Czech Antarctic scientists research climate, test underwear and shoes

Josef Hanák, photo: archive of Masaryk University in Brno

A biggest group ever of Czech scientists, including nine women, are heading for their annual expedition to the Czech base on James Ross Island in the Antarctic. Apart from a long-term research of climate change, Czech scientists will also be testing various commercial products in local extreme weather conditions.

Czech base on James Ross Island,  photo: archive of Masaryk University in Brno
If everything goes according to plan, the 19-member team of scientists is expected to arrive at the Czech base in the Antarctic, located on James Ross Island, around January 12. This year, the team plans to stay a bit longer than usual, until the end of March.

Czech scientists have been engaged in research in the Antarctic for years. The base on James Ross Island, operated by Masaryk University in Brno, was established there in 2006. This year, the station will be enlarged to include a workshop and a garage to accommodate the all-terrain vehicles, which are used to deliver the cargo to field camps at distant locations on the island.

For their eleventh expedition, researchers from Masaryk University were joined by their colleagues from Charles University in Prague as well as two geologists from the University of Istanbul.

According to researcher Daniel Nývlt, who has taken part in several previous trips, they are going to engage mainly in the long-term research of climate change:

James Ross Island,  photo: NASA
“We have been studying the response of the local eco and geo-systems to the climatic change. We analyse the changes of glaciers and permafrost and look at how it affects plants and microbes and how these individual parts react to climatic change intself.”

Apart from the long-term research, scientists will also study new organisms, such as various types of fungi or one of the most common types of phytoplankton, called Diatoms, which commonly occur in the ground.

Members of the team will be also testing some commercial products, including thermal underwear and special boots in the local extreme weather conditions.

Shoemaker Josef Hanák created boots for the team with special biomechanical insoles, designed to copy the shape of the foot and help transfer body weight evenly:

Josef Hanák,  photo: archive of Masaryk University in Brno
“The boot has a special insole and springs under the arch, which creates kinetic energy. So when you walk, you don’t actually have to carry the weight of your body; it carries itself. That is all there is to it.”

In the past, scientists have tested, for instance, special type of paint, to see if it can withstand extreme temperatures and strong winds, carrying tiny grains of salt and sand.

Products that prove to be effective can win the ‘Tested in Antarctica’ label, handed out by the Technology Transfer Office at the Masaryk University in Brno.