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Expedition to the bowels of the Deception volcano

The volcanic inside of Deception Antarctic Island will soon stop being one of the best kept secrets of nature. A team of scientists headed by the professor of the University of Granada Jesús Ibáñez has travelled for the eleventh consecutive year to the ice continent to design at last the three-dimensional structure of the volcano and get to know how it.

The team, which returned to Antarctica last February, has already enjoyed several campaigns during which they have registered, localized and analysed the seismic points to develop afterwards a starting model with all the defined areas “to carry out later works in as little time as possible”, points out Ibáñez. Once the model has been established, the works have focused this year on the positioning of seismic stations and the emission of shots to the inside of the volcano to extract enough data to design a three-dimensional structure.

During the month they have stayed in Deception, they have managed to extract more than 300,000 data, as much information as an observatory manages to collect in three or four years –the scientist says-, a figure that will allow them to get to know the area in depth and to carry out, in the short term, a tomographic map of the volcano. However, as the researcher explains, the volume of information is so high that they will need at least nine months to obtain the first results analysed, and some more time to design the three-dimensional structure.

In their expedition through the ice seas of Antarctica they have had the collaboration of the staff of the Hespérides “who have always been at the mercy of the changes of route that the work imposed us”, and the base Gabriel de Castilla, in which they have worked collecting and analysing data. Four researchers of the team have stayed in this base for three months.

Success of the campaign
With the first studies carried out since their return, they have confirmed the complete success of the expedition as, according to Ibáñez, they have achieved all their objectives: “From the display of seismic stations to the sending of signals and data collection”.

But the tomography of Deception volcano will not only be useful to get to know how it formed or has evolved all through these years. The analysed data of the 300,000 signals will also allow to assess the risk in the medium and long term of eruptions and earthquakes, an essential data if we take into account “that more than 15 thousand tourists and several hundreds of scientists of different nations visit this place every year”.

The analysis of data of last February campaign coincides with the preparations of the expedition they will set out at the end of this year. This time Jesús Ibáñez will not be the person in charge of the expedition, but another member of his team because, as he himself explains “he has been travelling to Antarctica for many years and there is a time when you need to have a rest because, besides of the speed and pressure when you have to develop a work in a very short period of time, sometimes you also have to fight against the inclemency of the weather, which is very usual in the ice continent”. “Despite these disadvantages, it sill always be worth returning to the ice continent to get to know a paradise formed by ice, water, animals and mountains where you can discover all the wonders of nature”, says the scientist.

Prof Jesús M. Ibáñez Godoy
Andalusian Institute of Geophysics and Seismic Disaster Prevention.
Phone numbers: 958 242 733 / 243 556