Antarctic video gallery
Latest Southern Ocean research shows continuing deep ocean change – Steve Rintoul
Video transcriptDr. Steve Rintoul, Southern Ocean science
So the ocean affects climate by storing and transporting huge amounts of heat and carbon dioxide. And so if we want to understand how climate's going to evolve in the future, we need to know what's happening in the oceans. About ninety percent of the extra heat energy that's been stored by the earth's system over the last fifty years is in the ocean. So when we talk about global warming, we're really talking about ocean warming in a real sense. What we're here to do in this voyage is to, there are three or four main parts to the voyage, but basically we're looking at how the southern ocean is behaving today. What the temperature, salinity, oxygen, carbon dioxide levels, what organisms are living in the sea and where, and relating those distributions to the ocean currents and also comparing what we measured today to measurements we've made in previous decades. Work we've done in the past has shown one of those sinking motions around Antarctica where water sinks down to great depth. Down to four or five kilometres below the sea surface. That seems to be slowing down with time. The water that sinks is becoming fresher. That is, less salty and less dense. We know that in previous parts of the previous periods of the Earth's history the changes in those sinking motions in the polar regions have been linked to changes in climate. We haven't seen changes in climate result yet from the changes in southern ocean currents but it's moving in the direction that would drive similar sorts of changes to those we've seen in the past. The evidence that we have so far is that the southern ocean is changing. It's warming at a greater depth and at a faster rate than the global ocean average. And it's also changing its salinity. The salinity changes are important for two reasons. One is that part of the salinity changes are being driven by more rainfall and snowfall than happened in the past. That's exactly the sort of signal that we expect to see as a result of global warming. That is, the areas that are dry, where there's more evaporation than precipitation, will get drier and saltier in the ocean. Places where it's, there's more rainfall than evaporation, will tend to get wetter or fresher in the ocean. We also see those changes in salinity down deep, right along the sea floor and that's giving us a hint about how the ocean is interacting with the ice sheet on Antarctica. As the ice spreads off the Antarctic continent into the sea, it starts to float and forms glacier tongues or ice shelves. Where that interacts with the ocean, the ocean can either melt (if it's warm enough), it can melt the bottom of the ice, or it can actually freeze to the bottom of the ice. The evidence that we found for freshening around the edge of Antarctica is an indication that that melting process is happening more rapidly than it did in the past and that's a result of the warming of the ocean, we believe, and part of what we're doing on this trip is trying to confirm that picture. In terms of the science, in terms of sorting out what's happening with the the climate system and what the impacts of change are going to be. We've made really dramatic progress, really, in the past five or ten years and so that's a positive. It means that at least we know what we're doing and we know what the impacts of that are going to be so we know what, we have a better idea of what to expect if we do, or don't, act.
Bob Jones – Mawson station leader 2012
Mawson Station Leader Bob Jones
I’m Bob Jones, I am the Mawson station leader for 2012. I grew up in Sydney and went to high school and university there and I am a veterinarian.
I have always had a great interest in Antarctica and the sub Antarctic islands. I was fortunate to go Heard Island in the 1980’s three times, two with the Australian Antarctic Division, studying penguins and elephant seals. Then I was sort of keen to winter, I was also keen to take on a leadership role that didn’t involve my area of expertise. So that’s what started me off in 1992 and I went to Macquarie Island and I have been to some of the other stations as well as a Station Leader.
This year at Mawson we haven’t got any scientists during the winter period, the scientists will come in in November and do their projects then. But some of the people at Mawson have to maintain some of the automated experiments which are going on. There’s a lot of physics and meteorological projects where these have to be checked. We are very fortunate at Mawson to have emperor penguins and this is one of the really big highlights of Mawson. There’s been ongoing research by the Australian Antarctic Division and we have to go to three of the colonies that are close to Mawson and continue with this monitoring program and take photographs of the penguins during the breeding period.
Another important piece of research is medical research which will actually be done on us. And this is a joint project with NASA, Monash University and the Polar Medicine Unit here. They are trying to understand the relationship between fatigue, sleep, sleep disorders, psychological well being and safety of our group to gain understandings of that so they can better prepare the astronauts.
There are many reasons I am interested in going to Antarctica and going back to Antarctica this year. It’s a great adventure and I think adventures and really important in life. It’s as pristine an environment as we can get I the world today, so that’s very very special and it’s a privilege to go down there because not everyone can go there, so this makes it all the more important.
One of the things that is really important for me is the actual community that develops down there. So we’ve got 15 people at Mawson, everyone has a specific job, everyone knows that the whole community is depending on them to do their job to the best of their ability. Nothing is locked up, I can trust everyone, so it’s very very special and it’s great to be part of that and its inspirational because you can achieve so much together.
It’s a scenically spectacular place, you know its 900x700 metres of rock, which the buildings are on. Ice cliffs either side of the station, mountains behind it, wonderful sea-ice once it forms, emperor penguins are breeding on the sea-ice, what more could you want?
Narelle Campbell – Macquarie Island station leader 2012
Narelle Campbell Macquarie Island Station Leader
My name is Narelle Campbell and I am from the north coast of New South Wales, a little place called Foster. This season I am heading down to Macquarie Island and I’ll be down there for the full 12 months.
2007 I was selected to go down to Mawson station as the station leader for 12 months. I came home for about 6 months and then was asked to go south again and the next time I went south was Casey, that was in 2010 for about 15 months.
The Station Leader is responsible for all personnel on station and providing support for everyone, regardless of what they are down there to do. Life on station for anyone who goes down south can be very exciting, it is a wonderful way of life. The work is exciting, the environment is exciting, the wildlife. It’s an absolute privileged, for every single person who is selected to go down south to work amongst some very very talented, community minded, tolerant, patient people.
I am very much looking forward to going to Macquarie Island having spent a couple of years down on the continent surrounded by white. Macquarie Island is very much a different station, it’s very much like the bottom end of Tasmania. It’s going to be cold and wet and windy, but the wildlife that Macquarie Island attracts is just something that we are all looking forward too.
The island is 30 kilometres long and I am sure we will probably trek over every inch and that’s a nice way to take a little bit of a break from station life, you can go for a walk you can go and sit down amongst some of the wildlife and take some time out.
One of the biggest projects that we will be supporting at Macquarie Island is what we call the MIPEP program, which is the Macquarie Island Pest Eradication Program. So going back over 100 years ago rabbits were introduced to Macquarie Island and they bred up to an extent there was over 150,000 of them. In the last couple of years, quite a major project is underway to eradicate all the rabbits. Last I heard they hadn’t seen a rabbit for quite some time which is hugely successful. And then other research during the year will be around the fur seals, the albatross and the various species of penguins as well.
Mawson - 48-Hour Antarctic Filmmaking Competition 2008
Ali Dean – Davis station leader 2012
Davis Station Leader Alison Dean:
I’m Ali Dean and I am going to be the station leader at Davis for the next season. I was the station leader at Davis for the last summer and for the winter before that. So, prior to working at Davis I was the station leader at Rothera and at the two South Georgia Research stations that the British have.
I first started working in the Antarctic as a geologist. From then sort of moved into operations and station management. But stations are such a dynamic and multi-faceted place that I could see, that’s where I wanted to be and that’s where I wanted to work.
When you are on station you are in a very tight knit community and taking a group of people that in normal circumstances probably wouldn’t associate with each other and seeing them develop into a community on station is pretty amazing.
At Davis this season it’s going to be incredibly busy, initially we have the resupply. This season there’s a lot of science going on at Davis. There are projects that are on station, so a lot of the atmospheric physics that’s undertaken. There’s going to be a lot of marine biology happening on station, we have a very well-equipped laboratory. There’s a really interesting project that’s looking at changes in ocean, so ocean acidification as climate warms. There’s going to be a seal project, which is looking at weddell seals and elephant seals.
I don’t think that you can explain in words how you feel when you first get to the Antarctic because that excitement and that just sheer awe of the place is just so hard to explain to people and I really get a kick out of all the new people that go down and that actually keeps my enthusiasm going I think.
Mark Hunt – Casey station leader 2012
Casey Station Leader Mark Hunt:
My name is Mark Hunt, I have come down from Queensland and I am heading to Casey station this year.
My background is in plant physiology and forest ecology so I have had a range of things to do over the years. I have had a chance to travel and I have worked on aid projects across the south pacific and in Industrial forestry in the United States. And on a whole range of things in Queensland and in Tasmania in fact.
My role over the next 12 months will be in two distinct parts. The first part will be over the summer and we have an extraordinarily busy program. We have a lot of people there who know what they are doing and my role is to bring that together and ensure that we get everything done in a safe way and enjoy ourselves.
We have a big aviation program with the Wilkins aerodrome, as well as the skiway operating near Casey itself. We have a big maintenance program for all of our plant and equipment. We have infrastructure projects moving ahead, including an additional wing on the east of the living quarters, and of course our science projects, such as the ice cap program, we have biological work on penguins and medical research.
Over winter I think things will settle down a little bit, it won’t be quite as busy and then we have to dig in and work through the program. There are a lot of challenges in being in Antarctica and I think one of the difficult things for me heading south is that I will be leaving my family behind, my wife Kym, my children, Kate and Jo. There’s the climate itself, there’s the darkness. There are plenty of things and I think anyone who goes south will experience those to a greater or lesser extent. But I am sure we will work through those and have a good time doing it.
There are plenty of things to do, I hope to get my snow-skiing, my cross country skiing organised and other than that it will be the normal sorts of things, some reading, I like my books I like my music and I am sure being surrounded by a diverse group of people there’ll be new things that I hadn’t thought of.
Wanting to go to Antarctica has been something that has been with me since I was a child, and to actually have the opportunity to realise that ambition is fantastic. I think I am one of the luckiest people in the world and I think I am heading south to probably the best job in the world.
Rare Shepherd’s beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi)
SIPEX 2 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)
Dr Phillip and Nellie Law interment ceremony at Mawson station
Today we are gathered here to lay to rest
Nellie Isabel Law and Dr Phillip Garth Law.
On this day, we pay homage to Phillip Garth Law, truly one of the great
men in the rich history of Australian Antarctic exploration. His indomitable will, humorous disposition
and adventurous spirit has set high standards for those of us who follow
him. A minute’s silence, please. “I am
the resurrection and the life,”