Antarctic video gallery
Minister's welcome message for Strategic Science in Antarctica conference 2013
G’day, it’s Tony Burke – the Environment Minister for Australia. I wish I could be with you in Hobart for the Strategic Science in Antarctica conference. I think it’s a great initiative, and I’m really glad we’ve got so many scientists from Australia, but also who’ve come from New Zealand, and some from even further afield.
The work that you do is important, and I think it symbolises everything about the decisions that were made some years ago about Antarctica. The whole concept – and to reflect on it now – to think that decision, we had that moment in time where people said let’s set aside an entire continent for scientific research, is worth reflecting on itself. But what’s made it such a permanent conservation decision isn’t just that everyone got together and made that decision, but the quality of the science that has now come about as a result, is second to none, and doesn’t just inform us about Antarctica – it informs us about the whole world: the rest of our planet.
The work on whales that’s done there, for the full migratory path they have from the southern ocean all the way through north. The work that’s being done now with the protection of some large marine parks through the CCAMLR process and the biodiversity benefits that can come through with that. Those of you who work also in the marine environment in looking at phytoplankton and krill – two foundation species, and the possible impact that we get from changes in the qualities of our ocean – in ocean acidification; in ocean temperature, and how quickly the species are able to adapt to that. Knowing of course the extent to which they then underpin so much more marine life. Probably the most obvious of all examples, those of you who work with ice cores, which have provided and unlocked so many of the secrets of the history of our planet and allowed us to have the understanding of the modern science of climate change to give the warning signs to our nation and to the world; to give governments the opportunity, if they’re smart enough to take it, to act, and take action in time, before it’s too late.
That work is all possible because of those twin decisions. One, the fact that we put aside the Antarctic for science research, conservation and peace. Secondly, because of the quality of the work that then came, has been able to provide so much of a benefit.
So to all of you, I’m glad that you’re there; and I’m terribly glad, sincerely glad of the work that you do. You’re providing answers to some of the most important questions on our planet. There’s no other way of summarising what you do. Congratulations. Enjoy the meeting. Keep doing more of it. Thanks.
Minke whale tagging
Live the dream! Be an Antarctic station leader.
Graham Cook, Station Leader at Mawson 2014
Hi, I am Graham Cook. I am the station leader at Mawson Station in Antarctica. I work with the Australian Antarctic Division in what I think is one of the best jobs in the world.
Why do I do it? Because there are so many reasons why I do it!
So many people talk about living the dream. Well with this job I get to do what other people are dreaming about. Every day here is so different. Some days I will be helping the chef in the kitchen, another day I will be working with the plumber outside in minus 20 degrees. I get to spend time with scientists working on programs that I would never be introduced to and learning a lot from that.
Where else in the world would you get to work with such a diverse group of people and such diverse programs? We have flying programs, science programs, building programs, there is just so much that happens down here, that keeps my mind going, and I learn so much from the people that I work with. It is such a pleasure to go to work every day.
In a week or two’s time we will get to watch ten thousand new visitors arrive in the form of emperor penguins as they march across the ice to set up camp and breed for the winter.
When was the last time you looked out your office window, saw a snow-clad mountain range in the distance, a glacier creeping towards the coast, an iceberg on your doorstep?
I just love working here. It’s an amazing place. Friends and family tell me I am so lucky to be here and they are right, I am. But I helped to make this luck. I put an application in for this job. And I managed to get it. You can do it too.
Narelle Campbell, Station Leader at Casey 2014
Hi, I am Narelle Campbell and I am the station leader here at Casey station and it is actually a privilege to be able to come down here and work for the Australian Antarctic Division, supporting the various science and work programs down here.
The best part, as I said, of being down here is being with the team, and the various personalities. They’re people that you don’t know, that you have just first met back in Kingston doing the training. We all come together as a team and learn to live together and share each others’ experiences down here.
Mike Gasson, Macquarie Island Station Leader 2014
Hi, my name is Mark Gasson. I am the station leader at Macquarie Island in the subantarctic. I work for the Australian Antarctic Division. Why do I want to be a station leader? It’s the most amazing job. It’s incredible. You get to be down in this beautiful location - it’s phenomenal - working with the most incredible team of people. You’ve got all kinds of different people here and I like working with people, I get quite a lot of enjoyment. It has been pretty awesome so far, I am loving it. It is a crazy adventure, unlike anything I have ever done before. We are isolated, we are miles away from anywhere, who knows what’s going to happen next? The whole thing is pretty much a mystery and the craziest thing is we’re getting paid to do it. So, it’s pretty awesome, I’m loving it.
Dr Tas van Ommen – Climate Processes and Change Theme Leader
Dr Tas van Ommen – Climate Processes and Change Theme Leader
I am a physicist by training. I started my research career as an astronomer and worked overseas for a while, came back to Australia and fell sideways into a position here at the Antarctic Division doing the physics of glaciers, so I have become a glaciologist in my career.
So the Climate Processes and Change theme covers four areas. The first of those is the ice sheet itself, the second area is the ice that floats on the ocean and oceanography all wrapped up into super sub-theme. The third area we look at is the atmosphere above Antarctica and the fourth strand to our research is looking at past climate mainly from looking at ice cores that go back in time.
Looking back in the past is really the only way you can get enough information to test your understanding of the way the climate system works. And we’ve used the really detailed ice cores that we get from Law Dome, which is near Casey station, and they’ve allowed us to look in great detail at climate change and understand it in a way that you can’t do from most ice-cores just because of this high detail.
For example we have looked at changes in snow fall in the area over the last several centuries. We’ve found quite a clear link between rainfall in Western Australia or the drought that has been there and snowfall in East Antarctica. We’ve been able to use the very long records from the ice cores to say that what we are seeing now is unusual and very likely connected to climate change itself.
One of the projects I have been involved in actually was looking with a plane that has radar under the wings, shining the radar through the ice sheet to actually get a map of the bedrock underneath. And that was fascinating because we were flying along looking at the computer traces coming back from the radar and seeing for the first time the way the bedrock had deep valleys and high mountains underneath and for the first time being able to map out large areas of Antarctica.
There are still really important questions to answer about where Antarctica and the climate system is headed. We need to understand better for example how the ice sheets are going to respond in a warming climate because any loss of the ice in the Antarctica translates to sea level rise.
One of the highlights of this career is being able to actually go into the field and do some research. Drilling for an ice core where you might be hundreds of kilometers away from the nearest other party of human beings in extreme environments, experiencing the almost sensory overload of the wind, the cold, and the stunning visual environment that you are in, it’s really invigorating.
Spectrogram of the call of an Antarctic Blue Whale
Antarctic blue whale voyage
Dr Brian Miller, Lead Acoustician
I couldn't imagine a better bunch of scientists or crew to work with. They’re all dedicated and hard-working, getting up every morning at 5:00 am, putting on their heavy clothes, going out into the sometimes driving snow, looking for whales, it's not an easy task.
Antarctic minke whale tagging
Australian Antarctic Division Chief Scientist – Dr Nick Gales
This was a combined voyage with the United States Antarctic Program and its actually focusing on both humpbacks and minke whales. The idea is to work in a place in Antarctica where both animals are feeding and have a look at how they feed differently.
Went down to a place called the Gerlache Strait, which is a beautifully protected stretch of water in among the islands off the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula and worked in the Bays there. It’s really productive, it’s an area where a lot of Antarctic krill move through the whole area. Sort of size of prey/patches at different depth and we have no idea what those are. So this was actually for minke whales, our first real insight into the differences between these two key species.
So we are using a whole range of different tags that are giving us different information and at the same time we have tags on we have boats going round looking at the prey, the depths at it and what’s in their environment.
So we go from the very short term tags, and we have to get these ones back, so you put a tag on the back of an animal, it’s held on by suction cups and it will stay on there for hours to perhaps one day. And then it will just fall off naturally, the suction cups will give up and it will float to the surface and we will retrieve it. And it measures everything. So we can tell the number of tail fluke strokes on the way down to the prey, pitch and role and turning through the prey and everything, so we get incredibly dense information and at the same time we measure with echo sounds from a separate boat where the krill are.
And then another type that we stick on the animal that have to stay longer. So these are fired through the skin of the animal and then they just embed in the blubber and the underlying tissue just below the blubber and they stay on, well we hope, for months. They just give us location, but they give us the middle to large scale movements of the whales. So where they go from those summer feeding grounds, how they move around those summer feeding grounds and we hope they last long enough to tell us where they go for their winter breeding.
We had no idea how minke whales were going to act around the small boat. They are a much smaller whale than the type of whales that we have a lot of experience in tagging and they are much faster. So the boat driver sits alongside a group of minke whales and slowly comes in on the boat until we are just part of a school of whales and then they are surfacing around us. Then it’s a matter of me on the bow, selecting a whale and then when that animal surfaces in the right range and the right distance from the boat shooting a tag onto the back of that whale. So it’s quite tense, but it’s really exciting when we successfully deploy the tags.
This summer is the very first time ever that these type of tags have been put on Antarctic minke whales, in fact any type of tag. So it’s really exciting we are going to combine the data and really bring forward brand new information about this species.
Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke visits Antarctica
Director Australian Antarctic Division Dr Tony Fleming
It’s my absolute pleasure to welcome Bob Hawke to Wilkins and Antarctica. He changed the world’s mind about mining in Antarctica and we are indebted to you for that.
Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke
What was going to happen beforehand was a thing called CRAMRA, which was going to be a Convention for Regulating Antarctic Mineral Resource Activity. I said that’s ridiculous, I just could not believe that civilized nations of the world were going to really destroy the pristine quality of the last remaining and pristine continent.
You just imagine mining down here and the accidents that could have occurred, so I was determined that this wouldn’t happen. People said we had no chance, but with the cooperation of my good friend Roccard, the Prime Minister of France, and Felipe Gonzalez, from Spain. We just set about and we turned it over, which was marvelous and now it’s fulfilled my nomination of it as nature reserve, land of science, and that’s what it is.
I am sort of prejudice of course I’ve got a great sense of almost proprietorship of the place because we’ve been involved in seeing that it was preserved. Therefore it’s almost impossible to describe the feeling of pride and excitement that I have being here. The other immediate impression I have is the enthusiasm of the, all the people, that are here, they are doing a great job for Australia. They are here with the total support and endorsement of the Australian nation and the Australian Government.
The work that they are doing is not only important for Australia but important for the world as a whole. And they should I think feel proud of themselves for the contribution that their colleagues in the past have made and that they are making now. I would like to congratulate the Australian Antarctic Division. I think the work that you are doing in protecting the Australian commitment and involvement in this area and doing it in such a constructive way is a matter in which you should all be very proud and all Australians should feel very much in debt to the fine work the Division has been doing over the years and continues to do.
What are you waiting for?
What are you waiting for? Apply for your dream job.
>> ROB BRYSON, SECTION MANAGER, AAD: You’re going to a unique environment that not many people have had the opportunity to go to, and you can't put a dollar value on that I don’t think.
>> KELDYN FRANCIS, PLUMBER, MAWSON STATION: Just do it! I’ve got the best job in the world.
>> ROB: You’re talking about only 300,000 people in the history of humanity who’ve had their feet on the ground in Antarctica; and those people out there can actually be one of those people. We’ve got a variety of different positions running from plumbers, carpenters, all the way up to station leaders; doctors, voyage leaders, looking after our IT and networks across all of our four stations. We’re looking for a particular type of person; it’s really critical that we get the right person for the right job. Last year we got about 2100 applications for 100 to 120 positions. This year we’re down at about 1200 so it’s been a pretty dramatic drop-off in the last 12 months.
>> KELDYN: It’s always been a dream and to be able to go down there and to do a job I love in such a unique environment would be really rewarding. When I was a first year apprentice I looked at it way back then and saw the opportunity, but it's all about timing and now I’ve got the skills to be able to go and do it, I’m ready for the challenge. There are other areas that are perhaps more attractive in terms of the money but we’ve got to think here that the experience is what we’re looking for. Everyone goes into such a unique environment where not many people get to see and people pay thousands to see on holidays. I’ve been doing medical training, so if there’s an emergency to help the doctor out in surgery. We do the SAR training today, fire-fighting training. Also you’re helping out each other and we’re all there as a team. I’m going to one of the best continents on earth. It’s something that’s going to be with me for the rest of my life.