Natalie Robinson field camp Oct 2022 Credit Anthony Powell

The K892 field camp from the air. Photo: Anthony Powell

November Update

1 December 2022

Hägglund tows mooring to the surface

This month the multi-disciplinaryteam led by NIWA and Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington was able to recover a brand-new type of oceanographic mooring with an experimental design, which had been deployed last season. A mooring just means a string of instruments suspended through the water column and programmed to keep collecting data for as long as possible. This is standard operating procedure for ship-based oceanography but rather a different prospect when there is non-permanent sea ice cover to contend with. The equipment doesn't just politely sit under the sea ice waiting to be collected - it becomes embedded in the layer of platelet crystals, gathering more and more ice, with the potential to become impossible to recover. The recovery process has been captured step-by-step in the team's blog entry, Woop woop! We got the mooring back. There's no time to lose when the floats on the mooring are only 1cm narrower than the Jiffy hole - any re-freeze of the hole would prevent recovery altogether. These photos (below) show how a tripod was set up over the hole and the mooring towed to the surface by a slowly reversing Hägglund. This work contributes to our understanding of the pelagic (relating to the open sea) food web and the role of platelet ice as a habitat.

Natalie Robinson photo with tow rope 20221026 182209
Go Pro image of mooring under the ice image supplied by Natalie Robinson NIWA

The mooring recovery viewed from above and below the ice. Photos: Supplied by Natalie Robinson/NIWA

And another field team is back! With data from the seafloor

There was success, too, for the coastal marine ecology team from NIWA Wellington, Hamilton and Christchurch, who travelled to Antarctica in October-November. They continued and extended their seafloor biodiversity and habitat surveys from Ross Island to the southern Victoria Land Coast. The team successfully recovered some of their coastal oceanographic moorings deployed last season, carried out remote operated vehicle (ROV) video surveys, and collected samples of benthic invertebrates for population genetics and isotope analyses. The instrument arrays will provide a long-term picture of coastal environmental conditions and simultaneous data records from three widely separated locations, which will improve our understanding of the drivers of coastal marine biogeography and food web variability, and of what might change as the world warms.

Hole making at CE 20221027 125558 super cropped Photo Vonda Cummings

Leigh Tait chips a hole in the sea ice at Cape Evans so equipment can be deployed. Photo: Vonda Cummings/NIWA

Heading into the field: Automatic weather stations

Understanding climate-driven change to Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems is important to monitor, as physical changes to the environment can have the potential to modify biological responses and the habitats of countless species. This season the Antarctic Science Platform has a team, led by the Universities of Canterbury and Otago, heading to the McMurdo Dry Valleys to upgrade an existing automatic weather station and to install a new station, alongside this they will undertake ground-based studies. The team will be using the data collected to develop regional and local-scale climate models. The data will contribute to the much-needed understanding of climate-driven change in the physical environment, such as increased meltwater production. With the increasing threat of climate change research like this are critical to comprehending the present hydroclimate of Antarctica.

Research highlights from 2021/22

Fixed-wing secured

Antartica New Zealand have confirmed that they will contract fixed-wing support for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 seasons. This asset will provide critical support for transporting science personnel and cargo for numerous science events

Antarctic Science Conference 2023: Save the date!

Antarctica New Zealand has announced the dates for the New Zealand – Australia Antarctic Science Conference 2023, which will take place 25-28 July in Ōtautahi Christchurch, one of the world's five Gateway Cities. To promote connection and collaboration, they are teaming up with our cousins from across the ditch, the Australian Antarctic Division, to host a fantastic week that celebrates the full spectrum of Antarctic research. Please mark the dates in your calendars! Abstract submissions and registration will open late January. This conference will be followed by the SCAR Biology Symposium 2023, also being held in Ōtautahi.

Marsden success for Antarctic Science

Antarctic science has just received two Marsden fund grants and both are surrounded by the need for more knowledge on Antarctic ice sheets, past and present. Congratulations to both recipients on two awesome projects!

Associate Professor Wolfgang Rack - How is Antarctic sea-ice defying the odds of climate change?

$929,000 was awarded for research in sea-ice trend predictions and what it means for sea level rise and global warming. Using aircraft surveys, they plan to measure the largest stretches of Antarctic sea ice thickness in history.

Associate Professor Robert McKay - Past abrupt Antarctic ice sheet melt events and impacts on sea level and climate

Another $929,000 was awarded for a project looking at how Antarctic ice sheets have responded during the past climates of the Pliocene/Miocene. This research will consist of looking at sediment cores and comparing them with sea-level records to understand global drivers and impacts from climate variability.

NZ Post sea ice stamps

NZ Post has released this year’s Ross Dependency stamp pack, which represents the work of New Zealand’s leading sea ice scientists. The Science on the Ice stamps feature four Antarctic scientists and their ground-breaking research in McMurdo Sound. Along with their teams, they are investigating better ways to predict the future and, in turn, how the changing climate may impact the fragile sea ice balance.

Science on Ice Stamps