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Yearly Archives: 2017

Sci­en­tists sur­pri­sed by lar­ger num­bers of Adé­lie pen­gu­ins

During a a joint ven­ture pro­ject of Aus­tra­li­an, French, and Japa­ne­se rese­ar­chers sci­en­tists found that the­re were twice as many Adé­lie pen­gu­ins as ori­gi­nal­ly thought. They obser­ved a 5000km long coas­tal stretch in the East Ant­ar­c­tic. Ins­tead of the expec­ted 3.6 mil­li­on birds they obser­ved almost 6 mil­li­on Adé­lie pen­gu­ins in the stu­dy area. This would lead to an over­all esti­ma­te of 14-16 mil­li­on Ade­lie pen­gu­ins world-wide.

This has, among­st others, impli­ca­ti­ons on ant­ar­c­tic krill and other fishe­ries, as such a gre­at num­ber of pen­gu­ins eats about 200,000t krill and 19,000t fish during one bree­ding sea­son in the East Ant­ar­c­tic alo­ne. The data were deter­mi­ned over seve­ral years by means of satel­li­te tech­no­lo­gy, indi­vi­du­al tag­ging and auto­ma­tic came­ra moni­to­ring.

Adé­lie pen­gu­ins in the Ross Sea.

Adélie penguins, Ross Sea

Source: Aus­tra­li­an Govern­ment, Depart­ment of the Envi­ron­ment and Ener­gy

Wind: an important fac­tor for gla­cier mel­ting in Ant­ar­c­ti­ca

Wind may be the gre­at and so-far stron­gly unde­re­sti­ma­ted fac­tor when it comes to mel­ting of lar­ge mas­ses of gla­cier ice in Ant­ar­c­ti­ca. Chan­ging wind pat­terns are now recei­ving more atten­ti­on from sci­en­tists.

Rese­ar­chers have so far most­ly focus­ses on ocea­nic curr­ents. Warm water mas­ses are mel­ting ice shel­ves and gla­ciers from the bot­tom. This leads to enorm­ous quan­ti­ties of gla­cier ice being lost – for the Tot­ten Gla­cier in eas­tern Ant­ar­c­ti­ca alo­ne, the loss is esti­ma­ted at an incre­di­ble 63-80 bil­li­on tons of ice. Per year! Tot­ten Gla­cier is the lar­gest one, but it is not alo­ne.

The sce­na­rio gains even more hor­ror becau­se of the sub­g­la­cial topo­gra­phy on a con­ti­nen­tal sca­le. The sur­face of the bed­rock under the ice is slo­ping down­wards as you get away from the coast and into the con­ti­nent, not upwards as with all other con­ti­nents. This is due to the hea­vy ice load. This means that war­mer sea water, as soon as it has over­co­me the ice-bed­rock-boun­da­ry on the edge bet­ween the (floa­ting) ice shelf and the gla­cier (res­t­ing on the ground), may pene­tra­te much more easi­ly as it is actual­ly moving downhill, and that’s what water likes to do. The pro­cess may accor­din­gly acce­le­ra­te signi­fi­cant­ly as it is pro­gres­sing.

Now, wind is coming in as an addi­tio­nal fac­tor, making the who­le sys­tem much more com­pli­ca­ted. But the result is most likely to be yet ano­ther increase of ice loss due to basal mel­ting. Nor­mal­ly, the­re is a rather thin lay­er of melt­wa­ter on top of the water column of the Sou­thern Oce­an near the ant­ar­c­tic coast. This melt­wa­ter lay­er is quite thin, but due to its low sali­ni­ty it has a sharp boun­da­ry to under­ly­ing war­mer waters and it tends to be quite sta­ble. It pro­vi­des a ther­mal buf­fer bet­ween the cold atmo­sphe­re or gla­cier ice/shelf ice mas­ses on top and war­mer waters under­neath.

Strong winds can, howe­ver, dis­turb this rela­tively thin, cold lay­er of melt­wa­ter, making the way free for more tem­pe­ra­te water mas­ses from grea­ter depth to come to the sur­face, whe­re they have a warm­ing effect on ice and air.

Strong winds are expec­ted to increase in fre­quen­cy and force in deca­des to come in the west wind zone in the Sou­thern Oce­an. This impli­es more fre­quent wea­ther situa­tions that may help war­mer water mas­ses to come to the sur­face, whe­re they can melt the over­ly­ing gla­cier ice inclu­ding ice shel­ves.

Robust model­ling and sub­stan­ti­al pre­dic­tion of this extre­me­ly com­plex sys­tem will requi­re a lot of fur­ther rese­arch work and com­pu­ter pro­ces­sing power. Nevert­hel­ess, it may be fair to draw the fol­lo­wing con­clu­si­ons, which may not actual­ly sur­pri­se you: 1) take cli­ma­te chan­ge serious­ly and get some­thing done about it ASAP 2) fur­ther rese­arch is nee­ded …

Tabu­lar ice­berg in the Ross Sea, Ant­ar­c­ti­ca: sym­bol of dis­in­te­gra­ting ice shel­ves.

Tabular iceberg, Ross Sea

Source: wired

Slow reco­very of wha­le popu­la­ti­on after indus­tri­al wha­ling

When you are tal­king about the “slow reco­very of wha­le popu­la­ti­on after indus­tri­al wha­ling”, then the empha­sise is on “slow” rather than on “reco­very”, depen­ding on the spe­ci­es. All lar­ge baleen wha­le spe­ci­es whe­re hun­ted inten­si­ve­ly with indus­tri­al­ly bru­tal methods in the sou­thern hemi­sphe­re, most­ly bet­ween 1890 and 1970, alt­hough wha­ling (main­ly by Japa­ne­se wha­lers) is still an ongo­ing fact, as most rea­ders will be awa­re of. Natu­ral, pre-wha­ling popu­la­ti­ons were redu­ced to frac­tions. The actu­al size of the ori­gi­nal popu­la­ti­ons can only be esti­ma­ted.

With today’s know­ledge of repro­duc­tion, food resour­ces etc., pre­dic­tions of the future deve­lo­p­ment of wha­le popu­la­ti­ons can be made. Of cour­se, the­re are uncer­tain­ties inher­ent as with any model-based (or other) pre­dic­tion, but some trends are nevert­hel­ess quite clear.

Hump­back wha­le in Ger­la­che Strait: back to a natu­ral popu­la­ti­on size around 2050?

Humpback whale Gerlache Strait

Results vary, depen­ding on the spe­ci­es, as a recent stu­dy by Aus­tra­li­an bio­lo­gists shows. Hump­back wha­les may be back to a natu­ral popu­la­ti­on level, esti­ma­ted near 100,000 indi­vi­du­als, as “soon” as around 2050. Curr­ent­ly, the­re is only a third of that num­ber around, but hump­back wha­le cows may give birth to a calf every year and they are bene­fit­ting from a solid nut­ri­ti­on base.

The lar­ger spe­ci­es such as fin, blue and sou­thern right wha­les will take more time. Their fema­les five birth only once in 2-3 years. Reco­very is accor­din­gly much slower, and popu­la­ti­on levels may not be more than half of the ori­gi­nal size in 2100, more than 100 years after wha­ling most­ly came to an end. Fac­tors like cli­ma­te chan­ge and its influen­ces on the mari­ne food web and the poten­ti­al thre­at of more wha­ling in the future bring addi­tio­nal uncer­tain­ty.


What’s the age of Krill?

What’s the age of Krill?

Aus­tra­li­an rese­ar­chers report in the jour­nal PLOS ONE, that they were able to deter­mi­ne the exact age of Krill for the first time. As known from lobsters and crabs, the age of Ant­ar­c­tic krill can now also be deter­mi­ned by the bright and dark rings of their eye stalks. So far, krill that were older than two years could not lon­ger be deter­mi­ned by their size, sin­ce envi­ron­men­tal con­di­ti­ons and food sup­p­ly were respon­si­ble for their growth or even shrin­king. If it is pos­si­ble to deter­mi­ne the age groups of swarms of krill the CCAMLR (Con­ven­ti­on for the Con­ser­va­ti­on of Ant­ar­c­tic Mari­ne Living) would be able to deter­mi­ne catch limits more pre­ci­ce­ly. Sin­ce the sci­en­tists can use the same method to age deter­mi­ne krill in sci­en­ti­fic coll­ec­tions and muse­ums, they soon will be able to compa­re the age com­po­si­ti­on of past and pre­sent krill swarms.

Samples of the stu­dy yiel­ded ages bet­ween one and five years, but the main point of the stu­dy was to estab­lish the tech­ni­que and not to actual­ly descri­be the age of krill.

Ant­ark­ti­scher Krill.

Antarktis-Krill, Deception Island

Chan­ging phy­to­plank­ton in a chan­ging cli­ma­te

A glim­pse into Australia’s Ant­ar­c­tic Sci­ence pro­grams: Chan­ging phy­to­plank­ton in a chan­ging cli­ma­te: href=““ target=“_blank“>In a review on ant­ar­c­tic polar sci­ence pro­jects in recent years the aut­hors con­clude that cli­ma­te chan­ge also alters the com­po­si­ti­on, the dis­tri­bu­ti­on and the growth of phy­to­plank­ton.

Sin­ce this phy­to­plank­ton binds car­bon dioxi­de from the air or pro­du­ces che­mi­cal sub­s­tances that con­tri­bu­te to the for­ma­ti­on of clouds, a chan­ge in the com­po­si­ti­on and occur­rence of the­se tiny algae could have signi­fi­cant influence on the future cli­ma­te as well. Gla­cial mel­ting and sea ice thin­ning favor tiny fla­gel­la­te algae, while the major diet of the Ant­ar­c­tic krill, the diatoms, will lose their opti­mal habi­tat. The sci­en­tists need to do more work to under­stand how fast and how long the phy­to­plank­ton spe­ci­es can adapt to their new envi­ron­men­tal con­di­ti­ons.

Algae – here ter­restri­al ones on Peter­mann Island – are influen­ced by cli­ma­te chan­ge, but this is not a one way road.

Algae, Petermann Island

Ant­ar­c­ti­ca and Pata­go­nia under sails, 2018: last tickets

Both trips in ear­ly 2018 with SY Anne-Mar­ga­re­tha to Ant­ar­c­ti­ca and, respec­tively, Pata­go­nia are most­ly ful­ly boo­ked, but the­re are some last oppor­tu­ni­ties. The­re is one fema­le seat in a twin cabin on the jour­ney to Ant­ar­c­ti­ca and one twin cabin still available in Pata­go­nia due to a can­cel­la­ti­on. Get in touch with me for fur­ther ques­ti­ons or with the Geo­gra­phi­sche Rei­se­ge­sell­schaft for reser­va­ti­on and boo­king. Plea­se note that the­se trips will be Ger­man spea­king! For this reason, the detail­ed descrip­ti­ons are only available in Ger­man.

The­re are also some last oppor­tu­ni­ties for our trips in Spits­ber­gen in the upco­ming arc­tic sum­mer in 2017. On the long trip with SV Anti­gua (June 27-July 14, 2017), the­re is one space in a fema­le twin cabin due to a recent can­cel­la­ti­on. The­re is also the chan­ce to join us on our pho­to- and hiking tour in Pyra­mi­den in ear­ly Sep­tem­ber (4-11).Also the­se trips will be Ger­man spea­king.

SY Anne-Mar­ga­re­tha in a bay in Pata­go­nia.

SY Anne-Margaretha, Patagonia

The menu of pen­gu­ins might help to pre­dict chan­ges of their mari­ne habi­tat

In the midd­le of the Sou­thern Oce­an the­re is a gre­at wild­life para­di­se: South Geor­gia. The archi­pe­la­go is well known for the lar­ge num­bers of sea birds and seals that are bree­ding here. The land is home for four spe­ci­es of pen­gu­ins: King pen­gu­ins, Gen­too pen­gu­ins, Chin­strap pen­gu­ins and Mac­a­ro­ni pen­gu­ins.

Bird Island is part of South Geor­gia. This litt­le island lays nor­thwest of the main island. Bri­tish sci­en­tists have been ope­ra­ting a bio­lo­gi­cal rese­arch sta­ti­on here for the last deca­des. This year the rese­ar­chers published all their know­ledge of the last 22 years on the diet and the popu­la­ti­on deve­lo­p­ment of Gen­too pen­gu­ins and Mac­a­ro­ni pen­gu­ins.

The sci­en­tists found a trend in a well doing Gen­too popu­la­ti­on ver­sus a less well doing Mac­a­ro­ni popu­la­ti­on. They descri­be the Gen­too as a gene­ra­list spe­ci­es, fee­ding in the pela­gic zone as well as at the sea bot­tom clo­se to the coast. The Mac­a­ro­ni is descri­bed as a spe­cia­list spe­ci­es fee­ding all kind of crustace­ans clo­se to the shelf-break regi­on. Howe­ver, the most important and ener­gy rich main food of both pen­gu­in spe­ci­es is the Ant­ar­c­tic krill (Euphau­sia super­ba). But while the Mac­a­ro­ni pen­gu­in sticks to crustace­ans, the Gen­too is pre­fer­ring various fish spe­ci­es espe­ci­al­ly during the bree­ding sea­son. One important source is the com­mer­ci­al­ly used Macke­rel ice­fi­sh (Champ­so­ce­pha­lus gun­na­ri) .

Life is not dis­tri­bu­ted even­ly in the oce­ans. Water mas­ses are com­plex and water fronts are of high importance. An important con­ver­gence zone is situa­ted North of South Geor­gia. Here a lay­er of cold, oxy­gen-rich sur­face water from the South meets warm, oxy­gen-poor sur­face water from the North and sinks under­neath it, befo­re the cold water con­ti­nues its way nor­thward as inter­me­dia­te water lay­er. Such zones can be found any­whe­re in the world. Here, the water mas­ses mix. They crea­te a cor­ri­dor full of life whe­re tiny crustace­ans feed on algae and are eaten by other spe­ci­es like fish or sea birds. This zone is so important for the sou­thern mari­ne eco­sys­tem, becau­se it is not inter­rupt­ed by any land mas­ses. It also defi­nes the nor­t­hern boun­da­ries of the Sou­thern Oce­an. Depen­ding on the pre­vai­ling winds, win­ter sea ice dis­tri­bu­ti­on or the amount of lar­ge ice­bergs in the area, this rich mixing zone moves fur­ther to the North or to the South. Inte­res­t­ingly, the richest Sub-Ant­ar­c­tic Islands are situa­ted within this pro­duc­ti­ve belt.

Pen­gu­ins swim dif­fe­rent distances to find their food. The ener­gy inta­ke has to be balan­ced. The food of a fora­ging bout must cover both the ener­gy con­sump­ti­on during the hun­ting trip as well as the time the bird spends on shore. During the bree­ding sea­son the food for the off­spring has to be accoun­ted for as well. If the balan­ce is cor­rect, the popu­la­ti­on is doing well. If the prey chan­ges its whe­re­a­bout due to chan­ges in its habi­tat (water tem­pe­ra­tu­re, sali­ni­ty, com­mer­cial fishing), the pen­gu­ins have to swim fur­ther to reach their prey or they will switch to alter­na­ti­ve prey, with less ener­gy out­co­me. The ener­gy brought along may not be suf­fi­ci­ent enough for the off­spring to sur­vi­ve.

Both dis­cus­sed spe­ci­es dif­fer cle­ar­ly in their way loo­king for food. The Gen­too pen­gu­ins with their two chicks are often stay­ing clo­se to the coast. They usual­ly return to the nest after one day fora­ging. The Mac­a­ro­ni pen­gu­ins use to swim about 150 kilo­me­ters for seve­ral days to catch enough food for them­sel­ves and their sin­gle chicks. Both spe­ci­es have the same prey spe­ci­es on the menu. But if they breed tog­e­ther, like on Bird Island, then the Gen­too pre­fer various kind of fish near the coast and the Mac­a­ro­ni catch dif­fe­rent crustace­ans on the shelf edge.

The sci­en­tists of the stu­dy would now like to under­stand, how chan­ges in the diet com­po­si­ti­on of the pen­gu­ins reflect chan­ges in the mari­ne eco­sys­tem. Krill and fish stocks are play­ing a major role in this food web, sin­ce both are resour­ces for the ani­mal pre­da­tors and the fishing indus­try.

Mac­a­ro­ni pen­gu­ins, South Geor­gia.

Macaroni penguins, South Georgia

How are the pen­gu­ins of the South Ork­ney Islands doing?

A recent long-term stu­dy reports on the deve­lo­p­ment of the three brush-tail­ed pen­gu­ins: Adé­lie, Chin­strap and Gen­too pen­gu­ins on the South Ork­ney Islands. The stu­dy com­pa­res their situa­ti­on with the popu­la­ti­on deve­lo­p­ment around the Ant­ar­c­tic Pen­in­su­la. The sci­en­tists can look back on a con­ti­nuous cen­sus data set of 38 years, sin­ce 1978/79. Pre­vious­ly only spo­ra­dic counts were done. While the popu­la­ti­ons of Adé­lie and Gen­too pen­gu­ins were sub­ject to regu­lar fluc­tua­tions, the num­ber of Chin­strap pen­gu­ins decreased ste­adi­ly. Howe­ver, the Adé­lie pen­gu­in colo­nies were also decre­asing. The Gen­too pen­gu­ins did rela­tively well over the years, their num­bers were incre­asing – a trend that is also obser­ved at the Ant­ar­c­tic Pen­in­su­la. The rese­ar­chers explain the obser­ved fluc­tua­tions with a lively exch­an­ge of nes­t­ing birds bet­ween colo­nies of the archi­pe­la­go. At pre­sent, Adé­lie, Chin­strap and Gen­too pen­gu­in popu­la­ti­ons at the South Ork­neys are esti­ma­ted to be about 200,000, 600,000, and 5000-10,000 bree­ding pairs, respec­tively.

Today it is assu­med that a chan­ge in popu­la­ti­on size can be a good indi­ca­tor of chan­ges in the eco­sys­tem. This is rese­ar­ched in a num­ber of krill-eating spe­ci­es, e. g. also the brush-tail­ed pen­gu­ins. The Com­mis­si­on for the con­ser­va­ti­on of Ant­ar­c­tic mari­ne living resour­ces (CCAMLR) uses this data to moni­tor the mari­ne Eco­sys­tem. With that they can set catch limits for the krill and fish fishe­ries.

All three spe­ci­es are bree­ding tog­e­ther on Signy Island, South Ork­ney Islands. While the bree­ding suc­cess of all spe­ci­es is equal­ly good or bad over the years in the obser­ved peri­od, the popu­la­ti­on deve­lo­p­ment is dif­fe­rent. Sin­ce the begin­ning of the con­ti­nuous cen­sus Adé­lie pen­gu­ins decreased by 42% and Chin­strap pen­gu­ins by 68%. In the same peri­od, the ori­gi­nal­ly much smal­ler Gen­too pen­gu­in popu­la­ti­on increased by 255%! His­to­ri­cal data show a com­ple­te­ly dif­fe­rent trend bet­ween 1947 and 1978: the num­bers of the first two spe­ci­es increased enorm­ously during this ear­ly peri­od.

Accor­ding to some sci­en­tists, the popu­la­ti­on deve­lo­p­ment seems to be cor­re­la­ted to the regio­nal decli­ne in sea ice ext­ent and the long-term warm­ing of the regi­on. Howe­ver, the rese­ar­chers of the pre­sent stu­dy are loo­king a bit deeper into the con­text, becau­se ice-loving Adé­lie pen­gu­ins and ice-avo­i­ding chin­strap pen­gu­ins are sub­ject to the same decli­ne. They point out that the sur­vi­val rate of the young pen­gu­ins during their first win­ter, the access to krill stocks and the increase in fur seal num­bers and wha­les as food com­pe­ti­tors in the area, also seem to play a major role. Bet­ween 1977 and 1994, the num­ber of fur seals increased ten­fold at Signy Island.

In order to gain a bet­ter under­stan­ding for the decli­ne of one spe­ci­es and the suc­cess of ano­ther, rese­ar­chers have to look into the dyna­mics of the sys­tem even deeper. Their long-term data of the last deca­des and data from other field of sub­jects are important com­pon­ents for future models and under­stan­ding of the pro­ces­ses obser­ved.

Chin­strap pen­gu­ins near the South Ork­ney Islands.

Chinstrap penguins, South Orkney Islands

New vir­tu­al tour: Ver­nad­sky Base

Many ant­ar­c­tic visi­tors have enjoy­ed the hos­pi­ta­li­ty of the Ukrai­ni­an Ver­nad­sky Base. Now you can visit Ver­nad­sky wit­hout actual­ly tra­ve­ling to Ant­ar­c­ti­ca: the­re is now a new, com­ple­te pan­ora­ma tour of the base on this web­site, from sel­ec­ted sci­en­ti­fic working are­as to the famous Fara­day Bar. Click here and have fun!

Click here to enter the new vir­tu­al tour through Ver­nad­sky Base.

Vernadsky Base virtual tour

Orni­tho­lo­gi­cal pecu­lia­ri­ty of the Ant­ar­c­tic

North-West of the Ant­ar­c­tic Pen­in­su­la the South Shet­land Islands are situa­ted. Here rese­arch sta­ti­ons of many count­ries are gathe­ring, becau­se some of the islands are easy to reach by ship and the­re are rela­tively lar­ge ice free are­as. During the last deca­des the cli­ma­te has beco­me noti­ceable war­mer inWest-Ant­ar­c­ti­ca, par­ti­cu­lar­ly at the Pen­in­su­la. Some peo­p­le are com­pa­ring the sum­mer wea­ther of the South Shet­land Islands alre­a­dy with the sum­mer wea­ther at the Falk­land Islands.

The lar­gest island of the South Shet­lands is King Geor­ge Island. It is appro­xi­m­ate­ly situa­ted 1000 km South of Cape Horn. One-tenth of the island is free of ice and offers suf­fi­ci­ent space for 24 rese­arch sta­ti­ons and refu­ges of 12 nati­ons. 8 sta­ti­ons are ope­ra­ted all year long. Ger­man rese­ar­chers are regu­lar­ly in the area during sum­mer time. On King Geor­ge Island, many bio­lo­gists tend to work. They obser­ve the scar­ce plant life. Others ana­ly­se ter­restri­al-mari­ti­me food chain con­nec­tions or stu­dy mari­ne habi­tats. Orni­tho­lo­gists usual­ly work with pen­gu­ins or sku­as. But all sci­en­tists usual­ly also have an eye for unu­su­al occur­ren­ces.

Polish rese­ar­chers have been stu­dy­ing bird­life at the South Shet­land Islands for almost 40 years, sin­ce their sta­ti­on ope­ned for the first time in 1977. In 1981, White-rum­ped sand­pi­pers (Calid­ris fusci­col­lis) were obser­ved for the first time on Ard­ley Island, a small tidal island in Max­well Bay. Howe­ver, this does not mean that this spe­ci­es has not visi­ted the area befo­re. The obser­va­ti­on pro­gram only got star­ted in 1977. Sin­ce then small groups or sin­gle birds have appeared in the regi­on. Over an peri­od of 30 years, the­se small waders were obser­ved during twel­ve years. In eight of the­se cases spring was war­mer than usu­al.

White-rum­ped sand­pi­pers are migra­to­ry birds of super­la­ti­ves, like the Arc­tic tern. They breed in the Arc­tic tun­dra of North Ame­ri­ca. Within a month, the birds migra­te in big flocks to the South, almost wit­hout rest. Rea­ching the coast of Suri­na­me, they then turn in to the con­ti­nen­tal rou­te and cross the Bra­zi­li­an Ama­zon regi­on. In Octo­ber they arri­ve in their win­tering are­as in Argen­ti­na and Chi­le. The most rest­less indi­vi­du­als con­ti­nue fur­ther and spend the win­ter in Tier­ra del Fue­go or the Falk­land Islands. Why some indi­vi­du­als would head for islands in the cold Ant­ar­c­tic waters, such as South Geor­gia, South Ork­ney, or South Shet­lands, the rese­ar­chers begin to under­stand slow­ly.

In con­trast to other regi­ons of the Ant­ar­c­tic con­ti­nent, the Ant­ar­c­tic Pen­in­su­la expe­ri­en­ces a rapid, dra­ma­tic warm­ing. Mea­su­re­ments of avera­ge sum­mer tem­pe­ra­tures resul­ted in an increase of 2 degrees, the avera­ge tem­pe­ra­tures for the win­ter are yet 5-6 degrees hig­her than 50 years ago. Lower win­ter tem­pe­ra­tures and the exis­ting hole in the ozone lay­er are respon­si­ble for less fre­quent but stron­ger peri­odi­cal wes­ter­ly­cy­clo­ne sys­tems. They trans­fer warm, moist, mari­ti­me air to the coast of the Pen­in­su­la inclu­ding a num­ber of fea­the­red vagrants.

In addi­ti­on, the sea­son with sea-ice cover is about 90 dayss­horter than 4 deca­des ago. At the Ant­ar­c­tic Pen­in­su­la, the sea ice arri­ves later and dis­ap­pears ear­lier. All this are pre­con­di­ti­ons for fau­nal and flo­ral chan­ge over the coming deca­des. This is espe­ci­al­ly the case for the most nor­t­her­ly spur of the Ant­ar­c­tic: the South Shet­land Islands.

So it is no big sur­pri­se that even during in Janu­ary this year, atten­ti­ve gui­des and tou­rists at King Geor­ge Island have been spot­ting a small flock of White-rum­ped sand­pi­per. They report them “fora­ging on mud in the out­flow stream from a melt­wa­ter pond. The amount of time they spent res­t­ing calm­ly and pree­ning sug­gested that they were not despe­ra­te for food.” (Ste­phen F. Bai­ley auf M/V Aka­de­mik Ser­gey Vavil­ov, in: IAATO-News­let­ter)

White-rum­ped sand­pi­per (Calid­ris fusci­col­lis). Pho­to © Wiki­me­dia Com­mons.

White-rumped sandpiper

Ant­ar­c­tic Pen­in­su­la – March 21-25, 2017

A gre­at trip to round the sea­son off, with a lot of acti­vi­ties all the way down south to the polar cir­cle. We had groups on board spe­cia­li­zing in kay­a­king and diving, and their sto­ries and pho­tos were very impres­si­ve – yes, diving, that would be some­thing, one day …
The wea­ther was pret­ty much on our side, we had some very nice ant­ar­c­tic late sum­mer days and no extre­me wea­ther. Yes­ter­day we were sun­bathing on deck in the Dra­ke-Pas­sa­ge, can you belie­ve it? Ok, we got blown out of Wha­lers Bay in Decep­ti­on Island the other day, but that’s part of the game down here. We could not land on Detail­le Island, the kom­bi­na­ti­on of poor visi­bi­li­ty, drif­ting ice near all pos­si­ble landing sites and wind was just too much. But the Zodiac crui­se around the island was good stuff!

Ple­nty of hump­back wha­les, as one might wish for in the late sea­son, and may­be not as many pen­gu­ins as might have been some weeks ear­lier, but still quite a lot of them on shore, more than enough for heart and soul, eye and came­ra.

Gal­lery – Ant­ar­c­tic Pen­in­su­la – March 21-25, 2017

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Let the pic­tures do the tal­king. Ant­ar­c­ti­ca, it was gre­at – see you again next year!

South Shet­land Islands – March 20, 2017

After a rather calm crossing of the Dra­ke-Pas­sa­ge, our first expo­sure to Ant­ar­c­ti­ca was to hap­pen in the South Shet­land Islands. And quite likely our only chan­ce to see Chin­strap pen­gu­ins.

And a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to get an impres­si­on of Antarctica’s wild wea­ther. From zero to more than 40 knots within half an hour. Our after­noon landing in Decep­ti­on Island was quick­ly tur­ned into a ship crui­se.

Gal­lery – South Shet­land Islands – March 20, 2017

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

South Shet­land Islands to Ushua­ia – March 15-18, 2017

Even 32 days in Ant­ar­c­ti­ca will final­ly come to an end. The South Shet­land Islands are the last stop of our Ant­ar­c­tic Odys­sey, befo­re we set cour­se nor­thwards, to more civi­li­zed lati­tu­des. We do not have too much time left, but enough for an ear­ly mor­ning landing. The wea­ther is on our side, which is good for a visit to a small island on the edge of the Dra­ke-Pas­sa­ge.

At least in com­pa­ri­son, it seems to be a tro­pi­cal rain forest. Well, almost. The­re are some green patches, some­thing we have not seen in a while. With the Chin­strap pen­gu­ins, we can add yet ano­ther spe­ci­es to our spe­ci­es list, which is alre­a­dy quite impres­si­ve.

Then back to the open sea. A good two days across the Dra­ke-Pas­sa­ge until we have rea­ched sou­thern­most South Ame­ri­ca. We pass Cape Hoorn in distance and dark­ness wit­hout taking too much noti­ce of it, befo­re we approach the Bea­gle-Chan­nel in the com­pa­ny of dol­phins. Then it is time to say good­bye to our good heli­c­op­ter crew, pilots and mecha­nics, six of them in total, who take off in their birds and quick­ly dis­ap­pear in the distance, not wit­hout a fine fare­well to Ort­eli­us.

Gal­lery – South Shet­land Islands to Ushua­ia – March 15-18, 2017

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

And while we are at it, we keep say­ing good­bye to many good peo­p­le the next day in the mor­ning. The very last day of a voya­ge is never a high­light, and port days are always very busy. But on the other side … if it is hard to lea­ve a trip and asso­cia­ted peo­p­le behind, then I guess it must have been pret­ty good 🙂

Too few short hours later, we are on our way again. Has­ta la vis­ta, Ant­ark­tis!

Errera Chan­nel – March 13, 2017

It is nice, for the dif­fe­rence, not to cover a lar­ge distance from one day to the next one. To wake up whe­re we fell asleep. To calm down a bit, geo­gra­phi­cal­ly, in a way.

We are in the Errera Chan­nel as we wake up, just around the cor­ner from And­vord Bay. And soon we are stan­ding in a litt­le ant­ar­c­tic pen­gu­in para­di­se. Gen­too pen­gu­ins, gen­too pen­gu­ins, gen­too pen­gu­ins. Not in thou­sands any­mo­re, but in hundreds, as they are stan­ding on snow and rocks, loo­king a bit scruffy. They are moul­ting, pro­ba­b­ly annoy­ed by the itching of the fea­thers that are about to fall off and to be repla­ced by nice, new ones. Some are very curious and come clo­se to have a look at the­se fun­ny, colourful visi­tors.

Gal­lery – Errera Chan­nel – March 13, 2017

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

Also the hump­back wha­les in the Errera Chan­nel and neigh­bou­ring waters are now in late sum­mer mood. They have been fee­ding for weeks and months in pro­duc­ti­ve ant­ar­c­tic waters. Now they are mere­ly moving, snoo­zing and slee­ping at the sur­face wit­hout doing much at all. Soon it is time to move nor­thwards to war­mer waters, also for them.

And­vord Bay – March 12, 2017

See­ing Ant­ar­c­ti­ca from a bird’s per­spec­ti­ve is a dream that we wan­ted to rea­li­ze today. That was easier said than done. We had to abort the first attempt in the rather ear­ly mor­ning and we spent good part of the day sear­ching for a place whe­re the wind was not how­ling with 30-40 knots. Not easy.

Gal­lery – And­vord Bay – March 12, 2017

Click on thumb­nail to open an enlar­ged ver­si­on of the spe­ci­fic pho­to.

But then it work­ed. Con­di­ti­ons were ide­al and ever­y­bo­dy could once again board the heli­c­op­ters to enjoy grand vis­tas of And­vord Bay and Para­di­se Har­bour. The pho­tos (the­re will be more and hig­her res pics after the trip) will tell the sto­ry!


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