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Ambitious Antarctic Research Project Launches From Russian Port

An iceberg off the western Antarctic peninsula where scientists are starting an ambitious environmental research project.

An ambitious new project involving more than 50 researchers from 30 countries will attempt the first full circumnavigation of Antarctica to measure pollution and climate change.

The international team will travel on the Russian research vessel Akademik Treshnikov, which left its home port of Arkhangelsk in the Russian arctic on October 19.

The main stage of the expedition will leave South Africa's Cape Town on December 20 and return on March 18, braving turbulent weather and hostile conditions in the Southern Ocean.

The Antarctic Circumpolar Expedition will be the first scientific mission to study all the major islands in the vast ocean, as well as the Antarctic land mass, both of which are less well known to scientists than the Arctic.

Projects include mapping whales, penguins, and albatrosses in the Southern Ocean; measuring the effect of plastic pollution on the food chain; and logging the extent of phytoplankton -- the base of the food chain -- and its role in regulating climate.

Scientists will also take ice-core samples and study biodiversity on the continent in an attempt to get insight into conditions before the Industrial Revolution.

Based on reporting by AFP and TASS