Now Archived! PolarConnect event with Sarah Slack and Dr. Frank Nitsche from aboard the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer in West Antarctica on Monday, 9 March 2020. You can access this and other events on the PolarConnect Archives site.

What Are They Doing?

A sloped blue iceberg. Aboard the icebreaker Oden between the Amundsen and Ross seas. Photo by Lollie Garay.
A sloped blue iceberg. Aboard the icebreaker Oden between the Amundsen and Ross seas. Photo by Lollie Garay.
Satellite observations show that Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, has been thinning rapidly and its flow speed has been increasing. At the same time, its grounding line, the point at which the glacier starts to float over the sea, has retreated. Oceanographic studies show that the main driver of these changes is incursion of warm water in the deep ocean beneath the floating ice shelf that extends seaward from the glacier. An important factor affecting the flow of warm water towards the glacier and the stability of the ice shelf is the topography of the seafloor in the area, which is poorly known. The seafloor offshore from Thwaites Glacier and the records of glacial and ocean change contained in the sediments on it are the focus of the THOR project.

Where Are They?

The Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel docked in Punta Arenas, Chile. Photo by Jillian Worssam.
The Nathaniel B. Palmer research vessel docked in Punta Arenas, Chile. Photo by Jillian Worssam.
The team will be aboard the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer icebreaker in the Amundsen Sea, West Antarctica near Thwaites Glacier. Normally, participants onboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer share a two-person cabins with bathrooms on board the boat. Regular meals will be provided by the ship's crew. Work will be in labs on board and, possibly, on deck.

Latest Journals

I'll be giving a presentation about my expedition to Antarctica via YouTube Live this Thursday, April 30 at 3:30 PM EDT. I hope you will tune in! .
After a lot of nervous worrying about how we were going to get home in the midst of a global pandemic, my trip from Punta Arenas, Chile back to the northeastern US was surprisingly easy. Airports and flights were nearly empty and the tireless hard work of people at the ASC to plan our travel in…
Yesterday was our scheduled return to Punta Arenas, Chile, but because of some heavy ice and a brief detour from our planned route, we are a few days behind. We're now scheduled to get to port in Chile at 10:00 AM local time on Sunday, March 29. Our journey home beyond that is still not clear, but…
The Adventure Continues Yesterday, we dropped off the ten members of our team who came from the UK at the British research station Rothera on the Antarctica peninsula. It should be easier for them to get home quickly and easily from that location. After close to 60 days at sea together and all…
Ship-based, Amundsen Sea
Project Funded Title
Thwaites Offshore Research (THOR)
Sarah Slack - Educator
JHS 223 - The Montauk School

Sarah Slack has been teaching middle school science in Brooklyn, New York for 10 years. After completing her Masters in Plant Biology from the University of Minnesota, she worked in environmental education at a nature center and on a wooden sailboat before finally realizing she belonged in the classroom, sharing her love of the biological sciences, investigations, and explorations with kids who very often have spent little to no time outside of New York City. This school year, Sarah began teaching STEM instead of science, and has therefore been able to focus on providing opportunities for her students to engineer solutions to design challenges. She is a member of the city's Middle School Science Leadership Team, working to support other teachers as the city transitions to the Next Generation Science Standards. She has also earned a Master Teacher Fellowship with Math for America. Outside the classroom, Sarah loves coaching her school's Science Olympiad team, hiking and backpacking with her two amazing dogs, taking an annual trip to tiny Pictou Island in Canada each summer, and absolutely killing it at fantasy football.

Frank Nitsche - Researcher
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Frank O. Nitsche received a MS in geophysics from the University of Kiel, Germany and a PhD from the University of Bremen, Germany. In 2001 he came to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University where he started as a postdoctoral researcher and is now a research scientist. There he studies sediment processes and morphological conditions of the Hudson River Estuary and the Long Island Sound. In addition, he investigates the morphology of the Antarctic continental margin and is reconstructing the path of past ice streams and related sediment transport processes. He has participated in six expeditions to Antarctica and its surrounding Southern Ocean where he used acoustic mapping techniques and oceanographic measurements to understand past and present processes that shape the Antarctic continental margins and affect the ice sheet. He is involved in the creation of the International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern Ocean. Read more about Dr. Nitsche here.

Thwaites Offshore Research Resources


This lesson will provide students with an opportunity to design and carry out an experiment that mimics the conditions causing accelerated ice melt along the face of the Thwaites Glacier off the southwest coast of Antarctica. Created by Sarah Slack during her expedition to Thwaites aboard the icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer, this activity aligns with the Science and Engineering

About 1 period
Elementary and Up
Download and Share


This lesson about the factors affecting water density in the Amundsen Sea was developed by educator Sarah Slack during her PolarTREC expedition aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer icebreaker. Part of the science mission was to create a detailed map of the seafloor at the face of the Thwaites Glacier, which revealed a series of channels that were conducting a

Less than 1 period
All Aged
Download, Share, and Remix

The PolarTREC Field Experience

PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating) is a program funded by the National Science Foundation that partners K-12 teachers in the United States with scientists doing research in polar regions. The goal of the program is for teachers to be authentically integrated into scientific expeditions in order to gain new skills and experiences that they

Download and Share

This is an archive of a PolarConnect event with PolarTREC teacher Sarah Slack and researcher Dr. Frank Nitsche aboard the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer discussing the science and fieldwork around the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. This event took place in the Amundsen Sea on 9 March 2020.

Download and Share

A guest blog post from PolarTREC teacher Sarah Slack discussing her observations from her expedition aboard the R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer. This article was published by the National Wildlife Federation Blog.