Rising mercury levels putting ivory gulls at risk

Ivory gulls are a true polar bird species by living in the High Arctic. The iconic white bird is seen frequently near remains of seals and other carcasses on the ice. Its ecological status is “Near threatened” according to the IUCN Red List and populations are decreasing. However, in Canada, the birds could vanish soon. Only 500 breeding pairs remain there. A biologist is suggesting rapidly rising rates of mercury contamination may be behind the dramatic population drop.

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Canadian plans for the Arctic: Back on track in 2018?

Canada's military has again delayed the opening of a major new Arctic port, a sign the government is struggling to assert sovereignty over a remote resource-rich region. The planned deep water naval facility at Nanisivik - some 3,100 km (1,900 miles) north of Ottawa - is one of the key components of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's "use it or lose it" approach to the Arctic. The port, initially due to open in 2012, will now not be operational until 2018. Additionally, the proposed and needed vessels to enforce Canadian claims of the Arctic waters will enter service in the same year according to official news.

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Bye bye rats: Baiting in South Georgia successfully finished

The largest ever-conducted rat eradication program on South Georgia has reached a huge milestone last Monday. The helicopter transporting the last baiting bucket filled with the blue baits to battle the rat infestation, landed at 12.50 local time at the camp and thus finishes the baiting of the Southwest of the island. During three field seasons since 2011, more than 800 buckets with bait were distributed over an area of more than 1’000 square kilometers. Now a monitoring program commences to check the result of this mammoth task.

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Ocean research vessel returns from the ice edge with first-of-its-kind atmospheric measurements

The Southern Ocean that surrounds Antarctica has a profound effect on the climate of the Southern Hemisphere. In order to study the atmosphere above the Southern Ocean CSIRO, the Australian research organization, has commissioned a brand new research vessel, the 94-meter purpose-built Investigator. The vessel which can carry up to 60 scientists and support staff has just returned to Hobart, Australia after successfully completing its first cold water trials, which took the vessel to the Antarctic ice edge at 65 degrees South.

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Blue blood on ice – How an Antarctic octopus survives the cold

An Antarctic octopus that lives in ice-cold water uses an unique strategy to transport oxygen in its blood, according to research published in Frontiers in Zoology. The study suggests that the octopus’s specialized blood pigments could help to make it more resilient to climate change than Antarctic fish and other species of octopus.

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The Ross Sea as a possible refuge for emperor during the last ice age

Emperor penguins can withstand the harsh and icy conditions of the Antarctic winter to breed on the fast ice close to the continent. However, the results of a new study conducted by an international research team show that this iconic species has its tolerance limits. During the last ice age, only three populations of emperor penguins might have existed around Antarctica, one of them surviving in the Ross Sea area. The findings have now been published in the journal Global Change Biology and have received wide attention

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Switzerland wants to join the Arctic Council

The Arctic Council is a coalition of Arctic states and offers a communication platform to discuss Arctic related matters. The Council has gained more and more importance over the years due to the opening of the Arctic Ocean. States with no borders to the Arctic have the possibility to join the Arctic Council as Permanent Observers and have thus a certain influence on Arctic matters. Among these states are China, India, Singapore, France, the UK and Germany. Switzerland has now officially deposited its application and hopes to join this illustrious council.

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The bigger the better: New plans for hotels in Longyearbyen

In the far north of Europe lies the Svalbard archipelago, embedded between the North Cape and the North Pole. Covering an area of more than 60’000 km2 Svalbard offers a unique opportunity to experience the Arctic in its entirety, from reindeer to polar bear. Every year, it attracts ten thousands of tourists. Tourism has become the second largest branch of Svalbard economy and appropriate infrastructure projects are planned.

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When you are not a gourmet: Reduced sense of taste in penguins

Penguins apparently cannot enjoy or even detect the savory taste of the fish they eat or the sweet taste of fruit. A new analysis of the genetic evidence reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on February 16 suggests that the flightless, waddling birds have lost three of the five basic tastes over evolutionary time. For them, it appears, food comes in only two flavors: salty and sour.

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Australian fishing vessel rescued from Antarctic sea-ice

On February 7 an Australian fishing vessel, the 63-metre Antarctic Chieftain, carrying 26 people became trapped in Antarctic pack ice some 1,450 kilometres north-east of McMurdo Sound. The vessel was beset, and ice damaged three of its four propellers rendering the ship not manoeuvrable. The New Zealand’s Rescue Co-ordination Centre was contacted and the US Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, which was 690 km away, was asked to help the vessel.

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