sciencist Dr Jane Francis is about to make
her seventh trip to the Antarctic, in search
of confirmation of a new theory about the
continents history. The US-led expedition
is searching for more examples of controversial
fossils, found high in mountains just 500km
from the South Pole, which prove the Antarctic
ice cap is much younger and less stable than
So far the tiniest things have been
found, said Dr Francis. Two million
year-old tiny twigs and leaves, a fish tooth,
the leg of a weevil and the top of a fly pupae
case. These indicate that at the time the
ice had melted enough to support tundra-like
conditions. Were hoping to find a lot
more fossils to back up that theory.
Scientists believed the ice spread over Antarctica
12 million years ago, and since then has been
fairly stable. If the latest expedition can
prove the ice cap is younger and has responded
to climate changes in the past, it could mean
that global warming will have a more dramatic
effect than anticipated. Any significant melting
of the ice will cause sea levels to rise,
affect ocean structure and flows and speed
up the process of global warming.
Dr Francis will stay in Antarctica for three
months, with up to six weeks spent in the
isolated mountains beyond the Beardmore glacier.
Shell return to Leeds in January to
begin work on what she hopes will be an extensive
range of fossils discovered in the field.