Australian Antarctic season 2012-13
5th September 2012
Australia’s action-packed Antarctic season is underway with more than 90 projects and 550 people heading south this year.
The projects range from policy and infrastructure to art and science, including a major multi-national sea ice expedition on Australia’s research vessel Aurora Australis.
The ship will also visit Australia’s four Antarctic and sub Antarctic stations for resupply and personnel changeover during the summer season.
2012-13 Antarctic season
Australian Antarctic Division 2012-13 season
Robb Clifton - Operations Manager
This season, the 2012-13 Antarctic season, is looking like being a pretty exciting one. We’re going to have about 550 people move through our system, in and out of Antarctica, and those people will all be working to achieve outcomes for about 90 different projects across science, policy and infrastructure.
We are going to have a big aviation program. We’ll be using our own Airbus A319, US ski-equipped LC130 Hercules aircraft, Basler ski-planes, Twin Otters flying throughout Antarctica and we’ll also have a couple of helicopters operating from our ships and stations for the whole season as well.
On the shipping front it’s a very big season for us. An exciting project that we are undertaking this year is the SIPEX project, or the Sea Ice Physics experiment. So a little bit unusually we are going into the spring sea ice to do a whole range of scientific activities using the ship, two helicopters and about 90 people, largely scientists onboard the ship.
Then we will have a voyage that will go in and open up Davis station in about mid-November, do the resupply, change-over and deliver summerers into Davis station. And we’ll also deliver people who are going to Mawson as well. Now they will wait at Davis and be flown by light aircraft across to Mawson from the voyage.
The next voyage will be voyage 2 and it will go down to Casey and take in the new wintering team, bring out the folks who spent 12 months there and importantly resupply the station. Those resupplies involve pumping about 800,000 litres of fuel ashore, so it’s not a small activity.
Voyage 3 will go down and pick people up from Davis who’ve had a summer there and also deliver the new winter crew going into Mawson and resupply Mawson station.
Then to wrap up we will go down to Macquarie Island on voyage 4 - change over the team there, resupply the station with food and fuel for the next 12 months and then return to Hobart in about mid-March.
At the end of the season we are doing a really exciting Blue Whale research project out of New Zealand. So for us it’s a big year coming up with a lot going on, all the time being impacted by the thing we can’t control, which is the Antarctica weather.
Dr Nick Gales - AAD Chief Scientist
Antarctica and the Southern Ocean have a huge effect on regional and global climate systems. The Southern Ocean is connected to all the major ocean basins. What happens down here affects everyone on the globe. The high latitude climate science done on the ice and in the oceans is fundamental to understanding how climate is changing and how that is going to affect our lives in the future and how we might need to adapt to those changes.
So this is the first year of our new strategic plan so it’ll be about 60 projects we have just approved. We’ve got projects ranging from major soil remediation projects, using science to investigate ways to clean up past oil spills and so forth.
There is a lot of wildlife work, looking at albatrosses on Macquarie Island, monitoring penguin behaviour around Casey, Davis and at Mawson as well, especially in relation to their links to krill and potential krill fishery issues around Eastern Antarctica. And some of our normal year by year projects that look with various instruments up through our atmosphere and looking at how the levels of the atmosphere are changing over time.
So just next month, in September, we’ll be heading off on our major marine science campaign of the whole season. This is a really large international experiment that is looking at sea ice. And it’s trying to understand the linkages between the ocean, the sea ice and the atmosphere.
At the very end of the Antarctic season we have got a vessel heading south and it’s the first of our major voyages on the Antarctic Blue Whale Project. This is a really large collaboration that we run through the International Whaling Commission. The aim is to have a look at how many of the Blue Whales are remaining in the ocean all around Antarctica. They were once enormously abundant, they were driven down very very close to extinction and there is probably less than 2 percent of the animals down there, even now. So it’s a really exciting voyage.
Australia has a major lead role in a lot of the science. It’s our hundredth anniversary if you like of doing science down south and we have maintained a legacy from Mawson. Our role in science is truly as a global leader in many of the areas.