Antarctic video gallery
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.
Icy celebration of winter solstice
>> Jenny Wressell – Mawson Station Leader:
Hi, I’m Jenny, the station leader at Mawson station in Antarctica. Today we are celebrating midwinter day or winter solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The sun last set at Mawson on the nineteenth of June and it will rise again on the twenty-ninth of June. An Antarctic tradition is the midwinter swim. Today’s low was minus 29.3 degrees and the water is around minus 1.8 degrees.
Midwinter is an important day for the station – it means the return of longer days and more sunshine. There are currently 14 people at Mawson station and it’s an amazing experience to be living in such an extreme environment, but at this time of year we also miss our family and friends at home.
First midwinter airdrop to Australian Antarctic station
Dr Nick Gales, Director: A very exciting development in the Antarctic program, we did our very first ever winter airdrop down to one of our stations in Antarctica. It’s a brand new capability for us, working with the RAAF in one of their very large aircraft, a C-17. We were able to drop down mail, some medical equipment and some engineering gear. Our normal pattern is that we have access to Antarctica during the summer only from about October through to March. All of the equipment has to be very carefully planned as to what goes down on the ship, some on aircraft. But once you get to March and the last ship or the last plane departs you have what you have and you have to survive. So this is actually a really important change. It makes it safer to be down there. We can get gear that broke or ran out and we didn’t have spares down there and it just changes the way we can think about working.
Flt Lt Doug Susans, RAAF: We’ll be flying 2000 nautical miles from Avalon down to a drop zone in the vicinity of Casey station on Antarctica. We’ll be airdropping three CDS bundles – that’s a container delivery system bundle – onto the ice and then we’ll be flying back to Hobart. This trip is particularly challenging due to the nature of Casey station being right down in the polar regions of Antarctica. It’s very cold, there’s a lot of icing. A cargo drop is achieved from a C-17 by slowing down to approximately 145 knots, that’s about 270 kilometres per hour. We descend to approximately 5000 feet and we open the back of the aircraft up and electrically release the load and it rolls out the back. As it goes out the back a static line pulls the parachute open and then it falls onto the ground.
Matt Filipowski, Future Concepts Manager: The crews on the ground after the airdrop was completed located them on the drop zone up on the plateau of Antarctica and then they used heavy vehicles and machinery to load those. Each load was approximately 500 kilos each and then transported it the 10 kilometres back to Casey where they unpacked it and checked it all over.
Contract signed for Australia's new icebreaker
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop:
Today represents another chapter in the Turnbull government’s plan to drive a stronger economy through an embrace of innovation and scientific research and endeavour. Yesterday, the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the Environment Minister Greg Hunt and I announced Australia’s Antarctic Strategy and our 20 Year Action Plan, which establishes Australia as a leader in the Antarctic.
The Treaty regime that governs the Antarctic is undoubtedly in Australia’s national interest, and we support that Treaty’s regime. And it’s interesting to note that when the Antarctic Treaty was first signed in 1959 there were 12 signatory countries; today there are 53.
We are a leader in the Antarctic because it’s in our interests for the Antarctic to remain a natural reserve. There is no mining, no militarisation, it is for peaceful purposes, for scientific research and endeavour.
The centrepiece of our 20 Year Action Plan will be the commissioning of a new icebreaker, a state of the art icebreaker for Australia to continue our groundbreaking Antarctic research. The exciting news is that the icebreaker will be housed here in Hobart, this will be its home port, and that will mean a significant amount of work for local businesses, it will mean more local jobs for the maintenance, the supply and the operations to the Antarctic more generally.
We’re very excited to be working with partners DMS Maritime and other partners for the commissioning of this new icebreaker, a far cry from Sir Douglas Mawson’s first effort in 1911. And this represents a new era in Australia’s leadership in the Antarctic, and in terms of the scientific research, development and endeavour that we will be able to undertake.
And so I’m very pleased as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and responsible for our Treaty obligations to be part of this signing ceremony today which really does mean an enormous amount for Hobart and for Tasmania, reconfirming its status as the premier gateway to East Antarctica.
Now can I hand over to my friend the Environment Minister.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt:
Thanks very much to Julie, and in particular for that overview of Australia’s role in the Antarctic Treaty system and as a global gateway to the Antarctic. To Julie; to Matt Groom, the Tasmanian Minister for State Growth and Environment; to our Senators, Senate President Stephen Parry and Senator David Bushby who together really have been absolute drivers of the Antarctic vision for Tasmania; to our Senate Candidate Jonno Duniam, and to our magnificent Tasmanian lower house members Brett Whiteley and Eric Hutchinson and our candidates Amanda-Sue Markham and Marcus Allen.
And of course to everybody involved with this project, it’s an absolute thrill to be here at the signing ceremony for Australia’s new Antarctic icebreaker. The vision, as Julie has said, is to be a global gateway for the Antarctic, indeed to be the global gateway and that’s about Tasmania, that’s about Hobart, but it’s also about the great scientific vision.
Yesterday we announced $255 million for the over land transport, the capacity to search for the great million year ice core, to be engaged in the search for the holy grail of Antarctic research, and all of the funding which goes with it.
Today we are announcing a $1.91 billion lifetime contract for the new Antarctic icebreaker so $1.91 billion for a new Antarctic icebreaker. That is broken up in terms of $530 million for the construction and testing and delivery of the icebreaker and then about $1.38 billion for the lifetime operation, maintenance and development of the icebreaker of which $1.1 billion we expect will be spent here in Tasmania.
So that is a $1.1 billion benefit directly to Tasmania, one of the largest Commonwealth expenditures ever, in Tasmania, and it’s for science, it’s for climate research, it’s for environmental research and it’s for education and health all in Tasmania.
Tasmania has the capacity to become the world’s global gateway but the world’s premier southern hemisphere Antarctic research centre, and that’s about building on our magnificent institutions here.
So that’s a huge contract. But what’s the ship about? The ship is the Millennium Falcon of the Antarctic icebreaking world. Faster, stronger and more capable. And so its length is 156 metres. Its speed is 16 knots. Its capacity is 1.65 metres of ice depth which can be broken when travelling at three knots. And so this is an extraordinary ability to transport people and fuel and logistics to our supply bases so it makes them stronger, but it’s also a scientific platform in itself.
It has bathymetric capacity to map the sea bed, to imagine what could be the case, to discover things which were never known and which may never have been imagined. And so what a vision of the future in scientific research and innovation, and it’s real, and it’s happening here in Tasmania.
It has a scientific platform, so it will be doing in sea trials, it will be doing work on krill, work on the Southern Ocean system, work on the impacts of climate change on our great oceanic systems, so this is the future, here now in Tasmania.
And so with that I am delighted to say that the Commonwealth will today be signing the agreement with DMS Maritime and to be built by Damen shipyards. It’s a great achievement, and to our negotiators, Peter Block, and David Sumner and team, a marathon effort, great outcome, we thank you, we congratulate you and we say to Tasmania, you are now the future. Thank you.
Minister Hunt launches Australian Antarctic Strategy
Let me step back for a moment. Australia’s vision for the Antarctic is of an area of the world’s last great wildernesses. It’s a majestic environment that we want to preserve in its pristine state and to preserve as an area of peaceful cooperation, not competition. And as part of that vision, we want to be the world leading gateway to the Antarctic. And Hobart is the gateway to the Antarctic for the future. That’s what we are seeking to do and that’s what we are setting out as part of this process.
What are our national interests beyond this vision? Our national interests really are four-fold.
Firstly at the environmental level we are custodians of the Antarctic along with others, as an original signatory of the Antarctic Treaty, we have a deep strong duty, we want to preserve this incredible area not just for decades, not just for generations but for eons and eons hence. That is, this generation’s duty and legacy for future generations.
Beyond that, science is a key national interest. This funding today, and this strategy helps us in the search for the million-year ice core. This is one of the world’s great scientific endeavours, and it is likely, on the advice I have from Dr Nick Gales and other scientists within AAD, that if the ice core is to be found, it will be found in Australia’s Antarctic Territory.
A tremendous opportunity, and this is about unearthing the secrets of our climate, unearthing the secrets of our history, in the ice core, and I’ve been fortunate to do ice core exploration work, you discover the history of climate activity over the life of that ice core. And so the bubbles that are found, the concentrations that are found tell us what the climate was like, how it responded, how it acts. And we can learn from that about the very things that will impact on our day to day lives and our trends here in Hobart, here in Tasmania, and here in Australia more broadly.
Beyond the interests of environment and science, we also have the great tasks of national security, and a peaceful cooperative Antarctica is a critical piece of a peaceful cooperative Southern Ocean, and if we have a Southern Ocean which is free of strategic competition, then Australia is safer and the costs for Australians are dramatically lower.
And then last of all we have the economic, and growth and jobs benefits to Hobart and Tasmania, Hobart being the global gateway to the Antarctic. This is about science jobs, education jobs, it’s about logistical jobs, it’s about the attraction of Hobart as a world class visiting point for the creation of climate science, of environmental science, of Antarctic science and for people to participate in that.
So that’s the grand vision, coupled with the interests, then what are the actions which are set out in this 20 Year Strategy and Action Plan for Australia’s Antarctic engagement.
And the actions really boil down to three things. Overall, there’ll be an announcement or there will be an allocation of $255 million of additional new funds over the next 10 years. That is $200 million for firstly the operation of AAD, it’s an average $20 million a year fillip to their budget, that’s tremendously important not just for the work of AAD but, as Nick was explaining, the long term ability to plan science. So more scientists on the ice, but with the ability to look and plan over a series of years. I think that’s exceptionally important.
Then beyond that there’s an additional $55 million for on-ice activities as well and that includes the $45 million for a traverse capability. What does it mean? Look over here at the yellow Hägglunds, this is the sort of thing, but with a newer, better, faster version which can help us with what we’re doing on the ice. So overall we’ll be building the ability to traverse inland, to create science opportunities so our scientists are safe, but they are also more mobile, they’re able to be engaged in the search for the million year ice core, they’re able to be engaged in the search for new information about Antarctic life, about the Antarctic climate and about its impacts as a centrepiece of the global climate system.
And then there is $10 million, which is for the feasibility study for the bankability study for an all year round runway. This will look at the question of is it economically feasible and attractive, is it physically feasible and achievable and if so where and how should it be built? There will be testing involved, and that’s a really important project.
But right now, a new traverse capability which will give our scientists an unparalleled opportunity and put us right at the forefront, and then the next step, and that comes on top of the announcement only last week of ‘green for go’ for the Hobart runway which will be extended, and in a short period of time that will mean that there’s an extra capability for heavy lift, for extra science through aerial transportation to Antarctica.
There’s one more element, and that of course is the new icebreaker, I will say we are very close to a very significant announcement on a new icebreaker and the full funding for that will be announced in due course. Our negotiators are working very hard and I expect an announcement on that in the imminent future.
Put together, this is the greatest investment in Antarctic research in Australian history and it’s a tribute to all of the scientists here.