Antarctic video gallery

Footage of krill mating in the Southern Ocean

Footage of krill mating in the Southern Ocean

Video transcript

[Captions:]

Krill swarm at 507m off East Antarctica

Krill mating

[end transcript]

Animation of krill mating in the Southern Ocean

Animation of krill mating in the Southern Ocean

Video transcript

[Captions:]

Do krill have sex?

Here is what we know:

First there is the Chase.

Second in the Probe.

Third is the Embrace.

Fourth is Flex.

Fifth is Push.

[end transcript]

Mertz Glacier under the microscope

Mertz Glacier under the microscope

Video transcript

Acting Chief Scientist Martin Riddle:

In January this year, 78 kilometres of the Mertz Glacier ice tongue broke off. Now this is a once in a lifetime event. What happened was a very large iceberg approached it from the eastern side, just gave it a little nudge and that sent it off ricocheting westwards.

The Mertz glacier is due south of Tasmania and it’s a very special place because adjacent to the Mertz glacier is the Mertz polynya. So most of the ocean around the Antarctic is covered in sea ice in winter, but polynyas are kept free of sea ice by the wind blowing the ice away from it. Paradoxically although they have no ice covering them, they are actually an ice factory, so they continually form sea ice and then it gets blown out and cleared.

The formation of sea ice creates heavy brine, heavy salt water, its heavy, its cold and so it sinks. In sinking it drives, pushes water in front of it and in fact the polynya areas that form Antarctic Bottom Water drive the ocean circulation.

The main purpose of the voyage this summer is to better understand what the ice tongues role is in the formation of the polynya and what its role is in driving the development of Antarctic Bottom Water. But it also provides an opportunity to better understand the effects on the biological systems in the region. So we’ll been using satellite remote sensing to see whether primary production is still high in the region.

We’ll also be using underwater videos to see what was living in the area that was previously covered by the ice tongue. We are expecting to see some very different communities. When the tongue was covering it, it was dark, it was very remote from open water. In those conditions very special biological communities develop, that are able to exist and thrive under what are very different conditions.

We’ll be visiting the areas where the ice tongue grounded and hit the continental shelf and getting a baseline that will provide us with a better understanding of how the seabed communities recover after a major disturbance. We are also going to revisit some cold water coral communities that we discovered during the International Polar Year. We want to understand just how common or rare these communities are.

This research is very important in understanding global ocean circulation patterns and the role of polynyas in driving those. More locally the work on the biological processes are important because they are very important areas of high biological productivity around the Antarctic.

The investigations of life under the glacier tongue, will inform our understanding of how life in the Antarctic has changed over time. It will also give us a better indication of what might change if we lose some of the ice shelves, the permanent ice shelves, around the Antarctic.

[end transcript]

Hobart farewells expeditioners 1911

Hobart farewells expeditioners 1911

Video transcript

Voice-over: “For weeks previous to our departure the good ship Aurora was berthed in Hobart, taking on stores and equipment which were to last for two years.

The 2nd of December 1911 and we were ready to depart. The adventurers were aboard. Dr Mawson and Captain Davis were on the bridge and a great crowd had gathered to see us off.

So we got down the Derwent feeling as if we were aboard a fairy ship bound for a realm of wonderment, enchantment and mystery.”

[end transcript]

Fuel munching microbes help clean up Antarctica

Fuel munching microbes help clean up Antarctica

Video transcript

Environmental Scientist and Field Manager Tim Spedding:

We work on a number of projects looking at the remediation of contaminated sites in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic and that involves looking at old fuel spills and remediating and assessing old fuel spills as well as looking at the best technologies to remediate old tip sites.

Australia does have certain obligations under the Madrid Protocol and that doesn’t necessarily mean full scale remediation but certainly would involve a recognition and risk management of old tip sites and old fuel spills. Almost all of the impacts related to Australian activity in Antarctica are around the old stations, there’s an effect on the soil and the water. There is always the risk of further migration of contaminants and then you will certainly have impacts on wildlife as well. But one of the biggest things certainly with fuel is that visible sheen on the water which is an aesthetic issue as well as toxicological issue.

At Casey we have a team of seven people working on both fuel spill at the main powerhouse, as well as the old tip site at Thala Valley — looking at the final clean up of that. At Casey we have been working for the last 5 or 6 years on the containment of a fuel spill we’ve installed a permeable reactive barrier which basically intercepts any contaminated water flowing from the contaminated area and preventing it from migrating into the ocean and into fresh water lakes.

This year we are also looking at bio-piles, rather than dealing with the material in-situ we actually end up excavating the material and treating it in stockpiles and then once remediated you can return the clean soil back to where it was excavated from.

Fuel is just a source of food for a lot of micro-organisms that naturally occur in the soil and really all we try to do is create the best environment for those micro-organisms to live and break down that fuel, thereby remediating that soil. So what we do is we end up adding oxygen, aerating the soil, as well as adding nutrients, using nitrogen and some phosphorous, again just to encourage the micro-organisms to be very active in degrading and breaking down the fuel in the soil.

At Macquarie Island we have an ongoing fuel remediation program there around the old fuel farm as well as the main powerhouse and we have a team of three people going down there this year. We are using the same principles of encouraging the micro-organisms to break the fuel down. But what we are doing is aerating the soil, so we haven’t excavated the soil at all, we are dealing with contaminated area as it is and we are injecting air as well as nutrients into the ground.

The way most Antarctic nations, and certainly Australia, operate in the Antarctic has changed considerably in terms of waste management practices, certainly over the last 10–15 years. Australian operations these days, almost all of the material that is taken down south that isn’t used is returned to Australia, which is a major step forward.

[end transcript]

Ice core drilling at Law Dome in Antarctica

Tracking the secret life of snow petrels

Tracking the secret life of snow petrels

Video transcript

Australian Antarctic Division Ecologist, Dr Colin Southwell:

The Southern Ocean is changing, it’s changing due to a number of impacts, past fisheries, current fisheries, climate change, tourism. We want to try and understand some of the changes that are happening in the ecosystem, but it’s very difficult to do but very few of the species we have access to, to measure and monitor. Seabirds are a bit different in that they come to land to breed, and when they are on land, researchers can access them and we can study them.

We have been studying both penguins, both Adelie penguins and Emperor penguins over the last couple of decades. We will be extending that to flying seabirds as well and in particular we will be focusing on the snow petrel.

We know very little about snow petrels at present and that goes for most species of seabirds. They come to land to breed in October, they stay through the summer months, until about April, and in winter they will be foraging out in the ocean. We don’t know where they forage, we don’t know what they are foraging on during that time.

The research program that we will be doing on the snow petrels this summer will have a number of aspects. We will be doing a population survey on the islands off the Mawson area and that will be the first survey that’s been done, we will be using that as a baseline for future monitoring of populations. We’ve started monitoring breeding success of Béchervaise Island, the number of chicks that are produced each year and we will be extending that this year. We want to collect some samples of guano and feathers, so we can use those samples to infer what they are eating. And we are going to be attaching very small geo-locators which track where they are foraging when they move away from their foraging sites at Mawson, and Davis and Casey.

Snow petrels are very small birds, they weight about 500 grams. So we need to make sure any instruments we place on them are very small and don’t disturb them. The geo-locators are about the size of a 5 cent coin, they weigh about 1.5 grams. We put them on their legs, attached to a leg band. What they do is when the bird is flying they record information on the ambient light levels and the time and from that we can infer generally their location by latitude and longitude.

This research will help us understand the broader scale changes that are happening in the Southern Ocean. Through the fact that we are studying a suite of species, so the snow petrel is one species that we are studying, we are also studying the Adelie penguin and the emperor penguin. And what we are trying to achieve is a suite of ice dependent species. These species will tell us particularly what’s happening in relation to changes in sea ice in the long term.

[end transcript]

20 year study finds major changes in Southern Ocean plankton

20 year study finds major changes in Southern Ocean plankton

Video transcript

Continuous Plankton Recorder Project Leader, Dr Graham Hosie:

The continuous plankton recorder is a means of mapping the distribution and abundance of plankton. Very quickly and very consistently and very repeatedly over very large areas.

Plankton are the basis of the food web. They are important not only for the food web. They are important for the rest of us in terms of oxygen production, CO2 absorption and we need to map their distribution and abundance to see if it’s changing. If it changes there are consequences for the food web, there are consequences for us.

The CPR is a very simple device, its 1931 technology, it takes in water through a very small aperture at the front as it’s towed behind a ship and traps plankton between two sheets of silk. We then unravel that silk in the laboratory and we have actually got a continuous record of what the plankton existed in the water column over about 450 nautical miles or about 830 kilometres. And at the same time we are recording environmental data so we can match the two, the distribution of the plankton and distribution of oceanography.

The coverage we have got to date is roughly about 70 % around the Antarctic, and to date we have something like about 230 zooplankton species, and probably I think about this stage 70–80 phytoplankton species that we are also looking at.

We are just starting to see indications that we are not seeing as many krill in the sea ice zone as we used to get. We don’t know why, whether it is a change in numbers, a change in distribution or a change in behaviour.

In the sea ice zone, where most of the predators are found during the summer months, the whales, penguins, flying seabirds, it’s a keystone species. These animals have evolved to feed on an organism like krill which are about 50–60 millimetres in size. Now if they disappear or the animals can’t find them to feed on them, they’ll have to either shift their diet to something else, some of the smaller zooplankton, or maybe fish which feed on smaller zooplankton. So there’s consequences higher up, if you start removing keystone species.

We have also been mapping the biogeography of the species, so we have actually now produced a new Atlas on the distribution of what we call our top 50 species. That’s useful for researchers and other monitoring programs they can look in the Atlas and see what species they can expect to see in a certain area.

We need to continue the project, we’ve just set the foundation and we need to continue to look at the potential changes and the consequences. We can use plankton as a bit of an early warning indicating system of what may be coming and what’s happening. It’s the foundation of the whole Antarctic system, if we are not monitoring that part it’s very hard to explain what’s happening elsewhere.

[end transcript]

Mark Williams – Mawson station leader 2011

Mark Williams – Mawson station leader 2011

Video transcript

Mawson Station Leader Mark Williams:

My name’s Mark Williams I’m from Brisbane in Queensland and I am a Police Officer by occupation. I am going down to Mawson for the winter of 2011.

I have been in the Police for over 30 years now and most of that time was spent with criminal investigation anything from basic crime, right through to murders. I love the outdoors, I am tri-athlete, I go bushwalking, surfing, it’s going to be a challenge to realign the things I like to do down south. I’ve looked for this sort of a job for the last 10 years. It’s an opportunity to do something that is really different and to follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest explorers that Australia has ever known.

I’ve worked with people for many years, I really enjoy the interaction with people. The opportunity to work in a small environment with very enthusiastic people is something that I have always dreamed of and to be a platform for the launching of some great scientific expeditions, in particular the Adelie penguins.

Some of the challenges I may face over the next year will be during the winter period, when we have periods of darkness and really bad weather and to keep the morale of the people high and keep them busy so they continue to enjoy their stay.

I am the luckiest guy on earth, if you asked me could I pick a station to go to, I would have picked Mawson. I have been a fan of Sir Douglas Mawson for many many years and to go to Mawson station as the Station Leader for a year is probably one of the highlights of my life.

[end transcript]

Graham Cook – Davis station leader 2011

Graham Cook – Davis station leader 2011

Video transcript

Davis Station Leader Graham Cook:

Hi I’m Graham Cook, commonly known as Cookie, I’m off to Davis this winter. This is my fourth trip to Antarctica. I’ve been a station leader at Mawson, Davis and Casey in the past, I have a background in people and project management and I head South because I love it. As a 12 year old I read a book about Frank Hurley called “Once more on my adventure” and was inspired to work in Antarctica as a result of reading that book. It took me till I was about 52 to get there, so I am pretty slow, but I did get there.

Your first trip to Antarctica and any subsequent trip after that is an absolutely amazing experience. My first iceberg was quite a small iceberg but wow it was amazing. My first time cracking through sea ice, I stood on the bow of the ship with several other people and one of them said to me, “I’m sorry I’ve got tears in my eyes”, and I said “So have I”, and the person next to me said “Well so have I”. It ended up five of us on the bow of the ship had tears in our eyes from this amazing first experience. Once you get through the ice and step on the land it’s the culmination of a dream, pretty amazing stuff.

Davis has a major infrastructure program this summer to finish off a new LQ (Living Quarters) there. A lot of exciting science, there’s a fair size flying program which will take some of our Geoscience Australia guys into the Prince Charles mountains. We have some Chinese working with our AAD scientists at Amanda Rookery with emperor penguins. We have some guys doing some snorkelling looking at the near shore marine environment and the impacts of our habitation and other impacts like ocean acidification. Work on the Amery Ice shelf and some comings and goings between the stations. Which is going to make it an exciting summer and a few programs during the winter that will keep us busy as well.

Working through the winter there is a few challenges for the station leader. Some of those are the separation issues, it’s not unusual for relationships to either end or become fragile, so you work with your expeditioners through those. There’s obviously the community living type things, we live together, we have a long period of darkness and sometimes we are not that happy with one other, but we work through that and nut it out and usually end up a fairly happy family by the end of it.

This winter there’s a few things that I would like to do, I would like to explore some of the areas of Davis that I didn’t get to see last time. I get a great deal of pleasure out of watching the people that are there for the first time enjoy the place and hopefully can show them some places that add to the enjoyment that they have.

[end transcript]

OktoKopter set to soar Antarctic skies

Setting up to go south

Setting up to go south

Video transcript

Robb Clifton — Australian Antarctic Division Support and Coordination Manager: On average we’ll move between about 450 and 500 people to and from Antarctica over a summer period and that’s by ship and aeroplane. [Music]

Rob Bryson Australian Antarctic Division Shipping Manager: Last season we shipped 3000 tonnes of cargo south. [Music]

Steve Daw — Australian Antarctic Division Aviation Manager: Arguably aviation in Antarctica is one of the three most challenging environments in the world. [Music]

Robb Clifton: Preparation for the season starts quite a long way out, effectively for us it’s about 12 months out. What we start looking at is the whole range of projects and activities we have to do and then try to work out how we can fit all of those projects and activities in together across the breadth of the season.

So for example this season we have about 80 different projects going to Antarctica. We’ve got voyages, so ships we are using, probably about 3 different ships. We are flying our aircraft, using our helicopters. So we look at that at a macro level across our four stations and how we slot all of those 80 projects in and in fact if we can, when they best fit and what resources they need on the ground.

So each person needs training before they go, they need to have considered what they need to take with them, the design of their science or their project. You know it might be a media project or a construction project, they need to consider the equipment they need, their power needs, what they need on station, whether they need field support and a field camp. How they are then going to get samples and equipment back to Australia, and all their contingencies. Because of course impacting all of this is the great thing we can’t control, which is the Antarctic weather.

Rob Bryson: The main stay and the back bone of our program shipping wise is the Aurora Australis, which has been doing the Antarctic work for the last 20 years. She is a super 1A ice breaker.

Our season is pretty much dictated by environmental conditions and we like to be at certain stations at certain times, dependent on what the ice is like. At the beginning of the season we will always aim to go to Davis first because we can break into the ice there and do our resupply over the ice. And then at the other end of the season we like to be at Mawson after about Australia Day because that’s when the ice is gone and we can actually get into Horseshoe Harbour and do a mooring with the ship and get in there.

So it’s all about timing people, resources, cargo and all that stuff around the environmental conditions. It’s all about herding cats and everything into the one place at the one time to get them out. So it makes an interesting job.

Steve Daw: The AAD operates an airbus 319 that takes our expeditioners to and from Wilkins airdrome from Hobart. The airbus flies about 75,000 nautical miles a year over about 20 odd flights. Normally about 12 flights-14 flights will be down to Wilkins airdrome, with the rest providing support to our other Antarctic partner nations. We also operate a couple of CASA 212 aircraft. The CASA 212’s undertake about 40,000 nautical miles of flying a year. The helicopters also undertake a large number of flights, sometimes up to 1500 flights a season, providing utility support, support to science and shuttling people to and from the skiway at Davis station as well.

Each season probably the most complicated challenge is ensuring that we are providing the right type of support, overcoming weather issues during the course of the season. For the pilots some of the most significant issues would be weather and waiting for the right weather to get off the ground. The pilots have a white on white environment, almost akin to flying in a ping pong ball which can be very demanding.

Robb Clifton: We have a really great team here at head office, who work with our teams through our station leaders on the ground to adjust who’s going, when they are going, when we are going to send certain flights and how we are going to fit the whole jigsaw together. So it’s a pretty non-stop activity that runs for about 6 months and certainly keeps us on our toes because it seems to changes very regularly. [Music]

[end transcript]