Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Major New Zealand Scientific Voyage Launched Today

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, launched (i.e. announced, as it is not a launching when the ship is not leaving until the 31st) the NZ IPY-CAML. This voyage is an International Polar Year (IPY) and Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML) expedition. It is planned to take eight weeks and the vessel being used is the Tangaroa. The main focus is to be on the biodiversity in the Ross Sea for the CAML. One of the things they will do is film the seabed at depths of 4000 meters, which has not been done before. Read more about this major scientific sea expedition to Antarctica here.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Invasive Species That Could Threaten Antarctic Environment

Today I found a very informative article about alien species beginning to become a problem in Antarctica. These plant and animal species are usually carried to the continent unknowingly by humans. Invasive species are an environmental problem in many other regions, but the harsh cold climate of Antarctica has at least in the past kept invasive species at bay. Read more about the threat of invasive species to Antarctica here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Russian Sets Off To Set Sailing Record

Today Fedor Konyukhov left Australia to begin his expedition to sail around Antarctica one his own. According to this article only one other person has done such a feat before. It was Jon Sanders who circumnavigated Antarctica back in 1981/1982. It took him much more time than the 60 to 65 days it is expected to take Fedor Konyukhov to complete his solo sailing around Antarctica. He is sailing to set the record on the Antarctic Cup Racetrack.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Australian Governor General Forced to Cancel Trip

I wrote about him visiting Antarctica this week in an earlier blog post
found here. Today I noticed a news article about his trip being canceled. At first it was only delayed because of weather. In fact it has been rescheduled twice, but due to the continuing bad weather in Antarctica the trip has now been officially abandoned.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Japan Stops Whale Hunt

Here is an article about Japan stopping its whale hunt due to Greenpeace interference.

Yes, There Is Greenery in Antarctica

I know a lot of people think I am crazy when I tell then that there is plant life in parts of Antarctica. People think that nothing can grow on this icy continent. Well, it just is not true. Some plants have adapted and can grow here. It is kind of limited, but there is most definitely moss and lichens growing in Antarctica, especially on the Peninsula. Here is a good article about on scientist who is researching lichen.

Lichen photo I took back in December 2004

Volcanic Eruption in Antarctica...2,000 years ago

Just because a volcano is buried under ice does not mean it is not active. Researchers recently discovered that more than 2,000 years ago a volcano erupted from underneath the ice in Antarctica breaking through the ice and covering the continent in ash. The evidence of this is a layer of ash found in the ice sheet. They suspect this volcano is still active and although buried by ice may be melting the bottom of the ice causing the fast glacial flow of the nearby ice. Read more about this discovery here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Australian Head of State to Visit Antarctica

The Governor General of Australia, Michael Jeffery, will be the first Australian head of state to visit Antarctica. He is expected to go next week using the new airlink that has begun operation between Hobart and Antarctica as a regular airlink for researchers and base support staff. Read more about his visit here.

Lake Under Antarctic Ice Sheet

Here is an article about exploring Lake Ellsworth underneath ice in Antarctica. Scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh and Northumbria. So far in there research they have figured out the depth of Lake Ellsworth. The depth of 105 meters shows that this site is "ideal site for future explorative missions to detect microbial life and recover climate records." If the survey work going on now goes well, then as a probe will be built and used as early as 2012/2013. Read more about this here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Issue of Japanese Whalers Continues

So, recently the issue of Japanese whalers breaking international treaties against whaling has increased in intensity with an Australian judge banning the activity and the Japanese whalers taking protesters into custody.

Australian Judge Bans Japanese Whaling in Antarctic

Yesterday a banned the Japanese company, who has been in the news recently because of their plan to hunt whales in the Antarctic, from whaling in the Antarctic, which Australia has declared as an animal sanctuary. Now the pressure is on the Australian government to enforce this decision while the Japanese do not recognize this court ruling. This can be read about here.

Japanese Whalers Detain Activists

A Japanese whaling vessel has detained two activists for acid throwing and illegally boarding the Japanese vessel. Article about this can be found here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Antarctica Ice is Melting Faster

This Science News Press Release talks about increasing amounts of ice mass have been lost from West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula over the past decade. The same article says that ice in the eastern part of Antarctica has remained pretty much stable. In the 10 years of a study by the University of Bristol the results show that mass loss from ice in the west and on the peninsula has increased by 75%.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary and Antarctica

Most people know Sir Edmund Hillary for his accomplishment of being the first to climb to the top of Mount Everest. What most people do not know is that he was also did a lot of exploring in Antarctica. Almost exactly 50 years ago he reached the South Pole. The flag was placed at half mast a few days ago at New Zealand's Scott Base, which he was involved in establishing, as a symbol of one of New Zealand's greatest explorers passing on January 11, 2008. He died of a heart attack at the age of 88 after a period of ill health. Sir Edmund's last trip to Antarctica was last January to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Scott Base.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Chinese Expedition Near Top of Highest Icecap

The highest icecap in Antarctica is simply called Dome A. Dome A has an elevation of 4,093 meters. A Chinese expedition is set to reach the top of it soon with it being within 100 kilometers of the top yesterday. The conditions for their trek are not all that pleasant even though it is summer down in Antarctica. They have had to deal with minus 30 degree Celsius temperature and wind making it feel even colder. This team is in search of a suitable place for a third Chinese research base while also carrying out an exploration mission. This info summarized from article here.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Stupid Tourists

Okay, so here is an Antarctic tourist news article I found today. It is about a man who tried to take a rock away from the Scott Antarctic Base as a souvenir. Well, I do not know how the hell he did not get the Antarctic tourist lecture on the rules that everyone who lands on the continent has to abide by. I remember when I went that we got it as a paper brochure before we left as well as in part of the lecture we got before our first landing. For those who have not been there and may be confused about what I am talking about, one of the rules is that you cannot take anything (or leave anything you brought) from the continent except if you happen upon some trash left by an unobservant tourist unless you have a permit to do so. That said he says he accidentally ended up with it in his pocket because he was playing with it. That just is not a good reason, although I do not think he needs to pay the fine since he admitted to it. Now if you accidentally brought it back because it got stuck in one of those grooves on your snow boots then I can see that as a true accident. The fact is you really should not be even playing with the rocks unless you are some kind of scientist down there, which he was not.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

New South Pole Base

The new South Pole base becomes operational next weekend. The base includes amenities such as a gym and a greenhouse for growing fresh produce even in the winter months. The base can be raised up on hydraulic jacks as the snow begins to accumulate. This is hoped to keep the base at ground level for 30 years. Much better option than them having to continuously bulldoze the snow away from the igloo looking 1974 base and well the base before that is not under 10 meters of ice. Read this article for a more in depth look at the work it took to build the base in the harsh conditions of the Antarctic.

Beech Forests in Antarctica

Found a great article today that talks about the past climate and scenery of Antarctica. It describes it as being similar to the climate of Patagonia and the Fiordland regions. The article not only talks about how the continent was pretty much ice free, but also about how they know about this past climate. It focuses on the Andrill team made up mostly of New Zealanders that has drilled cores in the ice and sea bed near McMurdo. One of the main scientific reasons for drilling the cores besides finding out about past climate is using that information to help predict future climate trends and what could happen if the world warms.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Antarctica's Pole of Inaccessibility

I had never heard of this pole before I saw this article today. The pole marks the point that is the furthest inland, thus it is farthest part of Antarctica from any of the oceans. Most interesting thing about this pole is not the fact that this article is talking about only the seventh group of people to reach, but rather the item that marks the spot. This item is a plastic bust of Lenin. This is a symbol of the Russian research station that was used for three weeks back in 1969.

The team that just reached here is not just doing it for thrills, but is also collecting some ice core samples for helping add to the weather data that has already been collected from other ice core sampling sites. Additionally they are adding a automated weather station here.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Rare Penguin Spotted

A rare penguin has been spotted and photographed near Mawson's Hut in Antarctica. This penguin is an Adelie Penguin. What is rare is that it is leucistic, which means it lacks pigmentation. These types of genetic defect penguins usually do not survive long because they are picked off by predators early in life. Read about this here, but unfortunately the article does not include the photo.

A photo I took of normal Adelie penguins

Recreating an Historic Antarctic Expedition

Here is an interesting article about people "recreating Adrien de Gerlache’s exploration of the Antarctic Peninsula with the ship Belgica, 110 years ago." I found this interesting in part because the article talks about this historical expedition that I had heard about before. Secondly as I learned about this expedition in the article I was amazed to learn that the crew of this expedition included Roald Amundsen, who was the first to reach the South Pole. This particular expedition is similar to Shackelton's Endurance one in that both got stuck in the ice. Gerlache's expedition ended up being the first to winter over in the Antarctic due to their getting stuck. This allowed them to collect scientific information that had not yet been collected due to no one staying the harsh winter yet. As part of this recreating history expedition (I assume they are skipping the 13 months of being stuck in the ice) those undertaking it are hoping to attention to the effects of climate change on Antarctica and encourage action to stop or slow it.

Hurtigruten Ship Hits Iceberg

Yet another story of a passenger ship, MS Fram, having an accident in the Antarctic. This time it was one of the ships in the Hurtigruten fleet, which is what grabbed my attention to the article about the incident because I went on a Norwegian cruise with them. Let's just say that there big ships better belong in the more open waters of the Arctic than down here. That said there ships are not really that big and are at least made for to be polar ships unlike some other cruise companies that bring monstrosities down here and do not even make landings because they have too many passengers.

Now on to the info on the accident. Their engines lost power on the 28th of December, 2007, for about half an hour. While they were drifting without their engine power, they hit an iceberg. The only thing damaged was a life boat, but as a precaution they returned to Ushuaia early being escorted by another ship. They also canceled the next expedition sceduled for the ship. The most sad thing is that this ship was only first launched in May 2007. Seems kind of early to have a power malfunction, which seems to be the real issue to be investigated with the ship.

My Hurtigruten Ship (Kong Harold) in Norway, June 2002