The research vessel Polarstern entered its homeport with the early-morning high tide on Thursday, 20 April 2017, marking the end of a five-month season in the Antarctic for the icebreaker and her crew. Many geoscientists in Bremerhaven can’t wait to see the samples that were collected during a six-week foray into the Amundsen Sea this February and March, which are expected to help decode the glacial history of West Antarctica and improve the accuracy of prognoses for future sea-level rises. Once the samples have been unloaded, preparations will begin for the “Open Ship” event on 22 and 23 April, when the Polarstern will open her doors to the public.
Antarctica is the highest, driest, coldest and windiest continent on earth. The lowest temperature yet recorded by ground measurements for the Antarctic Region, and for the whole world, was -89.2°C at Vostok station on 21 July 1983. But how warm does it get? That was the question posed last year to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations funded body that oversees meteorology and weather observations worldwide. A New Zealand scientist was part of an international group of experts who have identified the highest temperatures ever recorded in Antarctica.
Stronger winds, increased warming, ocean acidification and declining sea ice have been identified as major threats to some of the keystone members of the Southern Ocean community – phytoplankton. A recent review, published in Frontiers in Marine Science, predicts the likely impact of climate change on phytoplankton across various regions in the Southern Ocean.
As climate change continues to impact the Antarctic, glacier melt and permafrost thaw are likely to make more liquid water available to soil and aquatic ecosystems in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, potentially providing a more nutrient-rich environment for life, according to a Dartmouth study recently published in Antarctic Science.
The continuous daylight conditions of summer in Antarctica are known to interfere with physiological functions such as sleep patterns and the release of melatonin, a hormone associated with circadian rhythms and sleep. Now, a study offers new information about why people in this region sleep poorly, and suggests that social behavior may also play a role. The study, published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Physiology, was chosen as an APSselect article for March.
Finding fossils needs a lot of patience, knowledge of geology and the history of the environment... or simply a lot of luck. A fossil collector found in New Zealand's Waipara River area in the region of Canterbury by chance the remains of a huge ancient penguin. After thorough examination by scientists from New Zealand and Germany, the age of the fossilized bones was estimated around 61 million years old. According to the researchers, the oldest penguin now known resembled the modern king penguins of today but was more than 150 centimeters talll. This makes it more than 30 centimeters bigger than emperor penguins, the largest modern penguin. The results by the scientists mean that penguin evolution started much earlier than previously estimated. It is probable that the divergencce of penguins from their relatives happened during the age of the dinosaurs.
The United States has sought, and been granted, New Zealand’s permission for a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, to make a port call at Lyttelton on its way home from Antarctica sometime later this month.
A model of Australia’s new Antarctic icebreaker will be on public display for the first time at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart.
Scientists have successfully deployed miniature GPS loggers on threatened black browed albatross on sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island to find out more about the foraging habits of the birds. Approximately 40 pairs of black browed albatross breed on the steep slopes of the remote Island, and this summer researchers attached five loggers to the breeding birds.