Antarctic video gallery
Deep-field air drop supports Antarctic science
Eye in the sky - Drone footage from Voyage 1 2016/17
Flying Krill video
Rob King – krill biologist
The research we’re doing is all about understanding what’s actually happening in the Southern Ocean. While we have closed the life cycle in the lab, and we can rear the eggs and the offspring in the lab, it could be different using eggs from the actual Southern Ocean that have received the nutrition that the animals are receiving in the Southern Ocean as opposed to the lab population.
If we can catch krill going into Casey station on the Aurora Australis, we’ll unload them into IBCs which are 1,000-litre bulk liquid carriers. When the flight comes in, they’ll be taken out of here, loaded onto sleds, and then wrapped in a thermal blanket so that they won’t freeze on the way up to the airport. They’ve got to make a three-hour drive on a sled up into temperatures that are minus-20 or minus-30, so this is going way out of the comfort zone for krill, and then try and fly those back using the C-17. We return krill to Australia from the Southern Ocean within about a day-and-a-half of being caught. That’ll bring perfect quality eggs to the laboratory in Hobart, which is something we’ve never had before; wild reared eggs.
We need to study these krill because they’re the principal part of the Antarctic ecosystem. They’re like the keystone species. They feed on 250 species of plants in the ocean, the phytoplankton, and then they pass that energy up to all the charismatic megafauna; the things like whales and seals and penguins. If something happens to the krill population and they’re not there, all of these vertebrate predators are affected, so it’s very important to understand it, especially with climate change occurring now.
2016-17 Australian Antarctic Station Leaders
Paul Ross – Casey research station leader
I’m actually quite humbled by the experience and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s my first time on the continent and it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for dozens of years.
I was attracted to apply because I’m interested in complex leadership situations. I’ve spent the last 31-odd years with Victoria Police. Probably the last 10 years, I’ve mainly been involved in the emergency management and the operation of complex police operations in terms of public order and crime investigation.
Some of the challenges we might be facing will obviously be the isolation, the distance from Australia, how the expeditioners might react to that isolation. That may be a little bit challenging.
The summer period for Casey this year will be quite busy with a fairly tight aviation schedule, so it’ll be a challenge to ensure that occurs within the season and that we can deliver on the programs that the Antarctic Division is committed to.
Kirsten Le Mar – Davis research station leader
I’m almost tragically excited as we’re heading south. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been down south and this is my dream job. It’s like my career’s come full circle and now I can go and take other people down there, take care of them and let them have an extraordinary time.
This has been a bit of a long term project. I’ve always wanted to be station leader. I went down as a scientist 21 years ago to Davis, to work on Weddell seals. Antarctica’s quite addictive, so I have spent quite a lot of time down there; spent about 12 years doing tourism.
Some of the challenges that’ll come up in the winter will be people being isolated and lonely, missing members from home, even just getting on and being compatible with your co-workers, and living and working in your work environment. Probably working in cold environments as well, so just physically managing the environment.
There are many components that attract you to Antarctica. There’s the physical beauty; it’s quite extraordinary, this blue icy landscape where people just don’t belong. The wildlife is extraordinary. The penguins are just magical.
Impact of East Antarctic glacial melt on sea-level rise
[Dr Ben Galton-Fenzi, Glaciologist]
We’ve got six weeks of time down there early in the season and we’re going to be flying out and deploying autonomous, phase-sensitive radio echo-sounding instruments and GPS on the surface of the Totten to measure the flow of the Totten, how fast it’s melting and hopefully how that’s going to be evolving over a season.
The Totten Glacier is one of the biggest glaciers in Antarctica. It drains the Aurora sub-glacial basin. A substantial proportion of that is grounded below sea level. It holds about 3.5 metres of potential sea-level rise.
Recent satellite observations have shown that the Totten Glacier has been changing. The surface elevation of it has actually been lowering over time and we now also understand that it’s very sensitive to oceanic conditions and so what we want to try to do is get a baseline understanding about how fast the glacier is flowing, what that variability is and then therefore we can project forward in time about how we expect it to change into the future.
Protecting Antarctica for 25 years
Winter sea ice extent
Leadership and learning
Jason Ahrens, Casey station leader:
This will be my fourth trip south, so I’ve done two winters on the continent at Davis station in 2007 and 2013 and I’ve done one at Macquarie Island in the subantarctic. It’s a package deal, there’s not one thing that I go back for, it’s the people, meeting the people and getting to know them, the remoteness, the isolation is attractive to me. I like the fact that it’s a challenge, that you push yourself. Helping others is why I enjoy the station leader job. At Kingston prior to leaving for Antarctica we do some intense fire training. We can’t call up the fire brigade to come and help us, we are our own fire team. We all do breathing apparatus, we learn from Tas Fire how to handle different situations in fire and how to do a rescue if we need to.
Jenny Wressell, Mawson station leader:
I applied to be a station leader because I grew up in Tasmania, I grew up seeing auroras on the horizon just every now and again and it was enough to make me always want to go to Antarctica. So at Mawson station we use the quad bikes for riding across the sea ice and Auster Rookery is actually one of the biggest emperor penguin rookeries in Antarctica and that’s one of our major research projects over the summer and winter season. They’re also one of our main vehicles for getting out into the field and for recreational activities, so they’re really important to learn how to ride them safely here in Hobart before we leave.
Ali Dean, Davis station leader:
I’m a geologist, so I was working in the outback of Australia before I applied to work in the Antarctic and I’ve now been working down there for 15 years, so it is a big part of my life. Being a station leader I’m involved in every aspect of Antarctic work, from the maintenance programs through to some of the remote field programs. There’s a lot of training that we get, and we get it every time we go to Antarctica, and there’s some things that you might not consider, even down to hydroponics. We have a hydroponics facility at each of the stations and that helps to provide us with greens through the winter, it’s an amazing place to go, it’s lovely and light and humid so it’s always a favourite of the expeditioners.
Esther Rodewald, Macquarie Island station leader:
I’ve spent the last 25 years working freelance in film and television production but I was looking for a bit of a challenge and some new skills to learn and to push myself out of my comfort zone. Antarctica was a place I was very aware of and it was somewhere I never thought I’d get to go. As part of our community training we’re starting boating next week, which is four days of training in IRBs which are small inflatable boats. Macquarie, given the way that it is as an island, it doesn’t have a harbour, it doesn’t have a wharf, so anything that comes in over the water has to come off a large boat onto a little IRB or a LARC or a barge or something and come in over the surf. We need to go through training to get comfortable in those boats in those conditions. And then when we’re down there, if the weather’s nice, we have two coxswains with us this year, so it’s a quicker way to get around the island without having to hike up hill and down again, to get round some of the penguin colonies.