Subantarctic South Georgia officially rodent-free

South Georgia is situated right in the middle of the South Atlantic and Southern Ocean. Due to its remoteness, only seabirds and marine animals made the place their home, at least until the arrival of human beings. Credit: Michael Wenger

The Subantarctic island of South Georgia had been troubled by rodents for centuries. Brought in by whalers and sealers, rats and mice devastated the bird colonies and the vegetation. Over the last 10 years, however, things have changed for the better. In the world’s largest eradication program, more than 1’000 km2 of the island were cleared of any rodents. Now, the South Georgia Heritage Trust has declared the campaign a huge success.

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IAATO presents latest Antarctic tourism figures

Antarctic tourism has flourished over the last decade. The fascinating magic of the Antarctic environment has captured thousands of people. To make sure that tourism in this fragile wilderness remains environmental friendly and sustainable, IAATO imposes strong regulation strategies on itself. Credit: Michael Wenger

The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) reported its visitor numbers for the 2017-2018 Antarctic season at the start of its annual meeting in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. IAATO has been monitoring, analyzing and reporting trends since 1991 as part of its commitment to ‘leave only footprints’ through the effective self-management of its activities.

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Freshwater from Antarctic glaciers enhances their melting

The Mertz glacier and its tongue are situated in the Australian sector of Antarctica. The glacier itself is approximately 40 km wide and 72 km long. The tongue protrudes another 100 km into the Southern Ocean. It partially broke off in 2010 when it got struck by another iceberg. Credit: Jacques Verron

A new study has revealed a previously undocumented process where melting glacial ice sheets change the ocean in a way that further accelerates the rate of ice melt and sea level rise. The research found that glacial meltwater makes the ocean's surface layer less salty and more buoyant, preventing deep mixing in winter and allowing warm water at depth to retain its heat and further melt glaciers from below.

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Comprehensive conference to focus on changing Southern Ocean systems

All water masses around Antarctica and bordered by the Antarctic convergence are combined to form the Southern Ocean. It is home of penguins, whales, krill, and icebergs. Credit Michael Wenger

The waters around Antarctica, usually combined as the Southern Ocean, have made many headlines lately. Pollution, fisheries, climate change are a few of the pressures that this vast water body is facing. Mid-April, international scientists had gathered in Hobart, Tasmania, to discuss the challenges and possible solutions in a first attempt to combine their knowledge.

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Scott’s scientific legacy helps to understand climate change effects

The Discovery Hut on Ross Island with the US Antarctic McMurdo station in the background. From here, Scott had started his scientific and exploring expedition deep into Antarctica. Credit: Taylor & Francis

During Scott’s famous Discovery Expedition 1901 – 1904, the team collected numerous samples to enhance the scientific knowledge on Antarctica. More than 100 years later, scientists from the UK and the USA have now analyzed some these valuable samples. Their findings give a sneak peek into Antarctic ecology prior to the extensive human activity there and the rest of the world.

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Some Adélies like it colder than others

Adélie penguins breed along the Antarctic coastline from early spring onwards. Their colonies are up to several hundred thousands of breeding pairs and are the largest gatherings of penguins on the Antarctic continent. Credit: Michael Wenger

Adélie penguins are the southernmost breeding penguin species and iconic to Antarctica. Numerous colonies are found along the Antarctic coast and on nearby islands. Until now, they were thought to come to their breeding places only in summer. Now, remote sensing cameras set up at various colonies have captured Adélies returning to their breeding sites during winter time. A comparison between colonies in West and East Antarctica, however, clearly showed that Western Adélies are the ones returning in winter while Eastern Adélies stay away until spring time.

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Totten Glacier tongue even bigger than assumed

A team of scientists from Australia and the US had spent all summer on the Totten glacier tongue to investigate what is underneath the ice. Surprisingly, they found water instead of bedrock. Credit: AAD / Ben Galton Fenzi

Totten Glacier is one of the largest and fastest flowing glaciers in Antarctica. It is assumed to be one of the main ice drainage systems in the east of the Antarctic continent, flowing out over the Totten Glacier tongue. However, little is known about the tongue and its size. An international research team has now seismologically surveyed the tongue and found that it is even longer than assumed. This could make it more vulnerable to melting.

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Antarctic sea ice shrinks to second lowest minimum

This year the Antarctic sea ice extent nearly broke the minimum record set just last year. Satellite data showed a total of 2.15 million km2 sea ice (Photo: Katja Riedel)

Antarctic sea ice has shrunk to its second lowest extent on record, with the latest satellite data showing a total 2.15 million km2 surrounding the icy continent. This year's summer low sea ice extent almost broke the existing minimum record of 2.07 million km², set in March last year when the extent was approximately 27% below the average annual minimum since 1979.

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Research mission to Larsen C Ice Shelf thwarted by sea ice

Emperor Penguins on the sea ice in front of RRS James Clark Ross. (Picture: BAS)

Heavy sea ice conditions have thwarted a science mission from reaching the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica from which a large iceberg broke off in July 2017. A team of scientists, led by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), are on board the RRS James Clark Ross.  Sea ice, up to 4-5 metres thick, made progress for the ship very slow and the ship’s captain made the difficult decision not to continue.

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Penguin feathers and eggshells tell Antarctic climate history

Both penguin feathers and eggshells offer insights into what penguins have eaten and how their environments are changing. (Credit: Kelton McMahon)

Penguins preserve records of Antarctic environmental change. The birds’ feathers and eggshells contain the chemical fingerprints of variations in diet, food web structure and even climate, researchers reported recently at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting.

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