The Southern African Permafrost Group (SAPG) is involved in three major projects; mountain geomorphology, mountain environments, and soil frost research on Marion Island. Apart from the research carried out on Marion Island, the major emphasis is on relict features and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. A particularly pleasing aspect is that the community appears to be growing at a student level. There are at least five Masters and Ph.D. students doing periglacial research under the leadership of the SAPG members.
In 1996 a five-year research project was started on Marion Island to study present-day soil frost processes, their controls and their physical manifestations in this maritime sub-Antarctic environment. The project has now been expanded to include a survey of the Holocene periglacial record of the island. Two additional studies that will commence in 1998 will focus on mechanical weathering and ice-mass balance. The first is a study into the mechanisms and environmental controls of mechanical weathering processes to evaluate the potential use of mechanical weathering products as palaeoenvironmental indicators. The second is a study in collaboration with H. Oerlemans (Utrecht, Netherlands) on the modeling of past mass balance changes of the Marion plateau glacier. With the focus on Holocene environmental changes on Marion Island the project is generously supported by the South African Committee on Antarctic Research.
At the INQUA Congress in 1999 in Durban, South Africa, the Southern African Permafrost Group will organize a workshop and post-conference excursion under the auspices of the IPA Working Group on Periglacial Processes and Environments and the IGU Commission on Climate Change and Periglacial Environments. The one-day workshop will take place during the conference and run under the theme Periglacial Research and Environmental Change. It will consist of a series of paper sessions. A morning session of invited papers on the theme of Periglacial Research in the Southern Hemisphere: A State of the Art is being considered.
Immediately following the congress a four-day excursion will observe evidence in the field and debate the Quaternary (peri-) glacial record of the Lesotho Highlands. This area is one of the few places in the world where the question of a Quaternary glaciation has not yet been resolved.
The provisional program is:
Day 1: Travel from Durban to the Drakensberg escarpment, followed by four-wheel-drive transport up to 2900 m a.s.l. Accommodation will be in a rustic mountain chalet at the edge of the main escarpment offering spectacular views. The afternoon will be used for an introduction to the area.
Day 2: Quaternary glaciation of the Lesotho Highlands: site visits, with data presentations and discussion, to the hollows and their sedimentary sequences proposed as evidence for Quaternary nivation and cirque glaciation.
Day 3: Quaternary record of periglacial landforms: site visits, with data presentations and discussion to the block streams and other periglacial slope deposits and their paleoclimate significance.
Day 4: Slope deposits along the main escarpment and synthesis and site visit to slope deposits below the escarpment. Final discussion and synthesis and return to Durban.
Numbers will be limited to about 25 people. Costs for the post-conference excursion are estimated to be in the order of US$350.
Jan Boelhouwers and Kevin Hall are in the process of developing a proposal on the formation of an IPA Southern Hemisphere Working Group. The intention is to bring together researchers from the Southern Hemisphere, including Antarctica, involved in permafrost and periglacial issues, as well as research data on these topics. Initial projects will involve the creation of a Southern Hemisphere bibliography and a synthesis of permafrost maps. It is intended that the group be formalized in Yellowknife. For more information or suggestions, contact Jan Boelhouwers or Kevin Hall:
Jan Boelhouwers, Department of Earth Sciences, University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17, Bellville 7535, South Africa.e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, fax: +27 21 9592438.
Kevin Hall, Geography Program, University of Northern British Columbia, 333 University Way, Prince George, B.C., Canada V2N 4Z9. e-mail:email@example.com, fax: +1 250 9605795.
Submitted by Ian Meiklejohn (firstname.lastname@example.org)