An international agreement is now in place to give special protection to the area of ocean left exposed when one of the largest icebergs ever recorded broke free from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in July this year. The iceberg – known as A68 – is starting to move north, and it will leave behind a 5,818 km2 area of seabed exposed to open marine conditions. Much of this area may have been ice-covered since the last inter-glacial period around 120,000 years ago, providing a unique opportunity for scientists to study how marine life responds to this dramatic change.
Australian expeditioners will have new wheels when they travel across Antarctica this summer, with an upgraded bus destined for Australia’s Casey research station. The new bus will share the name of its predecessor, ‘Priscilla’, named by expeditioners after the iconic Australian movie about a road-trip across the Simpson Desert by a bus of the same name.
Previous news about possible life forms under the ice of Antarctica had been published over the last few years. A new study by scientists from the Australian National University now found further evidence for this hypothesis. Previously undiscovered animals and plants may live in warm caves under Antarctica's glaciers. Forensic analysis of soil samples from caves on Ross Island revealed traces of DNA from algae, mosses and small animals.
The industrialized whaling era had a significant impact on whale populations around Antarctica. Almost all species of baleen whales had been severely decimated and by the end of the 1960s, a moratorium on whaling was decided to give populations time to recover. This moratorium heralded the protection of whales in the Southern Oceans. Today, the populations slowly recover, albeit not as quickly as hoped for, according to a new model presented by Australian scientists.
Penguins are sociable. During breeding, these birds gather in large colonies on the coasts of Subantarctic islands and on the main land. Their multi-vocal calls are usually loud and heard over the entire colony. But what is their behavior while at sea foraging? To solve this mystery, Korean biologists applied video cameras on Gentoos to film and eavesdrop on the animals while at sea. The results were stunning: Even while swimming and diving, Gentoos communicate amongst each other using short calls. However, the exact nature of these calls is yet to be determined.
Researchers have provided new evidence that large sub-glacial lakes existed under the West Antarctic Ice Sheet during the last glacial period – around 20,000 years ago – a period when the ice was thicker and extended further than it does today. Using sophisticated geochemical techniques to analyse the water trapped within sediment cores recovered from the sea-floor of Pine Island Bay, the team concludes that the area once featured several sub-glacial lakes, the largest of which was the size of Loch Lomond. The results were published this month in the journal Nature Communications.
Antarctica is unique in many ways. Thanks to the harsh, dry and cold environment, things often are perfectly preserved for a long time and decay only slowly. For anyone interested in polar history, this feature is perfect in the search of items and goods that had left behind by old polar explorers. One of these people enamored by polar history is Australian Dave McCormack who now has been awarded the prestigious Phillip Law Medal.
The New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust has discovered an almost perfectly preserved 118 year old watercolour painting by Dr Edward Wilson in an historic hut at Cape Adare, Antarctica.
It is only six centimetres long, but it plays a major role in the Antarctic ecosystem: the small crustacean Euphausia superba (Antarctic krill). It's one of the world's most abundant species and the central diet of a number of animals in the Southern Ocean. For a long time, scientists have been puzzled why the size of krill stocks fluctuates so widely. In a new study headed by Prof. Bernd Blasius and Prof. Bettina Meyer, a group of scientists from the University of Oldenburg's Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM) and the Bremerhaven-based Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) have shown that the competition for food within the population is responsible for the variability.
Electronic tags with ‘whale cams’ deployed on humpback whales in Antarctica have revealed the secret feeding habits of the ocean giants. The small camera tags were placed on the backs of humpback whales by Australian and United States scientists working off the Antarctic Peninsula, in the Gerlache Strait.