New Zealand scientists return from Antarctica's ice with information that could shape future climate policy

Returning from Antarctica's ice to Canterbury's heat.

A large group of New Zealand and Italian scientists returned to Lyttelton on Saturday - after a two-month voyage through Antarctica's Ross Sea.

Twenty-five Italians and 12 Kiwis were onboard the Laura Bassi - dodging icebergs and battling 185km/h winds in one of the most remote, and largely misunderstood parts of Earth.

According to NIWA oceanographer and New Zealand science lead on the Laura Bassi, Craig Stevens, the joint research mission could help shape future climate policy.

"We basically did a grand tour of the Ross Sea continental shelf, working along the largest ice shelf in the world, making ocean measurements, deploying robots, deploying instruments," he said.

The 80m x 17m vessel, which weighs more than 4000 tonnes, has a range of tools on board to gather data relating to ocean temperatures, sea level rise and ecosystems.

With crews back on the mainland, the information will now be compiled.

"We use it to improve computer models so that our projections get better, so we have a sense of what things will be like in a decade or two decades' time," Stevens said.

Stevens has made 15 visits to the ice, but the 2024 Ross Sea Voyage was his first by sea.

"It's quite empowering to be amongst it - and it really improves your understanding of sea ice and seeing it in action."

That sea ice is in drastic decline, backed up by the scientist's own observations.

"They are certainly seeing great changes. The sea ice minimum around Antarctica has basically fallen off the charts at the wrong end," Stevens shared.

The ship will continue to be unloaded this weekend, before returning to Italy early next week.