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First Published: September 24: 2015
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The Antarctic











The Face of The Antarctic Page at The Humanion is Dr Beth Healey. Having spent, almost, a year working in the bewildering Antarctic isolation, plentiful solitude and nature, endless flows of stars, auroras, wide expanse of heavens and the ever expanding darkness, mostly, and in the cold, Beth will leave Concordia soon by taking the slow route over land, she will be part of a 10-day caravan on skies that ferries heavy supplies across the Antarctic plateau. The Humanion wishes the new as well as the old crew the best. And to Beth Healey: a safe journey home. November 24: 2015















Dr Beth Healey at The Concordia Research Centre in The Antarctic Taking her own Blood Pressure: Image Credits:  ESA

Scientists Discover Networks of Lakes and Streams on Antarctica’s Ice Sheets

Image: University of Sheffield


|| April 22: 2017: University of Sheffield News || ά. Vast lakes and streams are widespread on the surface of Antarctica’s ice sheets according to new research published in Nature by an international team of scientists. The study, which included geographers from the University of Sheffield, has found that huge lakes have been forming on the surface of Antarctica since, at least, the 1940s and extensive networks of streams have been draining water onto vulnerable ice shelves, that are prone to collapse.

Scientists previously believed that the drainage of surface water, known as meltwater, was a rarity in Antarctica. However, the international team of researchers used aerial photography and satellite imagery to find that meltwater moves vast distances across the surface of the ice sheets onto ice shelves. Ice shelves, which are floating parts of ice sheets, are prone to collapse when water flows into their cracks and crevasses. The research team believes that in a warming climate, more water is likely to be produced on the surface of Antarctica, which could accelerate the ice sheets’ contribution to sea level rise.

Current predictions of sea-level rise do not include these processes. Dr Jeremy Ely, a member of the research team from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Geography, said, “If melted completely, Antarctica’s ice sheets contain enough water to raise global sea levels by around 58 metres, so it’s important that we understand how and where meltwater forms, moves, drains and the impact it can have on ice shelves, which can be prone to collapse.

Our study has found that extensive networks of lakes and streams have persisted in Antarctica for decades, which move surface water across its ice sheets onto ice shelves. One network of streams feeds a lake, which is situated at 85 degrees south, making it the most southern lake in the world.

Despite extensive studies in Greenland and observations of individual meltwater drainage systems in Antarctica, we previously had little understanding of how water moves across the surface of Antarctica’s ice sheets.”

The study, Widespread movement of meltwater onto and across the Antarctic ice shelves, is published in Nature on Thursday, April 20, 2017.

The research, also,  gives geography students at Sheffield access to the latest innovations in climate science. ω.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Local Weather Impacts on the Melting of One of the Antarctica’s Fastest-Retreating Glaciers

The terminus of Taylor Glacier as seen from the helicopter. Photo by P. Neff.

|| February 19: 2017: University of East Anglia News || ά. Local weather plays an important part in the retreat of the ice shelves in West Antarctica, according to new research published in the journal Nature Communications. The study led by scientists at the University of East Anglia:UEA of the Pine Island Glacier:PIG used a unique five-year record to study how the interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere, as well as changing currents, control how heat is transported to, and beneath, the Pine Island Ice Shelf.

Pine Island Glacier is one of the fastest melting glaciers in Antarctica with some studies suggesting that its eventual collapse is almost inevitable. Previous research suggested more warm water was circulating under the ice shelf and melting it more rapidly, leading to an increasing contribution to sea level rise. However relatively little was known about what drives changes in ocean conditions in this remote part of Antarctica due to its inaccessibility. Some studies suggested that the ocean conditions close to Pine Island Glacier are influenced most strongly by winds at the edge of the continental shelf, some 400 km to the north, which in turn respond to changes in tropical ocean temperatures.

The study looked at the impact of shelf-edge winds and found this to be less direct than previously thought, and that local atmospheric conditions and ocean circulation are the main drivers of ocean temperature changes in the critical 350-700m depth range, over the period of observation.

Dr Ben Webber, oceanographer at UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences said, “The ice shelves of the Amundsen Sea – an area of the Southern Ocean – protect much of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet from collapse. These ice shelves are rapidly losing mass and understanding the mechanisms which control ocean conditions and drive melting of these glaciers is hugely important.

We found a strong annual cycle in the exchange of heat between the ocean and the atmosphere, which drives changes in ocean temperature. While these changes are less evident in deeper waters, through convection and mixing the heat can penetrate deeply enough to have a major impact on melting and influence the temperature of the water entering the cavity under the glacier.

There was a colder weather period from 2012-13, however, a separate study has shown that this only led to a partial slowdown of the glacier’s retreat, and many glaciers in the region have been retreating for decades and aren’t slowing down.”

Changes in the direction of the ocean currents also cause changes in temperature close to Pine Island Glacier. The colder period was associated with a reversal in the currents that transport heat into and around the bay.

Co-author Dr Povl Abrahamsen, Oceanographer at British Antarctic Survey, said, “Most of the ocean data around Antarctica are snapshots of conditions – and many areas are only visited once every one or two years, if that. A continuous five-year time series near Pine Island Glacier, one of the fastest-melting glaciers in Antarctica, lets us see what is happening between these snapshots, giving us insights into the processes driving the melting of Pine Island Glacier.”

Dr Webber continued, “It is likely that other ice shelves around Antarctica that are melting due to warm ocean conditions will also be strongly influenced by local atmospheric conditions. This would underline the importance of atmospheric and ocean monitoring close to the Antarctic coasts to give early warning of future changes in ice shelf melting and glacial retreat.”

The research was carried as part of the Natural Environment Research Council:NERC-funded iSTAR Programme and was in collaboration with US and Korean collaborators using data from ship-based and atmospheric observations including ship-deployed oceanographic moorings.

‘Mechanisms driving variability in the ocean forcing of Pine Island Glacier’ is published in the journal Nature Communications - DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14507

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Madeleine Brasier Speaks of Antarctic Marine Worms and Her Collection of 20,00 Polychaetes Amounting to 400 species

Image: University of Liverpool

|| February 15: 2017: University of Liverpool News: Madeleine Brasier Writing || ά. Marine worms are some of the most abundant and diverse animals found on the Antarctic seafloor. They have many different ecological roles within marine communities making them an important part of ecosystem. To date we still do not fully understand how diverse our oceans are, especially regions, such as the deep Antarctic seafloor, which require research expeditions on ships such as the James Clark Ross to collect marine animals. Given the current and future environmental changes predicted in Antarctica, it is vital that we understand its biology if we want to monitor and manage any potential impacts.

My PhD aims to to re-examine the current levels of species diversity in Antarctic marine worms, describe their geographic distribution and determine their position within the Antarctic food web. To do this I have been using a combination of genetics, modelling and stable isotope analysis techniques. Whilst I am student at the University of Liverpool, my research project is joint with the Natural History Museum, London and the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. My marine worms or ‘polychaetes’ which is Latin for ‘many bristles’, were collected on British Antarctic Survey led research expeditions to three different regions of Antarctica. In total about 20,00 polychaetes were collected amounting to 400 species based on their morphological characters.

The equipment, including nets and sledges, used to collect these worms and other animals is deployed from the ship, lowered to the seafloor which could be between 500 to 1500 m deep, where they are towed and slowly recovered. Once on deck we sort our samples, then carefully photograph and preserve our specimens before their journey back to our laboratories in the UK.

Using DNA I discovered the several of these species contained ‘cryptic species’ which are morphologically identical but genetically distinct. After sequencing nearly 500 individuals from about 15 species, we found that by using DNA species diversity increased by 233%.

Using a combination of species records, genetic data and particle tracking analyses we have observed that many of these small polychaete species are widespread throughout the western Antarctic or even circumpolar.  Understanding how species are distributed and connected is vital for marine management. In order to effectively protect marine regions, we need to be confident that the areas we are protecting contain a variety of marine species in abundance and are able to supply larvae or adults to neighboring regions.

The final stage of my PhD uses stable isotopes to determine the trophic level of Antarctic polychaetes, i.e. where they are in the food web. At the moment the relationship between species and functional diversity is not fully understood.

Most of our understanding of the feeding characteristics of these polychaetes is based on their morphology or related species from other oceans. Determining a comparable numerical trophic level we can examine the variation between and within cryptic species, Antarctic regions and depth ranges. Knowing whether species diversity relates to functional diversity will help us understand the impact of species loss on marine communities within the Antarctic Ocean.

I feel very lucky to have visited Antarctica twice during my PhD, in March 2016 I took part in a British Antarctic Survey expedition to the South Orkney Islands, just north of the Antarctic Peninsula. Here we sampled a marine protected area, collecting many species considered to be new to science and found many interactive relationships between several marine species.

I have recently obtained funding from Antarctic Science to study the functional relationship between deep-sea corals and symbiotic marine worms collected during the expedition.  Last summer I also attended the US Antarctic program’s early career-training course in Antarctic Biology at Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. Here I experienced what it was like to live and work on an Antarctic station and all the considerations, precautions and enjoyment involved in planning and conducting Antarctic research.

I will be submitting my thesis next year, after which I wish to continue my career in polar science, to improve our understanding of and help protect our oceans. ω.

Madeleine’s blog articles: Study the Antarctic Seafloor

And in Women in Polar Science

Madeleine Brasier is a PhD student in the University of Liverpool’s School of Environmental Sciences

The Humanion Calls on the Word Universities to Unite  Into a Universal United Nations of Universities: For Acting as the Universal Human Bank of Learning, Knowledge, Research, Innovations and Investments: To Begin with to Advance Non-Profit Drug Development

|| February 14: 2017: The Institute of Cancer Research London: England: United Kingdom News || ά. As we report this news from The Institute of Cancer Research London, England, United Kingdom, The Humanion calls on the word universities to unite into a Universal United Nations of Universities or for short, UUNU: One for Many Many as One for the Light: for acting as the Universal Human Bank of Learning, Knowledge, Research, Innovations and Investments. To begin with to advance non-profit drug development. This is not envisioned as anything that exists at the moment. This, if constituted properly and with proper commitment, can become the 'richest' universal body because it will receive, in addition to an opening fund and through all existing means and modes of fund generation, philanthropic direct donations from across the globe, which it will raise every day through all possible existing channels, and added, all the world universities' individual assets together, which is going to be 'colossal' if added together, can work as the largest guarantee to raise as much funding from 'financial bodies' for anything it would like to invest in. And it will have an opening investment from all the participating universities of the world and every single university must must must be inspired to join in. This can and will be the 'Revolution' of this Century if we can inspire the visionaries of the world to put their thinking caps on.

And here is the news. Universities should work with new forms of commercial partner to take their own cancer drugs to market and drive down the ‘spiralling’ cost of new medicines, leading experts propose. A high-profile commentary warns that the price of cancer drugs is now rising so fast it threatens the whole financial viability of cancer treatment, particularly as the increased use of drug combinations multiplies costs. The authors propose that expert drug discovery teams in academia could develop cancer drugs more cheaply by working with new forms of private enterprise as an alternative to the traditional pharmaceutical industry model. The commentary, How much longer will we put up with $100,000 cancer drugs?, puts forward a series of radical solutions to disrupt the drug discovery and development system and provide real competition for the conventional pharmaceutical industry approach. Readmore

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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Satellites Track Variations in Antarctica’s Glacial Retreat

The terminus of Taylor Glacier as seen from the helicopter. Photo by P. Neff.

|| December 12: 2016 || ά. Five satellites spanning two decades have revealed variations in the timing and pace of glacial retreat in West Antarctica. Some glaciers’ thinning spreads up to three times faster than on neighbouring tributaries, and was offset by decades. The glaciers flowing into the Amundsen Sea have been drastically losing ice, likely due to rising sea temperatures recorded around Antarctica in recent decades.

The Pine Island Glacier is known to contribute more to rising sea levels than any other ice stream on the planet, and the neighbouring Thwaites and smaller Pope, Smith and Kohler Glaciers are also losing ice. But the rate at which these glaciers are melting varies between them, despite their relative vicinity. Possible reasons for this include differences in glacier catchment size, bedrock, topography and hydrology. What remains clear, however, is that over the past 25 years, all three have seen thinning from the grounding line, where the ice stream lifts up off the land and begins to float out over the ocean, across the glacier surface.

“Scientists generally agree that it is warm ocean water that melts the floating part of the glacier, which then allows the glacier to flow more easily because it’s no longer held back by the floating ice shelf. As the glacier flows faster, it starts to become thinner.” said Dr Hannes Konrad, lead author of the study published in Geophysical Research Letters. “If there’s not enough snow and ice accumulating higher up to compensate, the glaciers lose more and more of their mass as they flow towards the sea, and that’s exactly what we are seeing here, but the detail varies considerably between the three systems, and even within each glacier.”

Using data dating back to 1992 from the ERS-1 mission, together with information from ERS-2, Envisat, CryoSat and NASA’s IceSat, scientists from the UK’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling reconstructed surface heights along a series of glacial flowlines to see how thinning at the grounding lines had been passed further inland. In 1992, all three were already experiencing height loss at or near the grounding line, with Pine Island Glacier losing height by around 1 m every year – although the interior surface was stable.

Thinning then spread steadily, first up the glacier’s main trunk, and then further inland. While the pace at which it spread across the surface varied, rates of thinning reached up to 13 km:year.  Changes at Thwaites Glacier were more erratic. The surface at the grounding line was already falling by up to 03 m:year in 1992, but thinning ceased around 2000. In 2004, thinning continued and spread at similar rates to those seen at Pine Island Glacier, but the offset of about 10 years means that it did not spread as far inland.

The Pope, Smith and Kohler Glaciers experienced the largest falls in surface height of up to 7 m/year, most likely beginning before the data record. The thinning spread much more slowly than at Pine Island Glacier or Thwaites Glacier. “As well as being able to routinely monitor the polar ice sheets as a whole, these results show the ability of satellites to pinpoint how individual glaciers are responding to environmental change.” said CPOM Director Professor Andy Shepherd.

“The next steps are to refine our calculations of ice loss and sea level rise from the Antarctic ice sheet as a whole, and, in turn, improve our models of what might happen in the future.” The study is being presented today at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting held in San Francisco, USA.


Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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If You are a Doctor and You Would Rather Leave Medicine to the Mortals and Go and Practise It Out There....In the Universe..... Apply

Map of Antarctica showing the 3200 m-high plateau called Dome-C in red square and
Concordia station, the star. Image: ESA:M. Drinkwater

|| November 28: 2016 || ά. The next medical doctor to spend a year at the Concordia research base in Antarctica arrived this week by aircraft. Carole Dangoisse from Belgium will live and work at the station conducting space research on and with the rest of the Italian–French crew as they spend the winter in isolation.

With temperatures as low as –80°C, no sunlight for four months and no access at all during the winter, Concordia is one of the most remote and isolated human outposts. Its unique location and extreme conditions offer ESA the chance to research how humans adapt to living far away from home – similar to an outpost in space or on another planet.  Carole will work on experiments looking at bone health, how the immune systems adapts to the extremes and how to assess mood in team dynamics, among others.

Knowing how someone feels is important for mission controllers. However, ask someone how they feel and they will never reply objectively. The Capa experiment will assess mood by analysing speech patterns such as tone of voice, intonation, use of grammar and speed of speech. Crewmembers will regularly record a video diary of their lives in Concordia as well as narrate a paragraph from a fairy tale.

By looking at changes in the way they talk into the camera and comparing these with results from standard questionnaires, researchers hope to develop software that can analyse speech automatically.

Carole is replacing Floris van den Berg, who has spent the last year in Antarctica. Floris is handing over the experiments to Carole and explaining the protocol as he prepares to leave next month.

ESA’s Jennifer Ngo-Anh explains, ''The research doctor in Concordia is like an astronaut on the International Space Station for ESA – she or he conducts experiments for the researchers in Europe and collects the results for analysis.”

ESA is looking for the next research doctor to run experiments in this unique setting. Do you have a medical degree and a sense of adventure? Sign up through the link to the right, an ESA member state nationality is required. ω.

And this is Dr Beth Healey, from London, England, UK, who, once upon a time, spent a year at Concordia.

Whatever Your Field of Work and Wherever in the World You are, Please, Make a Choice to Do All You Can to Seek and Demand the End of Death Penalty For It is Your Business What is Done in Your Name. The Law That Makes Humans Take Part in Taking Human Lives and That Permits and Kills Human Lives is No Law. It is the Rule of the Jungle Where Law Does Not Exist. The Humanion

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What are on Dr Beth Healey's Eyes: Or Rather Were?

Released 07.06.2016 03:39 pm: Image: ESA:IPEV:PNRA: Beth Healey

|| June 08: 2016 || ά. Concordia sits on a plateau 3200 m above sea level. A place of extremes, temperatures can drop to –80°C in the winter, and the Sun does not rise above the horizon in the winter, forcing the crew to live in isolation without sunlight for four months of the year.

Its seclusion offers scientists a unique location to conduct research far from civilisation in many disciplines. The thin atmosphere, clear skies and zero light pollution around Concordia make it an ideal place for observing the Universe – as this picture shows with its aurora and many stars.

Auroras occur when atomic particles from the Sun hits Earth’s upper atmosphere, making it glow in a greenish blue light. They occur frequently over both polar regions, but are often difficult to see from populated areas.

For ESA, the isolation and extreme weather offer interesting parallels with spaceflight and living on another planet. Each year an ESA-sponsored medical doctor joins the crew of the Italian–French station to monitor and run experiments on the crew of up to 15.

This image was taken by Beth Healey, medical doctor from the winter of 2015. Timed to coincide with the opening of an exhibition on space and Antarctica, Beth is presenting the story “Step to the stars – our future in space starts on Earth”.

The narrative is featured in the WhiteSpace exhibition at the Times Science festival in Cheltenham, UK, being held June 07-12

What really happens in a crew of 13 isolated in a research station for nine months? Find out at.


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Dearest Mother Earth, The Humanion Made You a Heart in Celebration of Your Joyous Bounty for Us

|| April 22: 2016 || This image, titled, Earth Humana, Heart Humana, made of two images:  the background image is taken, gratefully, from NASA and the centre image is made out of an ESA image ( with gratitude) in celebration of the Mother Earth Day 2016. Here, we give you, the Earth Humana Heart Humana. If you look at the top of the centre image where the light illumines almost two hearts of lights yet which could be imagined as the aortas of the heart made of waterfalls of lights coming outside to which you can imagine the two dark figures as a lion (larger one) and a lioness (the smaller one), a couple emerging from the dark to drink from that flooding waterfalls of lights. Having emerged into the absolutely beautiful exposition of the two hearts of lights they appear bedazzled and awed and just maintain that 'eternal' pose. 

Though the images from which this has been created, do not belong to us, this does to The Humanion for it is a creative product made of existing materials (with credit given to both NASA and ESA).

Anyone can use this image so long they follow the following:

Retaining the title of the image

Acknowledging that it is an image that has been taken from The Humanion

And acknowledging as we have done that it was created using two NASA/ESA images and these two organisations have no connection with The Humanion (or in your case) with you nor do they endorse The Humanion (or in your case) you or your organisation.

The image can only be used for bona fide purposes and can not be used in any commercial advertisement or party political purposes

And that you link this image to this page.

Thank you

Happy Mother Earth Day 2016


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The Real Ice Sheets of Antarctica

Laura Faye Tenenbaum Writing

The terminus of Taylor Glacier as seen from the helicopter. Photo by P. Neff.

||April 19, 2016: Climate NASA || “I’m looking at 10 glaciers and I’m sitting on one,” said Dr. Heidi Roop of the University of Rochester over satellite phone. “I’m looking at a landscape that’s been here for millions of years unaltered by people.” Roop had called me from Taylor Glacier, an outflow of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which flows down through Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys. I’m looking at a mountain that no human has ever touched, ever. This is a landscape where it feels like humans shouldn’t be. There are no animal trails, no trees. There’s rock and ice and us.”

Roop and the rest of the eight-person team, which included one driller, two scientists, three Ph.D. candidates and a camp cook/manager, had come to drill for ice cores at Taylor Glacier because of its unique configuration. Drilling ice cores is a technique climate scientists use to collect samples of trace gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide that have been trapped in air bubbles in the layers of polar ice.

Air bubbles make up 10 percent of glacier ice. That may sound incredible, but it's true. In fact, teams of scientists spend entire careers studying these ice cores to learn about Earth’s atmosphere. In a traditional ice core, the ice is horizontally layered. The surface layer is the youngest, made of recent snow with modern atmosphere filling tiny spaces between snowflakes. Ice core science teams drill vertically down through time. The deeper you drill, the further back in time you go. (The deepest borehole, at Vostok, Antarctica, is more than 3,600 meters deep.) According to Dr. Peter Neff, a glaciologist who was also on the call, “We now have a very good understanding of past greenhouse gas concentrations because there’s been so much research since the 1990s, especially methane, for example. The signal of methane concentration is globally representative and we know from these ice cores the heartbeat of methane through the past 800,000 years with high accuracy.”

Scientists drilling for ice cores head to Antarctica because it’s the cleanest place on the planet. (There’s so much more pollution and dust in the Northern Hemisphere.) “We’re not studying Antarctica itself, although Antarctica is a huge player in the global climate system," Neff said. "But rather we’re learning things about global climate that we can learn only in Antarctica. It’s so far away, yet it holds clues that inform our understanding of the rest of the world.”

Travelling back in time

Taylor Glacier is an unusual place on a continent that’s full of the unusual, which is why this group of scientists traveled there. The glacier flow has essentially tipped ice layers on their sides, so to travel back in time the team can simply walk across the glacier instead of having to drill deep down. Time is stretched out north to south, so “as you walk northward you’re going forward in time, from ice that’s 80,000 years old, past the coldest part of the last glacial period 20,000 years ago (when it was so cold and dry there was less vegetation, so the atmosphere was dusty), all the way to ice that’s only 8,000 years old,” Neff explained. The team also took their Ski-Doo down the glacier about 10 kilometers to a site where they previously found 125,000 to 130,000 year old ice, which formed during the last interglacial period—the last time global climate was close to today’s warm temperatures. Other ice core records suggest that this time period was actually several degrees warmer than today, making it our best analogue for the warm conditions we’re headed towards.

Because the twists and folds of Taylor Glacier bring old ice to the surface, scientists only need to drill a few meters deep to collect very large samples from specific time periods. The team can core down into, say, the transition at the end of the last glacial period 20,000 years ago, when the climate system shifted back towards warmer temperatures—with some rapid climate change “speed bumps” along the way. The team hopes that gathering large enough samples of gases from this time period will help us understand what drives large climate shifts, what the real rates of change are and if we’re headed towards any tipping points. “We can ask more specific questions because we can get much bigger samples, which gives us room to unlock minute details in the chemistry of gases trapped in the ice,” Neff said. “For some work, we’re literally chain-sawing a meter down into the ice and breaking it out with a big metal bar and taking out samples that are a meter long by 30 centimeters wide that weigh like 250 pounds,” Roop added. “You should see my biceps right now.”

The view from the helicopter looking up Taylor Glacier. Taylor Glacier Camp is located about 15 km (about 9 miles) from the terminus, or end, of Taylor Glacier. Photo Credit: H. Roop.

24 hours of daylight

Although there is 24 hours of daylight during the summer in Antarctica, the drill team wakes up in the middle of the night when the sun moves behind a mountain range and creates a shadow for about five hours. “The sun just does a big circle around us, but the shadow makes it a lot colder, which keeps the drill from freezing into the glacier,” Neff explained. Then Roop added, “When the sun goes behind the mountain, the glacier crackles and pops—loud pops like gunshots—because of the temperature drop.”

Once they collect the ice cores, some are put into a pressure chamber under vacuum to remove all the modern air and are then melted. The gas from the ancient bubbles is released as the ice cores melt, and then gets carefully pulled into sample canisters, which are about the size of a SCUBA tank.

Near the end of this field campaign, the team will pull everything out to waiting helicopters using a big pink sled towed behind their Ski-Doo. The team will fly the ancient gases extracted from the ice cores to McMurdo Station before heading back to the University of Rochester Petrenko Lab, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography Severinghaus Laboratory, and the Oregon State University Ice Core and Quarternary Geochemistry Lab. The Ski-Doo will eventually hitch a ride from the helicopter as well, in a sling load dangling from a big wire cable tethered to the bottom of the helicopter. “Antarctica is a really emotional place," Roop said. "It’s a rare, rare, rare, rare opportunity to go where people don’t live, where people can’t live. This is the edge of where humans should be. There’s no trash, no animal tracks, no power lines, not even a bird; nothing to give you scale. It’s like the exhilaration of breaking a rule, poking a boundary. And there’s something thrilling about that.”

The National Science Foundation has a Presidential mandate to manage the U.S. Antarctic Program, under which it supports researchers, coordinates all U.S. science on the southernmost continent and in the surrounding ocean, and provides the infrastructure and logistical support needed to make the science possible.

Find out more about the University of Rochester Ice Core Expedition here

Thank you for reading.


Laura Faye Tenenbaum is a science communicator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and teaches oceanography at Glendale Community College.


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Anyone for Lunch?

Lonely lunch: Released 22/03/2016 11:26 am: Copyright ESA/IPEV/PNRA–F. van den Berg

March 23, 2016: ESA-sponsored medical doctor Floris van den Berg scans the horizon and contemplates life at Concordia research station in Antarctica during a freezing picnic. No arrivals will appear on the horizon for nine months – the winter months in Antarctica are too extreme for supplies or people to travel to the remote base, and the closest neighbour is 560 km away.

This outside picnic allows Floris to soak in some last rays of Sun and get some much-needed Vitamin D. Concordia’s location almost 2000 km from the South Pole means that its inhabitants do not see the Sun for four months during the winter.

Twelve people will do scientific research and keep the station running in one of the coldest places on Earth – temperatures regularly drop to –80°C. The extreme isolation, cold and location make Concordia an ideal place to perform research in many scientific domains, from glaciology and seismology to astronomy and climate research.

Floris’ task is to investigate the crew themselves – spending a year in Concordia has parallels to spending months in a spacecraft and ESA is interested to see how body and mind adapts to the extremes. From testing spacecraft-piloting skills to assessing mood and running CT-scans to chart bone loss, Floris will be running experiments for researchers elsewhere, just like an astronaut on the International Space Station.

Read more about the Floris and the crew on the Chronicles of Concordia blog.


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NASA Tracking the Influence of Tides on Ice Shelves In Antarctica

Maria-José Viñas Writing

Image: NASA

March 19, 2016: Ice shelves, the floating extensions of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, are not simply resting on the ocean waters: they rise, fall and bend with the tides. Ultimately, these oceanic motions impact the flow of ice coming from the glaciers that these ice shelves buttress. Ryan Walker and Christine Dow, researchers with the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, recently spent more than a month doing fieldwork in Antarctica to study the influence of tidal movements on a small, little-studied ice shelf.

The NASA scientists worked with personnel from the Korea Polar Research Institute to install instruments on the Nansen Ice Shelf, a roughly 30-mile-long ice shelf sticking out from the coast of Antarctica’s Victoria Land. The ice shelf is near the new South Korean Jang Bogo Station, where Walker and Dow stayed during their field campaign.

“Nansen is a smaller ice shelf but we’re hoping that it’s representative of many of the smaller ice shelves that ring Antarctica,” Walker said. “We also hope that the techniques that we’re testing out in this campaign can be used in the future on larger ice shelves.”

“Ice shelves are very important for holding back ice flow behind them because what they’re essentially doing is acting as a plug; as soon as you remove them, there’s nothing there preventing the ice mass from moving quickly down,” Dow said. “It’s a particular worry at the moment that the ice shelves around Antarctica are going to break up, and we’re going to see an unprecedented speed-up in the ice coming from the center of the ice sheet.”

Walker and Dow’s instruments consisted of five GPS stations to measure the vertical and horizontal motion of the ice shelf, and two tilt meters, which are sensors that record subtle changes in the angle of the ice shelf as it bends with the ocean tides. They installed the GPS stations in the middle section of the ice shelf, where ice floats freely on ocean water, whereas the tilt meters were mounted in the grounding line area, or the boundary between the ice resting on land and the floating ice.

NASA researcher Ryan Walker (left) downloads data from a GPS station he and Christine Dow installed on the Nansen Ice Shelf two weeks prior.
Credits: NASA/Christine Dow

Despite being only a five-minute helicopter ride apart, the two field sites were very different.

“The ice shelf was all bare blue ice, with no snow on top of it and a fair amount of ridging. Those areas, because they’re flat, they’re very exposed – the wind coming out from the continent can be extremely strong in there and even on a relatively sunny day it can become very cold out there very quickly,” Walker said. “The site where we put the tilt meters was in a small bay with mountain ridges on either side, with a pretty fair amount of snow. Absolutely the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. We were completely sheltered from the winds by the mountains and it was a really sunny day – we wound up working with our jackets off because it was actually quite warm.”

Both Walker and Dow are ice sheet modelers; they create computer simulations of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets to project how the ice will flow in the next decades and centuries and contribute to sea level rise. Walker will incorporate the GPS and tilt sensor measurements collected in Antarctica into his model of changes in ice shelf motion to further study how ocean tides both bend ice shelves vertically and affect the flow of ice toward the ocean.

“Examining how the ice shelf responds to tides helps us get at the dynamics of how the ice flows and we’re hoping will help with future computer simulations, in particular of where the grounding zone is,” Walker said. Pinpointing grounding lines is key to being able to observe how glaciers evolve, because changes in the grounding line can lead to rapid changes in ice flow.

The two researchers say that observing directly what an ice shelf looks like will help them with their modelling.

“If you’re going to be making a model of the system, you want to know everything that you can about it,” Walker said. “Actually seeing it gives you a bit more of a feeling for what sort of assumptions you can make, which things are essential and which things are oversimplifications.”

Dow’s work focuses on how lakes form underneath the ice sheet and how they impact the flow of the ice sheet. She joined Walker in his field trip primarily to help with installing the instruments, but since she is also working with South Korean researchers in modelling subglacial lakes in an area near the Nansen Ice Shelf, she also wanted to see the place firsthand.

This was Walker and Dow’s first collaboration with the Korea Polar Research Institute, which they will continue over the next few years.

To learn more about Walker and Dow’s work on the Nansen Ice Shelf, visit their field blog

Maria-José Viñas: Earth Science News Team/NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

( Editor: Karl Hille:NASA)


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Dr Beth Healey Said Good Bye to Concordia for Home

Beth Healey enjoying the Sun on the coast. Credits: ESA/IPEV/PNRA-B. Healey

ESA-sponsored medical doctor Beth Healey has just left Concordia research station after a year, only to start preparing to return! That's in end of December 2015

She wrote in her blog: I climbed into the small Twin Otter plane, and watched Concordia fade into the distance as we gained height and headed towards the coast. It was a strange feeling to hand over the ESA Lab and wave goodbye to what had been home now for over 12 months. I was in many ways sad to think that when I returned in a month’s time the crew, with which I had shared good memories with over the past winter would no longer be there. However I was also excited to move onto my next adventure.

As we got closer to the coast I started to make out the icebergs and the sea at the horizon. I hadn’t seen open water for over a year so this was really strange and beautiful for me. On landing I put on my Concordia ‘summer’ gear, only to find that when I jumped out of the plane I was hot! The sun was shining, I could see the sea, the temperature was above zero, new smells, there were hills, landmarks at the horizon, open rocks and birds flying over my head. It felt like a different world! It was quite overwhelming, and I laughed with the pilot about how I felt like this even in a place which to most people would still feel really remote.

I hugged goodbye to my fellow passengers as they boarded a helicopter and left to the large station Durmont D’urville where they would board the ship Astrolabe and start their journey home. I was driven in the other direction, in a caterpillar truck, to a small station called Cap Prud’Homme to help with preparations for the traverse.

The traverse departs Cap Prud’Homme and travels for 1300 km to resupply Concordia. Large CAT tractors called Challengers haul several trailers full of fuel, food or scientific equipment. This is how the experimental equipment for the ESA experiments last year reached me at Concordia. Normally there are two traverses each summer period. I am participating on the traverse this year in order to take snow samples for the ESA Bacfinder experiment, and also to drive one of the CAT tractors!

I feel really privileged to have this opportunity to participate in the traverse. The people who work on the traverse are extremely experienced in their work and knowledge of Antarctica and it is unusual to have such a concentrated wealth of knowledge. The chef here has made 10 overwinters and most of the crew at least 10-20 summer campaigns in Antarctica. It is fascinating to hear about their past experiences.

The work has been really different to what I was used to at Concordia. I have helped changed the tracks of a snow plough, learnt how to drive a ‘Challenger’ (I am smaller than the wheel!), prepared food with the chef and assisted with food logistics.

Next to the station there are also Emperor Penguin and Adelile Penguin Colonies. During my stay here I have had the opportunity to go and see both. After a year without animals it has been wonderful to be immersed in this wildlife, and especially to catch the baby Emperors before they leave.

We are due to depart on the traverse in the next few days and I look forward to updating you on our progress!

As Dr Beth Healey Leaves Concorida ESA-sponsored medical doctor Floris van den Berg has arrived at Concordia research station.

Floris has completed the long voyage via Geneva, Frankfurt, Singapore, Christchurch, a one-night stopover at Mario Zuchelli Station before the final destination Concordia where he will stay for a year. Readmore


P: 170116


You may come and you may go, but I go on-------- Concordia: New Supply Arrives at Concordia!

Concordia Sun. Released 23/11/2015 5:27 pm. Copyright ESA/IPEV/PNRA–B. Healey

The next crew to live and work at the Concordia Antarctic research station has arrived in the white desert. ESA-sponsored medical doctor Floris van den Berg will take over experiments for future spaceflight from Beth Healey, who has been at the base for almost a year.

The French–Italian Concordia lies 3200 m above sea level and is extremely isolated – its closest neighbour is the Russian Vostok base 600 km to the north. The crew of up to 15 are on their own during the winter because the –80°C temperatures and the weather prevent aircraft landings.

The international crew, limited oxygen, extreme weather, isolation and cramped conditions make living at Concordia similar to future long space missions. Floris, from the Netherlands, will continue running international research for ESA on how the crew’s bodies and minds adapt to the stresses as they work and maintain the station.

This year’s experiments for ESA include investigating changes in sleep patterns, movement and balance, the crew’s mood, the heart, bone density and even the brain with MRI scans before and after the year-long stay.

One experiment will see test subjects piloting a Soyuz spacecraft simulator like astronauts training for their flights. Their piloting skills will probably degrade over time but mission designers must make sure astronauts have the skills to land a spacecraft even after 18 months in space – or, in Concordia’s case, a spacecraft simulation after 12 months of white space.

The Antarctic summer is approaching and the new crew are only part of the new arrivals. More than 60 scientists and technicians will stay until February to perform research on the ice or to maintain and restock the base. Concordia offers a unique location for scientific research, including glaciology, climatology and testing the accuracy of Earth-observation satellites.

As the research station is near the South Pole, the Sun does not set during the summer months, nor does it rise above the horizon during the winter, leaving the crew in darkness for four months.

Beth will leave after her year in isolation by taking the slow route over land – she will be part of a 10-day caravan on skies that ferries heavy supplies across the Antarctic plateau.

Follow the crew with regular updates on the Concordia blog


Posted on : November 24, 2015


ESA-Sponsored Dr Beth Healey Writes About the Midwinter Celebrations at Concordia

Midwinter Moon. Credits: ESA/IPEV/PNRA–B. Healey

Midwinter is a traditional Antarctic celebration and can be traced back to early Antarctic expeditions. This year marked the centenary of British Explorer Shackleton’s midwinter which their expedition celebrated whilst stuck in sea ice, not knowing if they would enjoy a safe return.

Here at Concordia we celebrated over a long weekend and enjoyed a host of activities organised by the crew. These included themed parties, a Billiards tournament, Scott-Amundson pulk hauling race, a ‘Don’t Panic’ Band concert (thanks for the name Samantha!), far too much delicious food as well as a commemorative dinner to celebrate Shackleton’s expedition. Read on the Concordia Blog

Concordia Crew Blog


NASA Takes Part in Airborne Study of Southern Ocean

The ORCAS campaign is studying carbon dioxide in the sea around Antarctica.
Credits: Flickr user Reeve Jolliffe/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A team of scientists has launched a series of research flights over the remote seas surrounding Antarctica in an effort to better understand how much carbon dioxide the icy waters are able to lock away.

Called ORCAS, the field campaign will provide a rare look at how oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged between the air and the Southern Ocean. The campaign is led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). Michelle Gierach of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, is a principal investigator, along with other scientists from a range of universities and research institutions.

Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas contributing to human-caused climate change. As more carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels, the ocean has stepped up the amount of the gas it absorbs from the air. But it's unclear whether the ocean can keep pace with continued emissions.

Previous studies have disagreed about whether the Southern Ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide is speeding up or slowing down. The measurements and air samples collected by ORCAS -- which stands for the O2/N2 Ratio and CO2 Airborne Southern Ocean Study -- will give scientists critical data to help clarify what's happening in the remote region.

The researchers plan to make 14 flights out of Punta Arenas, Chile, across parts of the Southern Ocean during the campaign, which ends Feb. 28. A suite of instruments will measure the distribution of oxygen and carbon dioxide, as well as other gases produced by marine microorganisms, microscopic airborne particles and clouds. The flights also will observe ocean color -- which can indicate how much and what type of phytoplankton is in the water -- using NASA's Portable Remote Imaging Spectrometer (PRISM). The scientists hope that adding these other measurements to the carbon dioxide data will give them new insight on chemical, physical and biological processes that are affecting the ocean's ability to absorb the greenhouse gas.

"The Southern Ocean is very inaccessible, and existing measurements represent only a few tiny dots on a huge map," said NCAR's Britton Stephens, co-lead principal investigator for ORCAS. "Understanding the Southern Ocean's role is important, because ocean circulation there provides a major opportunity for the exchange of carbon between the atmosphere and the vast reservoir of the deep ocean."

For more information about ORCAS:


For more information about NASA's Earth science activities, visit:


Alan Buis
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

David Hosansky
NCAR|UCAR, Boulder, Colorado

( Editor: Tony Greicius: NASA)


P: 280116


NASA IceBridge Campaign in the Antarctic

A glacier winds between peaks in the Antarctic Peninsula as seen on Oct. 3, 2015, from the NCAR G-V aircraft during Operation IceBridge's southern campaign.
Credits: NASA/David Rabine

NASA’s Operation IceBridge, an airborne survey of polar ice, recently finalized two overlapping campaigns at both of Earth’s poles. Down south, the mission observed a big drop in the height of two glaciers situated in the Antarctic Peninsula, while in the north it collected much needed measurements of the status of land and sea ice at the end of the Arctic summer melt season.

This was the first time in its seven years of operations that IceBridge carried out parallel flights in the Arctic and Antarctic. Every year, the mission flies to the Arctic in the spring and to Antarctica in the fall to keep collect an uninterrupted record of yearly changes in the height of polar ice.

But this year IceBridge added a fall campaign in the Arctic to shed light on the impact of the melt season on the Greenland Ice Sheet and nearby sea ice – the mission had only carried this supplementary campaign once before, in 2013. The new post-melt measurements will help interpret and calibrate the remote data collected by operational satellites such as the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 and prepare for the data from NASA’s upcoming Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2).

Ice Losses In the Antarctic Peninsula

IceBridge’s Antarctic campaign, or IceBridge South, based in Punta Arenas, Chile, began with its first successful flight on Sept. 24. This year, the mission used a Gulfstream G-V aircraft, owned by the National Science Foundation. Despite being smaller than the plane IceBridge usually deploys in the Antarctic campaign, a Douglas DC-8, the G-V is also faster and flies at high altitude, allowing it to cover more ground. The aircraft carried the Land, Vegetation, and Ice Sensor (LVIS), a laser altimeter that maps large areas of sea and land ice from a high altitude, and another DMS photographic mapper.

In total, the southern campaign completed 16 research flights totaling 172 hours. IceBridge South achieved extensive areal coverage from Marie Byrd Land to the Antarctic Peninsula, including the fast-changing Pine Island and Thwaites areas as well as the Bellingshausen and Weddell Seas. Over 58,000 square miles (150,000 square kilometers) of land and sea ice were surveyed, the largest survey by area achieved by Icebridge.

“This is an exciting achievement for the team,” said Michelle Hofton, Icebridge and LVIS Mission Scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park. “The extensive data set we collected from the the G-V over Antarctica will not only provide scientists with information to study changes in sea and land ice that are happening now, but will also create a comprehensive baseline against which future measurements will be compared.”

Furthermore, the weather cooperated and the IceBridge team was able to complete several flights over the Antarctic Peninsula, an area that is usually very difficult to survey because of its persistent thick cloud cover.

During one flight in the Peninsula that mapped the drainage area of several glaciers, LVIS measured a drop of more than 490 feet (150 meters) in the height of two glaciers since IceBridge last plotted them, in 2009. Both glaciers, called Green and Hektoria, were tributaries to the Larsen B ice shelf, which disintegrated in 2002. After the ice shelf collapsed, it stopped buttressing the glaciers that fed it, and glacier elevations have fallen dramatically since then.

A study published in 2012 showed average elevation losses of up to 82 feet (25 meters) per year for the lower Green and Hektoria glaciers from 2006 to 2011. So IceBridge’s discovery that both are still losing ice fast many years after the loss of the adjacent ice shelf is “not all that surprising given what we have observed with other sensors,” said Christopher Shuman, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County glaciologist working at Goddard and co-author of the 2012 report.

“Field data suggests that there’s been a modest cooling in the area over the 2009–2015 time period, and images collected during that time by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer on the Terra and Aqua satellites show more persistent fast ice [sea ice that is attached to the shore] in the Larsen A and Larsen B embayments” Shuman said. “These IceBridge measurements show that once the ice shelves collapse, even some cooling and a good deal of persistent sea ice is not able to hold back these larger glaciers and they continue to lose mass overall.”

IceBridge’s measurements weren’t limited to Antarctica: During the transits to and from Chile, the mission also collected elevation data over Costa Rican rainforests, which will be used to calibrate the measurements of NASA’s upcoming Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation Lidar (GEDI) mission, tasked with measuring the evolution of forests from the International Space Station and due to launch in 2018.

IceBridge also flew over several Chilean volcanoes, including the recently erupted Calbuco volcano, to collect elevation data that will be used to monitor possible eruptions and other natural hazards, and to model the most likely pathways for mudflows.

The mission of Operation IceBridge is to collect data on changing polar land and sea ice and maintain continuity of measurements between ICESat missions. The original ICESat mission ended in 2009, and its successor, ICESat-2, is scheduled for launch by 2018. Operation IceBridge is currently funded until 2019. The planned overlap with ICESat-2 will help scientists validate the satellite’s measurements.

Related Link

More about Operation IceBridge

( Maria-Jose Viñas NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

( Editor: Rob Garner: NASA)


The Arctic

Posted on : November 29, 2015


Isolation Terminated at Concordia Research Centre in the Antarctic!

Glaciologist and Atmospheric Physicist Giampietro Casasanta and Dr Beth Healey  waiting outside in the snow for the aircraft.  Credits ESA/IPEV/PNRA–B. Healey

The first supply aircraft in over six months landed at Europe’s Concordia station on 6 November, bringing long-awaited equipment, food – including fresh fruit – and replacement personnel.

The flight comes just seven weeks after daylight returned to the station on 17 September, following 105 days of continuous night.

Pictured here is glaciologist and atmospheric physicist Giampietro Casasanta from the Italian National Research Council waiting outside in the snow for the aircraft.

ESA-sponsored medical doctor Beth Healey, from the UK, is spending nine months at Concordia as part of the 2015 winter-over team.

ESA sponsors a medical research doctor in Concordia every winter to study the long-term effects of isolation. Understanding how our bodies and minds adapt to extreme environments will help to overcome the challenges of long flights aboard the International Space Station and beyond.

Concordia research station in Antarctica sits on a plateau 3200 m above sea level. A place of extremes, temperatures can drop to –80°C in the winter, with a yearly average temperature of –50°C.

As Concordia lies at the southern tip of Earth, the Sun does not rise above the horizon in the winter and does not set in the summer. The crew must live without sunlight for four months of the year.

The altitude and location mean that the air in Concordia is very thin and holds less oxygen. Venturing outside the base requires wearing layers of clothes and limits the time spent outdoors.

During the harsh winter no outside help can be flown in or reach the base over land – the crew have to solve any problems on their own.

The base is so unlike anything found elsewhere in the world that ESA participates in the Italian–French base to research future missions to other planets.

More information

2015 science programme

Chronicles from Concordia blog

Concordia website


Ecology The Antarctic: The Tearing Apart of Iceberg

Map of East Antarctic

East Antarctica: Map showing Victoria Land coast, East Antarctica and Terra Nova Bay. The red box indicates the general location of satellite imagery over the Nansen Ice Shelf. Released 14/04/2016 10:42 am: Copyright ESA – M. Drinkwater


P: 160416















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