Australian citizenship awarded in Antarctica

The Australian station Davis is situated in East Antarctica directly on the coast of the Vestfold Hills, an ice-free area. It consists of 29 buildings, many of which are not in use anymore but counted to the Commonwealth Heritage list. Credit: AAD, Matt Low

Antarctica has no owner and no country can lay any claims on the continent. However, Antarctic bases are under the jurisdiction of the appropriate country making these remote places always a bit like the homeland. Recently, penguins living near the Australian Antarctic station Davis became witness of an unusual ceremony: The Australian Citizenship Ceremony.

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Weather anomalies help to melt Arctic sea ice

Large parts of the Arctic Ocean are covered with sea ice every year. While in former days, the ice stayed all year round, it nowadays disappears in many areas in summer and reforms in winter. Credit: Michael Wenger

The melting of Arctic sea ice during the winter of 2015/16 had received immense media attention. Several causes had been debated and many saw global climate change as the main culprit. But now, researchers at the ETH Zurich found unique weather anomalies to be the main causing factor. Yet, the researchers have not given an all-clear-signal.

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AECO represents cruise industry in Arctic rescue network

The AECO is an association formed by many Arctic cruise industry stakeholders. The goals are to promote a safe and environmental friendly tourism in the Arctic Polar Region. AECO ships are well-equipped and able to assist search and rescue operations in many ways. Credit: Michael Wenger

Tourism in the Arctic is a fast-growing branch within the cruise industry. However, this also increases the potential risk of accidents and incidents as not all ships are equally suited for visits to the Arctic. Now, Cruise industry, authorities and researchers will join forces to enhance Arctic SAR through the new ARCSAR network. Having secured €3.5 million in EU funding, the ARCSAR project will run for five years and include a live exercise on a cruise vessel.

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Fossilized marine predator found in Antarctica

The Argentine station Marambio is situated at the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula and is the largest of the 13 Argentine stations. It has an airfield on which planes can land by using their normal landing gear.

To find fossilized remains of dinosaurs in Antarctica is quiet difficult not only due to the conditions. Because of the glaciation that had started 40 million years ago, most of any fossils have been washed into the ocean. Ironically, also remains of marine dinosaurs also found their way back into their original habitat. However, near the Argentine station Marambio on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, scientists now found the fossil of a huge plesiosaur.

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Greenland and Denmark agree to clean US military waste

Despite abandoning most of their bases, US military forces still have a foothold on Greenland. Thule Air Base situated in the northwest corner of Greenland is still in use. Credit: TSGT Lee E. Schading / US Air Force

During WWII and the Cold War era, Greenland was in the focus of western military strategists due to its proximity to Russia. Agreements between Denmark and the USA allowed the establishment of US military bases on the world’s largest island, even under the icecap. At the end of the conflicts, most of the base were abandoned but not cleaned up which led to a debate between the Danish and the Greenlandic governments. Now, the two parties signed an agreement to finally conclude the quarrel.

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Southern right whales receive a health check around South Georgia

Southern right whales measure around 15 – 18 m and weight between 45 – 80 tons. They have long migration routes between the Antarctic and the warm coastal waters of Argentina. Credit: Michael Wenger

Southern right whales long had suffered from unchecked exploitation in the early days of industrial whaling. Especially around the subantarctic island of South Georgia, whalers quickly had decimated the slow, fat animals. Since the whaling ban in the 70ies, however, the species made a comeback. Now, an international team of researchers led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), travels to the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia this month (January) to carry out the first scientific whale survey and to check the status of this whale species.

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Greenhouse for research purpose built in Antarctica

The parts of the greenhouse were sent by an icebreaker close to the German research station Neumayer III and there unloaded. Credit: DLR

With the arrival and unloading of the EDEN ISS greenhouse at the edge of the Antarctic ice shelf, the construction process has begun. In the coming weeks, a team from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) will set up the greenhouse, designed for extreme environments, just 400 metres from the German Neumayer Station III in the Antarctic. It will be run by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), which is working on the EDEN ISS project together with DLR.

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New Marine Refuges in the Canadian High Arctic

The Canadian Arctic coastline is the longest overall in the High Arctic. From the high north to the eastern side down to Newfoundland, it covers almost 190’000 km. Countless animals find shelter and food along this coastline. Now, seven new areas along this line are Marine Refuges. Credit: Michael Wenger

While the Trump administration is currently trying very hard to undo the protection measurements in its Arctic areas, Canada goes the other way. Last year, on December 21, the Federal government announced the establishment of seven new marine refuges along the coast of Nunavut and Newfoundland. Altogether, the marine refuges will be more than 145’000 km2 of ocean and will increase add another 2.53 percent to the Canadian protected areas.

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Giant penguin fossil found in New Zealand

Penguins are iconic birds for the Antarctic. However, more than half of all species have always lived outside of the Antarctic boundaries for millions of years. Thus, fossils of these special birds are found in many un-penguin-like places like Australia, Chile or New Zealand. Here, scientists have unearthed another previously unknown early penguin species, Kumimanu, Maori for “monster bird”.

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Ancestral bear discovered in Canadian High Arctic

Researchers from the Canadian Museum of Nature and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County have identified remains of a 3.5-million-year-old bear from a fossil-rich site in Canada's High Arctic. Their study shows not only that the animal is a close relative of the ancestor of modern bears -- tracing its ancestry to extinct bears of similar age from East Asia -- but that it also had a sweet tooth, as determined by cavities in the teeth.

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