Saturday, 28 January 2012


Today starts the trip to the cold of Antarctica. Members of Europlanet community are travelling to the Spanish Base in Deception Isle. 

Felipe Gomez, from Astrobiology Center in Madrid and coordinator of activities TNA 1 and JRA 2 of Europlanet RI project will be blogging directly from Antarctica. We are waiting right now for the ship that will transport us to the isle from Punta Arenas in Chile.
It will be a trip of four days. During two days we will be travelling along the Hoces Sea, one of the most stormy area in the world. We expect a "funny" travers to Antarcica. We will tell you in some days after all. After those four days we expect to have internet access to continue with our blogging activity in the Europlanet webWe will be posting the progress of the trip, pictures and the work we will be implementing along the following month in Antarctica.

Just we arrived to Gabriel de Castilla Spanish base. This base is managed by Spanish military personnel fro Defence Ministry. It is a pleasure for us to be here with these nice people supporting us for any necessity we could have in our work.
The team we are here is composed by Graciela de Diego, Mercedes Moreno, Olga Prieto and myself, Felipe Gomez.

We pretend to study the microbial diversity along the traverse between a thermal environment in the top of “Cerro Caliente” (hot mountain) and the permafrost in the down part of the valley.

Gabriel de Castilla Base is located at Deception Island in Antarctica, which is the tip of an active volcano with hydrothermal sources around. This is the part in we are interested on, in contact with the cold environment of the permafrost.

The first work day was yesterday with a very bad weather, snow and hard wind in the top of Cerro Caliente.

We arrived to the Spanish Base a couple of days ago after the traverse of Hoces Sea. We traversed this area in Las Palmas ship, a military vessel. Hoces or Drake Sea is one of the stormiest areas around the world, and normally, the traverse is very hard with strong movement of the vessel.

More news from Antarctica:
The methology to apply for sampling is drilling with an electrical engine for taking samples at 1 m. We will do three different drills at three different locations: at the top of the hill where a heat source is located, a nearby location where not so high temperature is located and, finally, just in the valley, where permafrost is located.
Today we started to drill in the top of Cerro Caliente. The place has a wonderful view to the entrance (Neptune docs) to the internal sea of the cone of the volcano. But, as usually, the weather was hard to deal with. But, finally, there is good news; after a hard drilling day we got samples at 80 cm deep. The temperature of the samples was 167 ºC. The temperature gradient just promises good scientific conclusions. To be continued…

Europlanet and the Future

We are gathered together at the beautiful Austrian Academy of Sciences to discuss the future of Europlanet.  We are nearing the end of the current project, which has been funded by the European Commission's Framework 7 programme for the 2009-2012 time period.  In this phase, Europlanet has covered a wide range of activities: it has brought together Europe's planetary scientists at the annual European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) and science workshops, enabled personnel exchanges, developed of modelling tools and catalogues, and even organised field trips to places on Earth that resemble Mars and Europa.

But what does the European planetary community want for the future and how can they go about achieving their goals?  It's an interesting topic leading to lively discussion.

In the shorter term, the announcement went out yesterday for EPSC 2012, which will be held in Madrid. The meeting will cover the scope of planetary science with typically 50 sessions of different types.  For details, see