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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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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Age doesn’t matter… if you’re a wandering albatross

A new study of the wandering albatrosses breeding on the sub-antarctic island of Bird Island (off South Georgia) reveals that age doesn't matter when foraging. The research, published in the journal PLOS ONE last month, shows that even when the birds reach old age, any reduction in muscle function and visual acuity didn't appear to affect their foraging behaviour.

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Antarctic marine microbes airdropped to study ocean acidification

A special kind of air-drop was delivered to Australia’s Antarctic Davis station last month. Antarctic helicopter pilot Bryan Patterson used his aerial fire-fighting skills in the name of science, when he sling loaded 7000 litres of sea water into a holding tank for marine microbe experiments at Davis station. Mr Patterson used a Bambi Bucket, normally used to fight fires during the Australian bushfire season, to fill the holding tank, situated above the experimental facility. The water was then gravity fed to the laboratory – located in a shipping container on the Davis shoreline.

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Household pollutants detected around Antarctic stations

Australian Antarctic stations are rethinking their operational practices after the discovery that common household pollutants are dispersing from one of their bases, Casey station, into the local Antarctic environment. The research published in Environmental Science and Technology and led by Dr Susan Bengtson Nash from Griffith University’s Southern Ocean Persistent Pollutants Program, records the first evidence of the dispersal of these pollutants from local sources – such as furnishings and electronic equipment – in the Australian Antarctic Territory.

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Antarctic ice cores tell 1000-year Australian drought story

The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest accumulation of fresh water in the world. Due to its age it hold substantial and vital information about Earths' climate history, entrapped in little air bubbles in the ice. In a new project, scientists have used a 1000 year Antarctic ice core record to shed light on eastern Australia's long-term drought patterns, with important benefits for water infrastructure planning.

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Shackleton and the importance of poetry

Sir Ernest Shackleton is considered one of the great polar explorers. His expeditions, especially the Nimrod and the Endurance expeditions, have become legendary and an example of hardship and battling against all odds as well as supreme leadership. However, Shackleton also had an artistic side and deemed poetry his other great love. The British polar expert Jim Mayer has ventured deep into the life of Shackleton to illuminate the importance of poetry in Shackleton’s life and his expeditions.

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Taking google street view to South Georgia, a remote Antarctic island

South Georgia Island sits at the fringes of Antarctica with wild ice-covered peaks, soaring albatrosses, constant wind, massive glaciers calving, and wave-pounded beaches filled with wildlife so dense that it is hard to walk. In summer thousands of fur seals, elephant seals and penguins congregate here to fight, mate and rear their young. But recently a rather extraordinary sight could be seen at South Georgia, a man with an alien-like appendage strapped onto his back. It was explained as the arrival of Google Streetview to South Georgia.

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Celebrating the heroes of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition – New Stamp Release

A series of three stamp issues celebrating three ‘Heroes of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition’ was released on November 5th to mark the centenary of the arrival of the expedition at Grytviken whaling station.

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