PENANG: Universiti Sains Malaysia will embark on another expedition to Antarctica in December next year, this time to study the marine life and ecosystem in the sea under frozen ice.
Muka Head Marine Research Station director Assoc Prof Dr Zulfigar Yasin, who returned from a 73-day voyage to the white continent last month, will lead the Malaysian expedition.
The marine biologist, who has been trained to dive in waters under ice in Britain, said the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) and USM would collaborate to equip four other USM scientists with special diving skills.
Diving is already a dangerous activity and doing it in waters with the average temperature of 2°C may cause divers to suffer from hypothermia.
But it is even riskier to dive in such cold waters under ice. We need at least one year to prepare ourselves for the challenging task, he said in an interview yesterday.
Dr Zulfigar said the training programme would start next month and the team would undergo further training in the next AAD expedition to Antarctica at the end of this year.
This will be part of our preparations to conduct research on the marine life and ecosystem under Antarctic waters next year. I believe this is the first effort by an Asean country.
Little work has been done on the Antarctic marine life as its environment is so hostile, he added.
In January, Dr Zulfigar and his three-member team joined about 40 scientists from 17 countries on board the AAD's icebreaker Aurora-Australis in the expedition which covered studies on oceanography, iceberg, krill, meteorology and atmosphere.
During the expedition, Dr Zulfigar wrote about his experiences which was published in seven episodes in The Star.
The voyage, jointly sponsored by the National Science Academy, USM and AAD, was Malaysia's second research-based expedition to the polar region.