Posts Tagged ‘Antarctic’

Experts from Shell and Dubai Airports join Robert Swan’s International Antarctic Expedition 2011, Al Bawaba reports

May 8, 2011

Hornorkesteret says: Hands off the Antarctic, Shell! We do not approve of your presence there, even if it is “enhancing the leadership skills and environmental awareness of its personnel”.
On the contrary, we see this as part of an environmental hoax on Shell’s part, since they are one of the the world’s worst environmental offenders. Go home, Shell!
Hornfar

Published May 5th, 2011 by Al Bawaba – Original article here

Shell recently appointed two of its young professionals to join the 2011 International Antarctic Expedition led by renowned polar explorer and environmentalist Robert Swan. The initiative forms part of Shell’s commitment to enhancing the leadership skills and environmental awareness of its personnel. The two Shell professionals were joined by two other Emiratis from Dubai Airports.

The Antarctic expedition organized in March 2011 by Swan, the first person in history to walk to both the North and South poles, complements Shell’s renowned environmental activism. Shell was one of the first energy companies in 1997 to actively call for actions by governments, industry and energy users against climate change.

The inclusion of Shell representatives in the voyage also reflects the company’s unique approach to leadership development. In a 2010 study, 75 per cent of respondent organizations cited leadership development as important and yet only 23 per cent said that they were effective at developing leaders internally.

Majid Fairooz, Head of Planning, Buti Qurwash, Head of Security, at Dubai Airports, and Mohammed Azzazi, Production Technologist and Abdulrahim Turkistani from Shell gained valuable knowledge on Antarctic wildlife, geology, history and geography. They were introduced to Swan’s advocacy of preserving Antarctica and combating climate change via recycling, renewable energy and sustainability. They were also oriented on renewable energy’s vital role in preserving the environment.

“Shell is highly committed to addressing many of the environmental challenges. This requires a better understanding of how our operations affect the world’s eco-systems. Our active participation in advocacies such as Robert Swan’s 2041 programme will provide us with the information and hands-on experience we need to ensure more sustainable approaches to managing CO2 emissions.” said Omar Al Qurashi, Director of Communications, Shell in Dubai.

Anita Mehra, Vice President of Marketing & Corporate Communications, Dubai Airports, said, “Environmental sustainability is a high priority area for Dubai Airports and our goal is to build a corporate culture that embraces sustainability in every aspect. We believe that by being part of this expedition Majid and Buti have managed to raise greater interest about environmental concerns among their peers and colleagues, which could lead to other worthwhile contributions towards conservation.”

“The Antarctic expedition was and still is a life changing experience. The purpose of going to Antarctica became clear the day we returned home. We have to change perceptions about the environment that we live in and that change starts inside each individual. All of us can contribute to a better way of living. Small things can make a big difference,” said Fairooz.

Shell’s Abdulrahim Turkistani said, “This expedition was certainly a surreal experience for us. Besides being awestruck by the beauty of Antarctica, I learnt that while our planet can take care of itself, the resources it has are limited, making it imperative for us to live sustainably. This is the only way we can ensure that our future generations can continue to enjoy nature’s many wonders.”

Mohammed Azzazi commented, “Born in the Middle East, it was hard for me to visualize how an increase in temperature by one or two degrees could impact our planet. However, all this changed after my Antarctic expedition, which was a genuine eye opener. I now perfectly understand our mission at Shell and I commit to powering the world responsibly.”

The representatives from Shell and Dubai Airports together with their co- travellers boarded the 90.6-metre ‘Sea Spirit,’ an exploration ship that regularly conducts Antarctic, Arctic and other special interest voyages. Their eco-adventure began from Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, passing through Cape Horn, the most southerly point of the Americas and stopping by King George Island, the location of the 2041 E-Base – the first education station built in Antarctica of sustainable products and run on renewable energy.  The group visited the site of Robert Swan’s 2008 ‘E-Base Goes Live’ mission where the explorer became the first person in Antarctic history to live for two weeks solely on renewable energy.

Shell continues to develop innovative technologies and practices and engage in strategic partnerships to ensure that sustainability concepts are integrated into the entire energy value chain. The company also encourages governments to support policies covering the optimal management of CO2 and other greenhouse gases.

© 2011 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

NASA’s Prototype Mars Space Suit Gets a Frosty Antarctic Performance Test

March 27, 2011

By Clay Dillow PopSci 03.22.2011 – Original article here

The NDX-1 Goes Through the Drills Pablo de Leon via UND Space Suit Lab

Mars is one seriously cold rock, so where better in the world to test a new spacesuit design then the permafrost of Antarctica? NASA researchers recently took the NDX-1 spacesuit prototype, designed at the University of North Dakota by Argentine aerospace engineer Pablo de Leon, for an Antarctic test drive where the suit was exposed to 47 mile per hour winds and frigid polar temperatures.

The NDX-1 has been under development for several years now at UND’s Space Suit Laboratory, but this was its first test-drive in harsh, Mars-simulating conditions. The idea wasn’t just to take the suit somewhere cold, but also somewhere isolated “so that if something went wrong we couldn’t just go to the store,” De Leon said to Reuters.

Not that you could patch the NDX-1 together at the local hardware store. The $100,000 suit (funded by NASA) contains more than 350 materials, including weight-reducing carbon fiber and Kevlar.

A team of NASA scientists, including De Leon himself, took the suit through the paces of simulated spacewalks during which they collected samples and operated tools like drills–the very kinds of activities the first humans on Mars very well might undertake. If, that is, we ever get there. With NASA’s purse strings tightening, developing an interplanetary space vehicle may not be in cards for quite a while, leaving America’s astronauts all dressed up in their NDX-1s with no place to go.

Berserk tragedy: Interview with Jarle Andhøy

March 23, 2011

Posted: Mar 23, 2011 04:47 am EDT -Original article here

(By Jon Amtrup) Jarle Andhøy, the expedition leader for the Berserk that most likely was sunk in the Ross Sea in February, has returned to Norway. Three of his crew are lost and presumed dead, and Andhøy is planning to return to the area for a flower ceremony. ExWeb has interviewed him about the tragic events.

Andhøy has been subject for massive criticisms for his sailing trip to one of the most remote and harsh seas in the world. He was going to celebrate the famed Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen by making an ATV trip to the South Pole point, but he will not answer if he actually reached the South Pole. He hasn’t commented on ExWeb question about when and where his documentary will be aired.

ExWeb:What do you think happen to the Berserk?

Andhøy: I don’t know. I still collect information and facts around the accident.

ExWeb:You had two daily calls with the crew when you where heading for the South Pole. What did you discuss in the last call?

Andhøy: We were on our way to the coast when I received last sms from them “All good. Boat shipshape and we are now leaving horseshoe Bay… contact us when you can”

ExWeb:How did you research the area and who did you speak to before you left for the Ross Sea?

Andhøy: I spoke to various old school whalers from Vestfold. Mostly Lars Henriksen a Norwegian whaling pilot from Sandefjord. I also had some email correspondence with some cruise ships in the area. The Bible in the area is certainly The English admiralty sailing directions 9 th edition.

ExWeb:Why do you thing people like Skip Novak and Don McIntyre don’t recommend ordinary sailing vessels to enter the Ross Sea?

Andhøy: “Berserk” is not a ordinary sailing vessel, but a expedition vessel And I share some of their statements about the weather and area, but stay to the facts about this expedition. I never spoke with either one of them.
I know that Don was copied on some email correspondence which I had with captain Mike on the Orion. Surprising for me that these respectable guys want to get a few moments of fame in this tragedy. Especially since the lost seamen cannot defend themselves from the project criticism based on their own guesses about it.

ExWeb: How did you come to the conclusion that sailing and leaving the crew and boat in the Ross Sea was a risk worth taking?

Andhøy: It was the best time of the season ice wise and I left the boat in the hands of a captain I trust and with good seamen on board. They knew the boat very well and had a good anchor area where they could hide from the wind and weather around Shackeltons hut. (Horse shoe Bay and Backdoor Bay). Life at sea is a risk. In the Ross Sea it’s bigger, but with good preparations, crew and today’s equipment and technology it is a lot easier than for the men who explored the area from James Ross days.

ExWeb: Can you list the sailing, preferably arctic, experience the three on board had?

Andhøy: The boat captain sailed the North West passage, Otto Sverdrup Islands, and Greenland. Asides he is a experienced charter captain doing deliveries summer and wintertime in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and North sea.
Leonard Banks grew up in a sailing boat with a experienced sailor father from South Africa. He is a skilled surfer and sailor who has been traveling and working as crew around for the last 7 years.
Robert is a professional diver, offshore rig worker and the kind of handyman you really want in a boat. He has been sailing with me on various trips and has been onboard the Berserk the last 12 months.

ExWeb: Did you reach the South Pole point- yes or no? And how do you define The End of the World that you keep speaking about?

Andhøy: You will get both answers by watching television. I can also inform you that getting to the South Pole in 2011 is not very hard compared to Amundsens days.

ExWeb: How did you assess the risk when two of the potential, and experienced expeditioners, withdrew from the trip due to safety concerns?

Andhøy: I dont know where you have that information from and suggest you do some  better research. On this expedition there has been 11 people involved on different levels – some were up to it some were not. A selection was done from my and Captain Bellikas side to collect the best men for the mission.

Editors note: The question related to Gjermund Frostad, a very experienced motorcyclist with Dakar and Dresden-Breslau on his resume, and Tore Sunde-Rasmussen, Mount Everest and 7 summits. Both withdrew from the expeditions according to media reports. Andhøy hasn’t answered this follow up question: I’m talking about Gjermund Frostad (42) and Tore Sunde-Rasmussen who through Norwegian newspapers has stated that they backed out due to safety concerns. Your comment?

ExWeb: How will you handle the upcoming police investigation for lacking SAR and not filing for a sailing permit?

Andhøy: I will face it and answer to all questions. Its some complicated international questions that will come up concerning the treaty. In addition I appreciate that Norwegian officials also will investigate the accident – – What really happened to the “Berserk”? The answer of that has more attention for me. Not whether they had the right papers or not.

ExWeb:Why didn’t you make sure to have the paperwork in place before you left?

Andhøy: We did various research and there are different formalities depending of the country where you process the paperwork and we where answered by more questions than answers.

ExWeb: You have been fined for missing SAR and “talking to a Polar Bear” on Svalbard, arrested and deported from Canada when you tried to sail the Northwest Passage, and are now facing a police investigation for the Antarctic expedition. How will these incidents affect your future?

Andhøy: Time will show.

ExWeb: What is your future plans?
Andhøy: I am sailing back to the Ross Sea to make a proper flower ceremony where my
crewmates are assumed lost.

ExWeb: Anything else?
Andhøy: I appreciate any critics based on facts. The ending of this expedition is nothing but a tragedy for me, the crew mates and the families involved with this project.
Our philosophy is being self-sufficient and managing life as old time seafarers. In order to survive and succeed in remote hostile areas being self-sufficient is the key. All members on board the Berserk was fully aware of the risk and did not want to bother nobody, but ourselves. But the self-sufficiency was breached when my shipmate chose to activate the EBIRB.

Maybe it would have been better to leave it back home as Don McIntyre suggest, but instead I support Captain Gisles decision as he chose to request help near one of the most trafficked areas in Antarctica and the continents SAR centre.

And I wonder what he would have said if we didn’t have the right security equipment onboard?? or has he told that already…

Me and all families of the Berserk crew wish to express our deepest thanks to Paul Watson and the crew on Steve Irwin, HMS Wellington and all parts that have been assisting the search to try to find the lost Berserkers.

A review of climatic history following a new look at Antarctic ice cores

March 23, 2011

Posted Mon, 21 Mar 2011 12:33:00 GMT by Michael Evans
Original article here

One of the problems with long-term climate research is that we know so little and what might seem so obvious, sometimes is simply not the case.

Researchers have reconstructed temperature fluctuations in Antarctica for the last million years by studying ice cores. Up until now the presumption has been that these fluctuations were triggered by the global effect of climatic changes in the northern hemisphere.

In the current edition of the journal Nature, three physicists at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association (AWI), Germany’s largest scientific organisation, have presented new calculations on the connection between natural insolation and long-term changes in global climatic activity.

This new study is part of an expansion of the prevalent theory regarding the development of ice ages and shows that major portions of the temperature fluctuations can be explained equally well by local climate changes in the southern hemisphere.

It was around the middle of the nineteenth century that it first became recognised that much of Europe was at one time covered by a great ice sheet, but it was not until 1911 that a Serbian mathematician, Milutin Malankovitch decided to chart the ice ages of the Pleistocene.

Without the benefit of computers, all of his calculations had to be done manually and he spent the next 30 years working on them. He studied the effects of the tilt of the Earth’s axis and the small orbital changes caused by gravitational pull from nearby planets at various times going back 600,000 years. This enabled him to create charts and tabulations of incoming solar radiation across the Northern Hemisphere.

Although Malankovitch’s calculations are still used today, they have always been the subject of debate. Malankovitch generally felt that insolation changes in the Northern Hemisphere were of outstanding importance for climate change over long periods of time. Since numerous climate reconstructions based on ice cores, marine sediments and other climate archives appear to support this view, it has become the prevailing working hypothesis in current climate research.

The three physicists from AWI have made a further in-depth analysis of the temperature reconstructions in Antarctic ice cores. For the first time they took into account that winter temperature has a greater influence than summer temperature and. when this is done, temperature fluctuations reconstructed from ice cores can be explained by local climatic changes in the southern hemisphere.

Up until now scientists have always tried to explain historical climate data in the context of Malankovitch’s classical hypothesis, ”… and to date,” says AWI scientist Thomas Laepple, ”it hasn’t been possible to plausibly substantiate all aspects of this hypothesis, but now the game is open again and we can try to gain a better understanding of the long-term physical mechanisms that influence the alternation of ice ages and warm periods.”

However, the researchers were anxious to point out that their work involved natural changes that take place over thousands of years and do not relate to potential climate change resulting from man-induced greenhouse gases.

Penguin Colony in the Antarctic Disappears

March 5, 2011

Softpedia News, March 5th, 2011 Original article here

Map 2: Emperor Island, Dion Islands, ASPA No. 107: topographic map. Map specifications: Projection: Lambert Conformal Conic; Standard parallels: 1st 67° 0' 00" W; 2nd 68° 00' 00"S; Central Meridian: 68° 42' 30" W; Latitude of Origin: 68° 00' 00" S; Spheroid: WGS84; Datum: Mean sea level. Horizontal accuracy: ± 1.5 m; Vertical accuracy ±1 m (best accuracy of the control points); Vertical contour interval 5 m (index contour interval 15m).

Biologists have documented the first instance of what they call the global warming-induced disappearance of an animal colony. The experts can no longer find even the smallest traces of a small colony of penguins that once lived on an island off the coasts of Antarctica.

It has been proposed a long time ago that penguins would be among the most affected species when climate change finally struck, right alongside other ice-dependent animals, like polar bears.

But no one documented an actual case of that happening until now. Experts believe that the emperor penguin colony disappeared because of dwindling sea ices around their home island.

The island in question is located off the West Antarctic Peninsula, which is one of the areas that lost the most ice due to the warming climate. Without the shelfs to provide them with support and food, the penguins most likely could not secure enough to eat.

When the Emperor Island colony was first discovered in 1948, it featured about 150 breeding pairs of penguins. An 1978 report showed a sharp decline in numbers, while a 2009 aerial survey found the entire island deserted.

One of the biggest unknowns in this study is whether the penguins died off, or just relocated to a more hospitable environment, says lead researcher Philip Trathan. He holds an appointment as a conservation biologist as the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), LiveScience reports.

An explanation could be that fewer and fewer emperor penguins returned to this location over the years. The animals live for about 20 years, and they tend to return yearly to the site where they hatched.

Over time, it could be that more and more parents from the Emperor Island colony laid their eggs elsewhere. As such, the new generation did not return to the former colony, because they did not know where it was, and had no connection to it.

On the other hand, the researchers did find a connection to climate change and rising temperatures. “The one site in Antarctica where we have seen really big changes is the West Antarctic Peninsula,” Trathan explains in the February 28 issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

Ices in this region were observed over the past two decades forming about 54 days later than normal, and melting some 31 days earlier. This may have also contributed to the decline of the penguin colony. These birds are completely reliant on ice for most of their activities.

The BAS team admits that more studies are required to establish a clear cause for the penguins’ disappearance. “We need to look at more colonies so we can reduce the uncertainty. With the first report, there is a high degree of uncertainty,” the BAS team leader concludes.

China’s Antarctic expedition to finish renovation of Zhongshan station

November 14, 2010

People’s Daily Online
Original article here

Chinese icebreaker Xuelong, or "Snow Dragon"

Chinese icebreaker Xuelong, or “Snow Dragon,” will leave Shenzhen for the South Pole on Nov. 11, where it will start its 27th Antarctic expedition. During this voyage, the final part of the renovation of Zhongshan Station will be completed.

On Nov. 9, Liu Dubin, manager of the Project Department of South Pole of China Railway Construction Engineering Group Co., Ltd., said16 construction workers of this company will go to South Pole with this expedition team this time.

Covering an overall construction areas of over 6,000 square meters, the construction and renovation project of Zhongshan Station and Great Wall Station at the South Pole includes more than 30 single buildings, such as the Comprehensive Building, Garage, Comprehensive Warehouse, Space-physical Observation Building, Corridor, Waste Disposal Building, Sewage Disposal Building, Boiler House, High-frequency Radar House and Oil Tank Base.

Liu also said, “The renovation project of Zhongshan Station has been basically completed so far, but the final part of this project needs to be finished”. After arriving at South Pole, the project construction team of South Pole of China Railway Construction Engineering will further perfect the functions of the Comprehensive Building, Garage, Comprehensive Warehouse, Space-physical Observation Building, Waste Disposal Building, Sewage Disposal Building and High-frequency Radar House.

“Snow Dragon” arrived at Yantian Port in Shenzhen on Nov. 8 at the invitation of the municipal government of Shenzhen. It will stay in Shenzhen for three days, and citizens of Shenzhen can visit it in the meantime. This time, 193 members of the Antarctic expedition team will travel by “Snow Dragon” and carry out 31 tasks of scientific investigation in the region of this station. In addition, they will carry out 27 tasks of logistical security.

Established in February 1989, Zhongshan Station of South Pole of China is the second station of scientific investigation of China in South Pole Region. After more than 20 years of expansion, the overall construction area of this station has reached 5,800 square meters.

From 2002 to 2009, the South Pole Construction Team of China Railway Construction Engineering participated in the construction of the scientific investigation stations of the South Pole of China eight consecutive times. It took charge of the dismantlement task of Zhongshan Station and Great Wall Station, and the construction task of permanent scientific-investigation stations (Zhongshan Station and Great Wall Station) in succession, thus playing an important role of logistic security to the scientific investigation work of South Pole of China.

By Yan Meng, People’s Daily Online

Surveyor seals reveal secrets of Antarctic depths

November 7, 2010

Original article at  New Scientist
05 November 2010 by Kate Ravilious

Ocean explorers (Image: D. Costa)

Seals are helping to map the ocean floor around Antarctica. And they are proving their worth: they have already revealed new features on the sea bed that could help researchers explain the rapid melting of ice in recent years.

Knowing the shape of the ocean floor is important because underwater mountains and valleys help to shape ocean circulation, which influences ice cover and production at the surface.

Normally such mapping is carried out by echo sounding, whereby the depth of the sea is calculated by timing how long it takes for sound waves to travel from a ship to the sea bed and back again. But the most of the sea and ocean beds around Antarctica remain unmapped because the thick ice that covers much of the region is impassable for ships.

So Daniel Costa, a marine biologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, glued electronic depth sensors onto the heads of 57 elephant seals and tracked their movements in the Bellingshausen Sea off the Antarctic Peninsula between 2005 and 2009.

Ideal seals

“Seals are ideal because they go places where no one else has gone, and they don’t need a battery to drive them,” says Costa.

By tracking seals in previously well-mapped regions, Costa and his colleagues showed they dived all the way to the sea floor around 30 per cent of the time.

Next they analysed the maximum depths of seal dives in unmapped regions, to trace the contours of the sea bed to the west of the Antarctic Peninsula.

“We found that the troughs that cut across the continental shelf from the deep ocean to the coast are deeper and straighter than shown on existing maps,” says Laurie Padman, an oceanographer at Earth and Space Research, a non-profit research institute in Corvallis, Oregon.

In particular, the data revealed that troughs leading towards the Wilkins ice shelf were 600 to 200 metres deeper than previously thought. Such troughs act as conduits for warm water, so the greater depth may help to explain the dramatic collapse of the ice shelf in 2008.

The researchers are planning similar work in other areas around both Antarctica and the Arctic. “It is a cheap and very powerful technique,” saysPaul Holland, an ocean modeller from the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, UK, who was not involved in the study.

Journal reference: Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2010gl044921

Giant iceberg breaks off from Antarctic glacier

June 29, 2010

This undated photo released on February 26, 2010 from the Australian Antarctic Division shows the Mertz Glacier, a 160-kilometer spit of floating ice protruding into the Southern Ocean from East Antarctica. Researchers said on February 25, 2010 that the iceberg the size of Luxembourg - or some 2550 square kilometres in size - knocked loose from the Antarctic continent earlier this month and could disrupt the ocean currents driving weather patterns around the globe. Photograph by: Tony Worby, Australian Antarctic Division/AFP/Getty Images/Handout

Reuters February 26, 2010

SINGAPORE – An iceberg the size of Luxembourg has broken off from a glacier in Antarctica after being rammed by another giant iceberg, scientists said on Friday, in an event that could affect ocean circulation patterns.

The 2,500 sq km (965 sq mile) iceberg broke off earlier this month from the Mertz Glacier’s 160 km (100 miles) floating tongue of ice that sticks out into the Southern Ocean.

The collision has since halved the size of the tongue that drains ice from the vast East Antarctic ice sheet.

“The calving itself hasn’t been directly linked to climate change but it is related to the natural processes occurring on the ice sheet,” said Rob Massom, a senior scientist at the Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre in Hobart, Tasmania.

Both organisations, along with French scientists, have been studying existing giant cracks in the ice tongue and monitored the bumper-car-like collision by the second iceberg, B-9B.

This 97 km long slab of ice is a remnant of an iceberg of more than 5,000 sq km that broke off, or calved, in 1987, making it one of the largest icebergs ever recorded in Antarctica.

The Mertz glacier iceberg is among the largest recorded for several years. In 2002, a iceberg about 200 km long broke off from Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf. In 2007, a iceberg roughly the size of Singapore broke off from the Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica.

Massom said the shearing off of the ice tongue and the presence of the Mertz and B-9B icebergs could affect global ocean circulation.

The area is an important zone for the creation of dense, salty water that is a key driver of global ocean circulation. This is produced in part through the rapid production of sea ice that is continually blown to the west.

“Removal of this tongue of floating ice would reduce the size of that area of open water, which would slow down the rate of salinity input into the ocean and it could slow down this rate of Antarctic bottom water formation,” he said.

He said there was a risk both icebergs would become grounded on banks or shoals in the area, disrupting the creation of the dense, salty water and the amount that sinks to the bottom of the ocean, he said.

Oceans act like a giant flywheel for the planet’s climate by shifting heat around the globe via myriad currents above and below the surface.

© Copyright (c) Reuters
Original article here

Antarctic Garbage Patch Coming?

June 29, 2010


You’ve heard about the Pacific garbage patch and the Atlantic garbage patch, each a sobering sign of how when we throw things away, they don’t go “away” — they often go into the sea, where they remain for a long, long time.

Much of the global ocean remains uncharted in terms of pollution, but unfortunately the more we look, the more we find. And now even the most remote, pristine waters on the planet — the coastal seas of Antarctica — are being invaded by plastic debris.

In a series of surveys conducted during the austral summer of 2007-2008, researchers at the British Antarctic Survey and Greenpeace trawled the region, skimming surface waters and digging into the seabed. Even in the exceedingly remote Davis and Durmont D’Urville seas they found errant fishing buoys and a plastic cup. Plastic packaging was found floating in the Amundsen Sea (see map).

It doesn’t sound like much, but finding trash in the far corners of the planet is a worrying sign. The research team, led by David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey, believe the debris they found represents the leading edge of a tide of man-made refuse that is just now starting to make its way into the most secluded parts of our oceans.

If there’s good news, it’s this: sledges dragged along the seafloor turned up a healthy, vibrant Antarctic ecosystem, and nothing else. Plastic bits are ubiquitous in beach sands and coastal sediments throughout much of the world, but the reach of humanity’s profound plastic habit and throw-away culture has so far failed to reach the bottom of these southern seas.

The researchers, though, have a gloomy outlook for what they might find in a future trip to the region. In a letter to the journal Marine Environmental Research, they write:

The seabeds immediately surrounding continental Antarctica are probably the last environments on the planet yet to be reached by plastics, but with pieces floating into the surface of the Amundsen Sea this seems likely to change soon. Our knowledge now touches every sea, but so does our legacy of lost and discarded plastic.

Original article here

New species of invertebrates discovered in the Antarctic

June 8, 2010

These are images of the Austasensis tauroprimnoa (A) and Digitogorgia kuekenthali (B) species.

The polyps of the new gorgonia discovered, Tauroprimnoa austasensis and Digitogorgia kuekenthali, in the region of Austasen, in the Eastern Weddell Sea, and to the south-east of the Falklands and Isla Nueve (in Chilean Patagonia) respectively, are small and elongated. Both species stand out for the number, shape and layout of the scales of calcium carbonate that cover the polyps, and for the type of ramification of the colonies.

“The Tauroprimnoa are characterized by being colonies in the shape of a brush, with simple branches and whose polyps arranged in whorls, have only four marginal scales. The rest of the polyp is covered by five longitudinal rows of scales. The sight is reminiscent of a bull, hence the name”, Rebeca Zapata-Guardiola, main author of the study and researcher in the department for Physiology and Zoology at the US, describes to SINC.

The study, which has been published in the journal Polar Biology, shows that Digitogorgia type gorgonea have the same characteristics as previous ones, except for the digitations in the distal region of the scales of the polyps, and the absence of spines on the eight marginal scales and on the eight rows filled with scales that cover the polyp.

The four gorgonea of Atka Bay

The other four species discovered in the area of the South Georgia islands and in Atka bay in the Antarctic region –Thouarella bayeri, Thouarella sardana, Thouarella undulata, and Thouarella andeep- are made up of, like the others of their kind, eight rows of scales that cover the surface of the polyp.

“The differences are found in the ramification pattern of the colonies, in the layout of the polyps in the branches and in the shape and ornamentation of the scales of the polyp”, Zapata-Guardiola indicates.

This second investigation, published in the journal Scientia Marina, has revealed the presence of incidental opercular scales on the polyps of the gorgonea, located in an inner cycle, and already observed in 1908 by the Japanese Kinoshita. This could indicate that the number of scales has been reduced during its evolution. However, “up until now they hadn’t been observed again in any other species of the genus”, the biologist points out.

Oceanographic campaigns

The six new species have been collected using sampling techniques for benthic fauna thanks to the Agassiz net –one of the most commonly used trawling methods for analysing communities that live on the sea bed- during the LAMPOS, ANDEEP-SYSTCO and BENDEX campaigns on board the Polarstern ship.

The LAMPOS campaign, carried out between 3 April and 5 May 2002, made it possible to strengthen cooperation between Latin American and European scientists, and to study the relationship between biogeography and the evolution of benthic fauna between the region of Magallanes and the Antarctic peninsula.

The BENDEX campaign, carried out between 17 November 2003 and 18 January 2004, made it possible to discover how benthic fauna is affected by the alterations and disruptions of the icebergs.

The ANDEEP-SYSTCO campaign, of 28 November 2007 to 4 February 2008, undertook to study the benthic biodiversity of the depths of the Antarctic Ocean, the history of colonisations and patterns of recent communities, and systematic coupling. On this expedition, nine new Antarctic species were also discovered.

###

References:

Zapata-Guardiola, Rebeca; López-González, Pablo J.
“Two new gorgonian genera (Octocorallia: Primnoidae) from Southern Ocean waters”
Polar Biology 33(3): 313-320, marzo de 2010. Zapata-Guardiola, Rebeca; López-González, Pablo J.
“Four new species of Thouarella (Anthozoa: Octocorallia: Primnoidae) from Antarctic waters”
Scientia Marina 74(1): 131-146, marzo de 2010.

Original article here at EurekAlert