Antarctica has no owner and no country can lay any claims on the continent. However, Antarctic bases are under the jurisdiction of the appropriate country making these remote places always a bit like the homeland. Recently, penguins living near the Australian Antarctic station Davis became witness of an unusual ceremony: The Australian Citizenship Ceremony.
To find fossilized remains of dinosaurs in Antarctica is quiet difficult not only due to the conditions. Because of the glaciation that had started 40 million years ago, most of any fossils have been washed into the ocean. Ironically, also remains of marine dinosaurs also found their way back into their original habitat. However, near the Argentine station Marambio on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, scientists now found the fossil of a huge plesiosaur.
Southern right whales long had suffered from unchecked exploitation in the early days of industrial whaling. Especially around the subantarctic island of South Georgia, whalers quickly had decimated the slow, fat animals. Since the whaling ban in the 70ies, however, the species made a comeback. Now, an international team of researchers led by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), travels to the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia this month (January) to carry out the first scientific whale survey and to check the status of this whale species.
With the arrival and unloading of the EDEN ISS greenhouse at the edge of the Antarctic ice shelf, the construction process has begun. In the coming weeks, a team from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) will set up the greenhouse, designed for extreme environments, just 400 metres from the German Neumayer Station III in the Antarctic. It will be run by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), which is working on the EDEN ISS project together with DLR.
Penguins are iconic birds for the Antarctic. However, more than half of all species have always lived outside of the Antarctic boundaries for millions of years. Thus, fossils of these special birds are found in many un-penguin-like places like Australia, Chile or New Zealand. Here, scientists have unearthed another previously unknown early penguin species, Kumimanu, Maori for “monster bird”.
Since 2011, the largest eradication program against invasive species takes place on the Subantarctic island of South Georgia. Thousands of square kilometers had been baited in an attempt to get rid of rats and mice, which had caused massive havoc among the bird population. Now, the program steps into its final phase with surveying the island for traces of any remaining rodents. With any luck, the island soon will be declared rodent-free.
Life in Antarctica consists of more than penguins and seals. A rich microbial community exists on the ice, the fresh water ponds and in the soil. However, it was unclear how these organisms thrive in their habitat. Now, a team of scientists led by the University of New South Wales Sydney has discovered that microbes have a previously unknown ability to scavenge trace gases from the air to stay alive in these extreme conditions.
Seventy years ago on November 28, the maiden expedition of Australia’s Antarctic Program set sail from Western Australia, establishing the first of the nation’s research stations in the polar region. Nowadays, Australia is considered a key player in Antarctic affairs and holds the largest segment of Antarctica.
The Belgian Antarctic station Princess Elisabeth Antarctica is one of the latest and most advanced stations. During summer season up to 16 researchers can be housed at the station, which is situated in Queen Maud Land, East Antarctica. The station is a summer station and thus, closed for the winter and maintained automatically from Belgium thanks to a sophisticated control system. Now, the station has been manned and reopened for the season.
Albatrosses are one of the iconic bird groups in the Antarctic. Almost no one can evade the fascination of these elegant birds when watching them sailing in the winds over the Southern Ocean. However, their numbers have made a significant drop over the last 35 years, especially those breeding on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, according to a recent study published now in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.