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.
In the white turmoil of an Antarctic snow storm, finding shelter fast can be the difference between life and death. In 1957, the intense orange and yellow of Sir Edmund Hillary’s Hut at New Zealand’s Scott Base in Antarctica was a beacon to those caught out by the weather. Now the original colour scheme has been restored.
A phenomenon described as 'Dragon-skin' ice was observed on a research voyage in the Ross Sea in Antarctica. This rarely seen ice is produced as a result of hurricane strength winds, which remove ice from open water areas, allowing more and more new ice to be formed. Researchers are planning to study the phenomenon and the currents it causes below water in more detail
Australian parliament had decided to invest more resources towards their Antarctic program. To this end, the construction of a new icebreaker was decided earlier this year. To engage the population and increase popularity of its Antarctic program, the government also decided to start a school competition for naming Australia’s new Antarctic flagship.
In the past, the Antarctic was hit by meteorites and meteors several times. Traces are found on Antarctica on several occasions rather easily. However, the subantarctic islands and surrounding oceans are harder to screen due to the depth of the basins. An international team of scientists now has found a large crater near the Falkland Island archipelago. They estimate the age of approximately 250 million years and consider it one of the largest craters in the world.
Gentoo penguins are tough generalists and are capable to withstand the harsh Antarctic climate. However, the tremendous force of volcanic eruptions, as had happened on Deception Island, had put colonies close to extinction several times over the last 7,000 years. This is the result of a study conducted by researchers from British Antarctic Survey (BAS), which they published recently in Nature Communications.