thomas and Vieques and just west of St. Croix. One final setback occurred just as the team was running out of the chartered time on the vessel A key piece of coring equipment was lost on the bottom.
Watlington said that the numerous hurdles encountered caused the researchers to make contact with several courteous persons, who were very helpful. He expressed his appreciation for the advice and assistance received from the Danish and Swedish Consulates in the Virgin Islands, the Office of Delegate to Congress Donna M. Christiansen, the V.I. Port Authority, the U.S. Customs Office on St. Thomas, the Danish and Swedish Consulates in San Juan and the V.I. Division of Fish and Wildlife.
"These offices helped us to get clearances, to understand the problems we were facing and to maximize the ship time that was left," he said.
Another positive outcome was the opening of discussions intended to renew a memorandum of agreement between the University of Copenhagen and UVI. Although a previous five-year agreement was signed in 1996 and has expired, Kuijpers and Watlington see their continuing collaboration on climate research as ample justification of a new agreement and the basis for a broader commitment to collaborate in other disciplines. Other areas of agreement may include exchanges of scholars and of students.
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