ANTARCTIC AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE - Australian Antarctic Program

Page created by Paul Webb
ANTARCTIC AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE - Australian Antarctic Program

  MAGAZINE   ISSUE 35   2018
ANTARCTIC AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE - Australian Antarctic Program
The Australian Antarctic Division, a Division of the Department of
                                                                                                                     the Environment and Energy, leads Australia’s Antarctic program
                                                                                                                     and seeks to advance Australia’s Antarctic interests in pursuit of
                                                                                                                     its vision of having ‘Antarctica valued, protected and understood’.
                                                                                                                     It does this by managing Australian government activity in
                                                                                                                     Antarctica, providing transport and logistic support to Australia’s
                                                                                                                     Antarctic research program, maintaining four permanent
                                                                                                                     Australian research stations, and conducting scientific research
                                                                                                                     programs both on land and in the Southern Ocean.

                                                                                                                     Australia’s Antarctic national interests are to:
                                                                                                                         • Preserve our sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic
  FUTURE CAPABILITIES                                                                                                        Territory, including our sovereign rights over the adjacent
                                                                                                                             offshore areas.
  2 Antarctic icebreaker afloat                                                                                          • Take advantage of the special opportunities Antarctica
                                                                                                                             offers for scientific research.
                                                                                                                         • Protect the Antarctic environment, having regard to its
                                                                                                                             special qualities and effects on our region.
                                                                                                                         • Maintain Antarctica’s freedom from strategic and/or
                                                                                                                             political confrontation.
                                                                                                                         • Be informed about and able to influence developments
                                                                                                                             in a region geographically proximate to Australia.
                                                                                                                         • Derive any reasonable economic benefits from living and
                                                                                                                             non-living resources of the Antarctic (excluding deriving
  SCIENCE                                                                                                                    such benefits from mining and oil drilling).

  14 Krill, whales and poo power                                                                                     Australian Antarctic Magazine is produced twice a year (June
                                                                                                                     and December). Australian Antarctic Magazine seeks to inform
                                                                                                                     the Australian and international Antarctic community about the
                                                                                                                     activities of the Australian Antarctic program. The views and
                                                                                                                     opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and
                                                                                                                     do not necessarily reflect those of the Australian Government or
                                                                                                                     the Minister for the Environment and Energy.

                                                                                                                     © Copyright Commonwealth of Australia, 2018
                                                             IN BRIEF
  HISTORY                                                    31	Sealers, shipwrecks and survivors                   Australian Antarctic Magazine is licensed by the
  22 Opening up the Antarctic skies                               inspire new names on Heard Island                  Commonwealth of Australia for use under a Creative
                                                                                                                     Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence, with the
                                                                                                                     exception of the Coat of Arms of the Commonwealth
                                                                                                                     of Australia, content supplied by third parties, and any
CONTENTS                                                                                                             images depicting people. For licence conditions see
                                                          Melting beneath Totten Glacier driven
                                                          by natural variability                              19     This publication should be attributed as ‘Australian
Nick Gales’ message                               1                                                                 Antarctic Magazine, Commonwealth of Australia 2018.
                                                          ‘Cucumber-cam’ assists conservation                 20
                                                                                                                     The Commonwealth of Australia has made all reasonable
  FUTURE CAPABILITIES                                        VIRTUAL REALITY                                         efforts to identify content supplied by third parties using
                                                                                                                     the following format ‘© Copyright, [name of third party]’.
Antarctic icebreaker afloat                       2      Antarctic virtual reality trial to assist astronauts 21
Data to the bunk                                  4                                                                 Editorial enquiries, including requests to reproduce
                                                                                                                     material, or contributions, should be addressed to:
Tractor traverse to support deep field research   5        HISTORY
Grand sub-Antarctic designs                       6                                                                 The Editor
                                                          Opening up the Antarctic skies                      22
                                                                                                                     Australian Antarctic Magazine
                                                                                                                     Australian Antarctic Division
                                                                                                                     203 Channel Highway
  SCIENCE                                                    VALE
                                                                                                                     Kingston, 7050
Could e-DNA enhance ecosystem monitoring?         8      Pat Quilty                                          26     Tasmania, Australia.
Hungry humpbacks take migratory snack breaks      9                                                                 Australian Antarctic Division
Antarctic ice shelf collapse triggered by                                                                            Telephone: (03) 6232 3209
                                                             IN BRIEF
wave action following sea ice loss                10                                                                (International 61 3 6232 3209)
Yellow submarine prepares for first                                                                                  Facsimile: (03) 6232 3288
Antarctic mission                                 12                                                                (International 61 3 6232 3288)
                                                             FREEZE FRAME
Krill, whales, and poo power                      14
                                                                                                                     Editor: Wendy Pyper
Antarctic krills’ secret weapon
                                                                                                                     Production: Nisha Harris, Jessica Fitzpatrick
against ocean acidification                       16
                                                                                                                     Graphic Design: Giraffe VCM
Seeking molecules that scrub the sky              17                                                                ISSUE 35: December 2018

                                                                                                                     ISSN 1445-1735 (print version)
                                                        ABOUT THE COVER                                              Australian Antarctic Magazine is printed on
                                                        Casey Station Leader, Rebecca Jeffcoat, took this            Monza satin recycled paper; a 50% post consumer
                                                        photo of a late-winter campsite near Robbo’s Hut,            waste and 50% FSC certified fibre stock.
                                                        overlooking Odbert Island, during a visit to the
                                                                                                                     Australian Antarctic Magazine can be viewed online:
                                                        island to undertake maintenance of seabird nesting
                                                        cameras. She used a Canon 6D EOS Mk II (ISO 400,
                                                        f10, 1/160 sec). Rebecca is on secondment from                   @AusAntarctic
                                                        the Royal Australian Navy. She previously visited
                                                        Antarctica on a resupply voyage and a Station
                                                        Leader familiarisation trip.
ANTARCTIC AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE - Australian Antarctic Program
From the Director

Photo: Adam Roberts

        As you flick through the pages of this latest edition                       clear and direct line between the science we do, the policy it informs
                                                                                    and the wellbeing and resilience of Australians and Australian society in
        of the Australian Antarctic Magazine I will be                              the future.
        embarking on a new and exciting chapter of my
                                                                                    At the same time that we recognise how important Antarctica is, the
        life, and a new Director will be taking the helm of                         central tenants of the Antarctic Treaty system of peace, science and
        Australia’s Antarctic Program.                                              environmental protection are being challenged.
                                                                                                                                   One of the things I am
        I leave at a time of great change and opportunity and I feel
        deeply privileged to have played a small role in guiding the
                                                                                    Our great strengths                            most proud of contributing
                                                                                                                                   to, in my role as Chief
        Antarctic Program to its current state.                                     that are built from                            Scientist and then Director
        The Australian Antarctic Division and the broader Antarctic Program         our past, need to be                           of the Australian Antarctic
                                                                                                                                   Division, has been the
        are defined by, and proud of, our rich history and those who built our
                                                                                    focused on a future                            2016 Australian Antarctic

                                                                                                                                                                 DIRECTOR’S MESSAGE
        Antarctic legacy. We are indebted to the Australian National Antarctic
                                                                                                                                   Strategy and 20 Year
        Research Expeditions (ANARE) Club who remind us that we are part of
        a long tradition of shared endeavour in Antarctica. We all bring passion
                                                                                    that embraces change.                          Action Plan. This strategy
                                                                                                                                   strengthens Australia’s
        and commitment to our jobs, with expeditioners returning time and
                                                                                    leadership role in Antarctica by setting in place major science and
        again to our Antarctic and sub-Antarctic stations, and Kingston staff
                                                                                    support commitments, including transport (our new Antarctic icebreaker
        remaining a part of this community for much of, or all, their careers.
                                                                                    RSV Nuyina, a proposed new aerodrome near Davis, and deep-field
        It is this sense of purpose and pride in our work that make being           traverse capability), station infrastructure (the new Macquarie Island
        part of the Australian Antarctic Division, or heading south as part of      research station and upgrades at other stations), and mechanisms to
        our Antarctic Program, such a wonderful experience. It is these same        support greater and more sustained funding for science.
        strengths that we now need to harness to enable us to respond to the
                                                                                    These investments will drive a fundamental change in the scale and
        rapidly changing environmental and political arenas in Antarctica.
                                                                                                                                                                  1 AUSTRALIAN ANTARCTIC MAGAZINE ISSUE 35 2018

                                                                                    nature of the way the Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic
        The changes in Antarctica are profound. When I started my Antarctic         Program functions, and will set us up to deliver on the promise of
        career in 1985 as a (very) young biologist on Heard Island, and then        continued and urgently needed leadership and influence in the Treaty.
        a winter at Davis research station, our research was largely unknown
                                                                                    Our great strengths that are built from our past, need to be focused on
        in Australia, and the Antarctic Treaty had changed very little over its
                                                                                    a future that embraces the necessary change, to remain relevant and
        25 year history. Australians knew a little about Antarctica’s heroic era,
                                                                                    influential in a rapidly changing and increasingly threatened Antarctica.
        but saw little relevance to their daily lives in our work or how
        the continent was governed.                                                 I’m immensely grateful for the support and encouragement I have
                                                                                    received from so many of you over my years here, and I hope you
        Communicating the importance of our Antarctic research and
                                                                                    provide that same level of support to my successor. The Antarctic and
        governance, and the significance of Antarctica to the planet, is a
                                                                                    Hobart communities are small enough to ensure that my path will cross
        challenge to which we must continue to rise.
                                                                                    with many of you in the future, and I look forward to that.
        We now know that Antarctica and the Southern Ocean drive much of
        our global climate and weather. We also know that the science we do is      Fair winds and following seas to you all.
        fundamental to our understanding of just how vulnerable Antarctica is
        to human influence, and to informing our ability to mitigate and adapt      Dr NICK GALES
        to the massive challenges we face with climate change. There is a very      Australian Antarctic Division
ANTARCTIC AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE - Australian Antarctic Program
1                                                                                  2

                                                    Antarctic icebreaker afloat
                                                    Australia’s new Antarctic icebreaker, RSV Nuyina, is now floating, after 50 Olympic swimming
                                                    pools of water were pumped into the docks where the ship is being built, in September.

                                                    It took two days to pump enough water
                                                    from the nearby river into the dry dock,
                                                    raising the water level six metres above the          3
                                                    dock floor and floating the 10,751 tonne
                                                    ship about 30 centimetres off the ground.
                                                    Australian Antarctic Division Icebreaker
                                                    Project Manager, Mr Nick Browne, said
                                                    it was a precision operation to then
                                                    manoeuvre the ship about 250 metres
                                                    into the adjacent wet dock.
                                                    “We had 34 buoyancy bags tethered in
                                                    strategic places around the ship to ensure
                                                    the bow and stern were level for floating
                                                    out,” Mr Browne said.

                                                    “Then we used a series of controlled lines to
                                                    pull the ship into position in the wet dock.
                                                    The ship is 25.6 metres wide and the dry
                                                    dock is 35 metres wide, so we had less than
                                                    five metres either side.
                                                    “There’s about 10 metres of water in the
                                                    wet dock, which will be enough to support
                                                    the 16,000 tonne weight of the ship when
                                                    it’s completed.”                                “After six years of planning and more than

                                                    At the time of the floating, construction on    two years of construction, it was a thrill to
                                                    the ship had reached deck level four (the       see the ship finally floating in the water,”
                                                    science deck), and the engines, generators,     Mr Browne said.
                                                    shaft lines, propellers and rudders were all    “We’ll see the Nuyina rapidly taking shape over
                                                    in place (see next story).                      the next few months; it won’t be long now
                                                    When complete, the ship will rise to            before she’ll be sailing into Hobart in 2020.”
                                                    10 decks at navigation bridge level,
                                                    measuring 50.2 metres from the keel to the                                                        3. The dry dock filling with water to float the
                                                    top of the weather radar on the main mast.                                                           10,751 tonne ship. (Photo: Damen)

                                                                                                                                                      4. One of two gondolas that will hold the ship’s
                                                                                                    1. Buoyancy bags were attached in
                                                                                                                                                         propeller shafts. The length of steel above the
                                                                                                       strategic places around the ship to
                                                                                                                                                         propeller shaft tunnel will help deflect sea
                                                                                                       ensure it remained level while floating.
                                                                                                                                                         ice broken up by ice knives at the rear of the
                                                                                                       (Photo: Michiel Jordaan)
                                                                                                                                                         ship. The cross at the front of the tunnel is for
                                                                                                    2. The Nuyina prior to the removal of the            a laser sighting, to ensure the propeller shaft
                                                                                                       gate between the dry and wet docks.               is correctly aligned with the ship’s engine.
                                                                                                       (Photo: Michiel Jordaan)                          (Photo: Michiel Jordaan)
ANTARCTIC AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE - Australian Antarctic Program
4                                                      5                                                         6

    Nuyina’s                                                    7

    In preparation for the
    RSV Nuyina’s floating in
    September (see previous story)
    a number of critical components
    of the ship’s propulsion system
    were installed.                                        “Perfect alignment of the shafts is critical      Finally, six tunnel thrusters help the ship
                                                           to prevent propeller wobble and structural        spin on a dime and hold a set position
    First were the ship’s two ‘gondolas’ – each            failure of the shafts, and will contribute        (dynamic positioning) with ±20 m accuracy.
    made of 80 tonnes of steel – which hold the            to the silent operation of the ship during        Three thrusters at the bow and three
    ship’s propeller shafts (see photos).                  scientific surveys.”                              at the stern each require 1300 kW of

                                                                                                                                                              FUTURE CAPABILITIES
                                                                                                             electrical power for maximum thrust. The
    Australian Antarctic Division Icebreaker Project       In open water the main noise on the ship is
                                                                                                             thrusters will hold the ship in place during
    Manager, Mr Nick Browne, said the complex              from the propulsion system – the engines,
                                                                                                             deployment of scientific equipment in a
    and precise nature of the gondolas required a          gear boxes and propellers. This interferes
                                                                                                             range of sea states, as well as during small
    specialist team of 27 welders to install them.         with scientific acoustic instruments and
                                                                                                             boat deployment and cargo operations.
                                                           can affect the behaviour of fish and other
    “Each gondola was pre-heated to 150°C
                                                           marine organisms that the scientists want
    before welding could commence, as welding                                                                WENDY PYPER
                                                           to study (see Australian Antarctic Magazine
    cold steel can cause it to expand and contract
                                                           34: 2-3, 2018).                                   Australian Antarctic Division
    unevenly, affecting alignment and possibly
    causing the steel to fracture,” Mr Browne said.        With the propeller shafts in place, the
                                                           propeller hubs, on which the blades are
                                                                                                                                                                                                     32 2018

    “Each welder spent one hour on the job before
                                                           bolted, could be attached. The propeller hubs
    another took over, and they had to wear
                                                                                                                                                               3 AUSTRALIAN ANTARCTIC MAGAZINE ISSUE 35

                                                           are made of nickel, aluminium and bronze
    wooden-soled shoes to cope with the heat.”
                                                           and are 1.94 metres in diameter and weigh         5. This 12.7 metre-long stern tube will
    With the gondolas complete, the propeller              almost 21 tonnes. During operation the hubs          enclose a propeller shaft. The stern
    shafts could be aligned. The 50 metres-long            are filled with oil to actuate the variable          tube enables the rotating propeller
    shafts connect the main engines at the centre          pitch of the propeller.                              shaft to pass through the hull without
    of the ship to the 40 tonne propellers (and                                                                 water leaking into the ship. (Photo:
                                                           “Each propeller has four blades made out of
    hubs) at the stern. The shafts each sit inside                                                              Michiel Jordaan)
                                                           stainless steel and weighing about 4.5 tonnes
    a ‘stern tube’, which allows them to pass
                                                           each. The total diameter of the complete          6. The final blade of a propeller being craned
    through the hull without water leaking into
                                                           propeller is 5.65 metres,” Mr Browne said.           into place. Each blade weighs 4.5 tonnes.
    the ship.                                                                                                   (Photo: Michiel Jordaan)
                                                           The gondolas and propellers are protected by
    “The propeller shafts were aligned by
                                                           ice knives at the stern of the ship. These help   7. The ship’s propeller blades are bolted to
    sending a laser beam through the stern
                                                           to split and distribute ice under the vessel         this propeller hub, which weighs almost
    tubes,” Mr Browne said.
                                                           after it has been broken up by the weight of         21 tonnes. Once the four blades are
                                                           the bow. Rudders, each weighing 33.5 tonnes          added the structure will weigh almost
                                                           are installed beneath the ice knives.                40 tonnes. (Photo: Michiel Jordaan)
ANTARCTIC AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE - Australian Antarctic Program

                                                    to the

                                                    Expeditioners and crew onboard                   “Then, when the deployment needs attention,         “The Nuyina will have 18 screens in the science
                                                                                                     the relevant personnel can go to the science        control room, rather than eight, so we’ll have
                                                    the Aurora Australis can now get                 control room and complete the job.”                 the capacity to display a diversity of data that
                                                    the ‘DIRT’ on what’s happening                   Once in the control room, scientists can view
                                                                                                                                                         we can’t display on the Aurora Australis,” Mr
                                                    on the ship, from the comfort                                                                        Symonds said.
                                                                                                     DIRT and information from other scientific
                                                    of their own bunks.                              equipment across eight computer screens.            “We can develop new screens fairly rapidly and
                                                                                                                                                         we’ve come up with a system where people
                                                                                                     For krill scientists, the technology allows
                                                                                                                                                         can design their own screens.
                                                    ‘Data In Real Time’ is a new web service         them to view acoustic echosounder data
                                                    developed by the Australian Antarctic            – which bounces off krill swarms beneath            “But our biggest challenge is to understand
                                                    Division’s Science Technical Support Team,       the ship and appears as bright blobs on the         each of the instruments on the new ship and
                                                    allowing scientists, voyage managers, crew       computer screen.                                    develop the on board displays, as well as the
                                                    and expeditioners to receive data from                                                               simulation software for training.”
                                                                                                     They can then make decisions about when
                                                    scientific instruments via their mobile
                                                                                                     to deploy a net, as well as when to open and        They will also have to contend with a larger
                                                    phones or laptops, anywhere on the ship.
                                                                                                     close it to get the maximum amount of krill.        volume of data being collected.

                                                    They can also get the latest information
                                                                                                     The technology can also store data to replay        “The Aurora Australis tells us the GPS position
                                                    on the ship’s position, the air and water
                                                                                                     later, for training purposes. Mr Symonds and        of the ship once per second, but the Nuyina
                                                    temperatures, and wind speeds.
                                                                                                     his colleague, electronics engineer Michael         will tell us our position between 10 and 100
                                                    Technical Services Manager, Lloyd Symonds,       Santarossa, have developed software to allow        times per second,” Mr Symonds said.
                                                    said the new service means scientists don’t      scientists to practice complex oceanographic
                                                                                                                                                         The pair are working with a team from the
                                                    need to stay glued to a single computer          deployments using this stored data.
                                                                                                                                                         Marine National Facility RV Investigator, which
                                                    screen during long deployments of
                                                                                                     “Often the first time people see the computer       has some of the same instrumentation as
                                                    oceanographic equipment, such as trawl
                                                                                                     screen on the ship is when they need to deploy      Nuyina, allowing them to access example data
                                                    nets and conductivity, temperature and
                                                                                                     a krill net or CTD, and they don’t know which       and software.
                                                    depth (CTD) probes.

                                                                                                     button to push,” Mr Santarossa said.
                                                                                                                                                         It’s a big job, but no one ever said getting the
                                                    “DIRT is an aggregator of data – so it takes
                                                                                                     “With this technology we can bring them             latest DIRT would be easy.
                                                    complex information from our scientific
                                                                                                     into our office at Kingston and show them
                                                    displays, as well as the ship’s underway data,
                                                                                                     how it all works. For example, we can use
                                                    and distils the essential information into                                                           WENDY PYPER
                                                                                                     echosounder data from a voyage to help them
                                                    something more accessible,” Mr Symonds said.                                                         Australian Antarctic Division
                                                                                                     line up a virtual krill net on a virtual ship to
                                                    “No matter where people are on the ship,         catch the krill in real time.
                                                    they can now see, for example, how long
                                                                                                     “While it’s not exactly the same, it gives people
                                                    a deployment has to run, so that they can
                                                                                                     a greater chance of getting it right on the day.”
                                                    continue doing other things, whether that be
                                                    other work or watching a movie on their bunk.    The challenge now is to adapt the software for
                                                                                                     the new ship, RSV Nuyina, which is expected to
                                                                                                     begin Antarctic operations in late 2020.
                                                                                                                                                         1. Lloyd Symonds (left) and Michael
                                                                                                                                                            Santarossa in front of computer screens
                                                                                                                                                            set up to mimic the Aurora Australis
                                                                                                                                                            science control room and deliver ‘data in
                                                                                                                                                            real time’ (DIRT). (Photo: Glenn Jacobson)
ANTARCTIC AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE - Australian Antarctic Program

Tractor traverse to support
deep field research
A new fleet of heavy tracked                      The station will be able to support 16 people      “We are incorporating the latest technology
                                                  flying in to undertake scientific research for     that will allow us to recover the best quality
vehicles will be harnessed to                     up to three months.                                core, to drill most efficiently, and hopefully
support Australia’s deep field                    Australian Antarctic Division glaciologist,
                                                                                                     get to the bottom of the ice sheet over a
operations, including the search                                                                     three-to-four year drilling period.”
                                                  Dr Tas van Ommen, said the new capability
for a million year ice core.                      will open up the Antarctic interior to             The Australian Government committed $45
                                                  ambitious science projects, including the          million in 2016 to re-establish an overland
                                                  search for the Earth’s longest continuous          traverse capability and drill for the million year

                                                                                                                                                          FUTURE CAPABILITIES
Australian Antarctic Division Traverse Systems
                                                  ice core climate record (Australian Antarctic      ice core as part of the Australian Antarctic
Lead Project Officer, Anthony Hull, said the
                                                  Magazine 33: 6, 2017).                             Strategy and 20 Year Action Plan.
traverse fleet will have five heavy tractors
and two snow groomers that will tow sled          “The million year ice core will be a window        The tender process for the heavy tracked
trains carrying food supplies, accommodation,     into a time when a major shift in the Earth’s      vehicles is currently underway and
communal areas, scientific facilities, power      climate system took place, and when the            procurement of other traverse components
generation and up to 160,000 litres of fuel.      regular pacing of ice ages gradually slowed,”      will occur over the next 18 months.
                                                  Dr van Ommen said.
“This is a step-change in our ability to                                                             The new traverse system will meet Australia’s
rapidly move large quantities of cargo            “We are working closely with our international     scientific and operational needs for the next
and equipment deep inland in all weather          collaborators to understand what caused this       20 years.
conditions, and into areas that we can’t          shift, because we believe it can help us better
                                                                                                                                                                                                 32 2018

traditionally access by aircraft,” Mr Hull said   understand present day climate change.”
                                                                                                     DAVID REILLY
                                                                                                                                                           5 AUSTRALIAN ANTARCTIC MAGAZINE ISSUE 35

“It will allow us to deploy scientists and        Scientists and engineers at the Australian         Australian Antarctic Division
support teams to some of the most remote          Antarctic Division have also begun work on a
and extreme parts of the Antarctic ice sheet      new drill design for the project that is capable
for extended periods of time.”                    of extracting ice cores 3000 metres deep.
The traverse will be managed by a team of         “Many of the components we need are
eight expeditioners and will be able to travel    specialist designs that have to be constructed
                                                                                                     1. Australia will re-establish a traverse
up to 1500 kilometres inland.                     and built in-house, and we have the right
                                                                                                        system to travel 1200 kilometres inland
                                                  team to do that here in Hobart,” Dr van
The first expedition is planned to depart                                                               from Casey research station. In 2016-17
                                                  Ommen said.
Australia’s Casey research station in early                                                             Australia travelled with both British
2021 and set up a mobile research station                                                               and French traverse teams to gather
1200 kilometres inland at a location known                                                              information on traverse technologies and
as Dome C.                                                                                              methodologies to assist with the design
                                                                                                        of a new Australian capability (Australian
                                                                                                        Antarctic Magazine 33: 4-6.2017).
                                                                                                        (Photo: Todor Iolovski)
ANTARCTIC AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE - Australian Antarctic Program

                                                    Grand sub-Antarctic designs
                                                    How do you design a group of                     Station Infrastructure project officers, Travis     The station will be self-sufficient in its
                                                                                                     Thom and Alison McKenzie, said the brief            water, power and waste management
                                                    buildings that can withstand the                 considers all the design requirements and           needs, with adaptable and flexible buildings
                                                    wild Southern Ocean weather                      constraints, such as legislation, building codes,   to accommodate scientific activities and
                                                    and three-tonne elephant                         maintenance, the function of each building,         population fluctuations. It will also be resilient
                                                                                                     current and future scientific and operational       to future environmental and climate impacts
                                                    seals on the doorstep, while                     needs, and the station’s environmental impact.      through the siting of the main station
                                                    accommodating the needs                          “The functional design brief is a guide to
                                                                                                                                                         buildings more than 50 metres from the coast
                                                                                                                                                         and at an elevation of at least 6.5 metres
                                                    of a diverse, self-sufficient                    what we want to achieve from an end-user
                                                                                                                                                         above sea level.
                                                    community, living and working                    perspective, and sets out the requirements
                                                                                                     and constraints that could have design              To minimise operational and maintenance
                                                    far from home and conducting                     implications,” Ms McKenzie said.                    costs, the team will use thermally efficient
                                                    globally significant science?                    “The primary function of the station is to
                                                                                                                                                         building materials, energy saving technologies
                                                                                                                                                         and modern construction techniques.
                                                                                                     provide living and working facilities for a
                                                    This is the challenge facing the Australian      self-sufficient community for the next 50           “We will also use systems and materials
                                                    Antarctic Division’s Macquarie Island            years, and support scientific and long-term         that require limited specialist training
                                                    Modernisation Project team, as they embark       monitoring programs.”                               to operate, maintain and to repair if

                                                    on the design of a new Macquarie Island                                                              damaged,” Mr Thom added.
                                                    research station.                                The brief is also the principle document
                                                                                                     for the Managing Contractor, VEC Civil              To help balance the functional needs
                                                    The project is part of the government’s          Engineering Pty Ltd, appointed in July, to          of the station with its environmental
                                                    Australian Antarctic Strategy and 20 Year        complete the design and construction, with          impact, buildings with complimentary
                                                    Action Plan, and includes the renewal            assistance from the project team.                   functions will be clustered together to
                                                    of the island’s network of field huts and                                                            keep the footprint small, allow efficient
                                                    decommissioning of the existing 70 year-         Among the design principles enshrined
                                                                                                                                                         movement around the site, and provide
                                                    old station.                                     in the brief are maintaining year-round
                                                                                                                                                         spaces for resupply operations, recreation,
                                                                                                     operations, minimising operational and
                                                    While the four-person project team is well                                                           revegetation and wildlife.
                                                                                                     maintenance costs, balancing station function
                                                    qualified for the job – with experience in       and environmental impacts, and creating a           Fenced-off building clusters, with wildlife

                                                    engineering, architecture and trades – they’re   sense of community. Common to all of these          corridors between, will also help protect
                                                    not doing it alone.                              principles is a smaller station.                    the station, people and wildlife (especially
                                                    As well as Australian Antarctic Division                                                             elephant seals), from each other.
                                                                                                     “One of our main goals is to reduce the
                                                    staff, key personnel at the Australian Bureau    number of buildings from 48 to between              Macquarie Island Executive Officer Mr Noel
                                                    of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, the        15 and 20,” Mr Thom said.                           Carmichael, of the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife
                                                    Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear                                                          Service, said that during the breeding season,
                                                    Safety Agency, and the Tasmanian Parks           “A smaller station will be more efficient and
                                                                                                                                                         the beaches on either side of the isthmus,
                                                    and Wildlife Service, have also fed their        have less impact on the island.”
                                                                                                                                                         where much of the current station sits, are
                                                    requirements into a ‘functional design brief’.                                                       occupied by the largest concentrations of
                                                                                                                                                         elephant seals in the reserve.

                                                                                                                                                         1. The new Macquarie Island research station
                                                                                                                                                            will be sited further south of the isthmus
                                                                                                                                                            (pictured here) and will reduce the number
                                                                                                                                                            of station buildings from 48 to between
                                                                                                                                                            15 and 20. (Photo: Justin Chambers)
ANTARCTIC AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE - Australian Antarctic Program
                                                                                                 Take a virtual tour
                                                                                                 of Macquarie Island
                                                                                                 The designers and builders of the new
                                                                                                 Macquarie Island research station (see main
                                                                                                 story) can now get a sense of space and place
                                                                                                 from the comfort of their office, thanks to a
                                                                                                 virtual tour of the current station site
                                                                                                 The new public interactive tour allows viewers
                                                                                                 to get an insight into life and work on the
                                                                                                 island, and provides a level of detail that will
                                                                                                 be critical to the design of the new station.
                                                                                                 The virtual experience is made up of
                                                                                                 1338 photos stitched together to form
                                                                                                 360 degree panoramas.


“The size and natural behaviour of elephant
seals means they can damage buildings and
services they may come in contact with,”
he said.
“Elephant seals can also be noisy and smelly,
so you don’t want them lying outside living
In March 2018 the project team took sketches
of potential master planning options to the
island, to gather feedback from expeditioners
and better understand the environment and
station operations.
                                                   The site avoids intensive wildlife            “The Managing Contractor, VEC Civil
The sketches were developed based on the
                                                   congregations, nesting areas and heritage     Engineering, and their architects and
functional design brief and two seasons of
                                                   artefacts related to the island’s sealing     engineers, will have limited opportunities to
investigations along the length of the island,
                                                   days, as well as the swampy ground that       make site visits to the island, because there
into wind effects, ground conditions, coastal
                                                                                                 is only one or two resupply ships a year,”

                                                                                                                                                    FUTURE CAPABILITIES
processes, and the potential risk of rising seas   exists further south. It’s also outside the
                                                   storm surge area on the isthmus and has       Strategic Infrastructure Project Lead, Travis
and increasing storm surge frequency.
                                                   good access for construction.                 Thom, said.
Antarctic Division staff at Kingston and at
                                                   VEC Civil Engineering will now use the        “By using the virtual tour they’ll be able
the station reviewed the sketches, teasing
                                                   functional design brief, master plan, and     to go inside buildings to see what kind
out design and operational issues, including
                                                   a 360 degree virtual tour within and          of furnishing are in place, what kind of
how the station operations will transition
                                                   around the current station buildings (see     specialist equipment has been installed,
from the old station to the new one.
                                                   side bar) to progress the next phase of       and how the spaces have been configured.
Based on this work, in June a Selection            design.                                       “They can also get a good sense of the
Committee approved a site for the new
                                                   The new station is expected to be             science that’s conducted on the island, by
station, just south of the existing station and
                                                                                                                                                     7 AUSTRALIAN ANTARCTIC MAGAZINE ISSUE 35 2018

                                                   complete in 2022.                             visiting places like the biology and clean air
using part of its current footprint (see map).
                                                                                                 laboratories, the radionuclide monitoring
                                                                                                 station and the surface weather
                                                   WENDY PYPER                                   observation yard.”
                                                   Australian Antarctic Division
                                                                                                 The tour was developed by Hobart-based
                                                                                                 business Sky Avenue Photography and
                                                                                                 Design (see Freeze Frame), who visited
                                                                                                 the island in March this year (Australian
                                                                                                 Antarctic Magazine 34: 8, 2018).
2. This map shows a preliminary master
   plan concept and indicative location for
                                                                                                 The tour can be viewed on computers,
   the new station buildings (red) relative
                                                                                                 tablets and mobile phones. Phone users
   to the existing station (blue), which           3. A 360 degree panoramic image of
                                                                                                 also have an option to view the tour
   will be decommissioned. The current                the main power house, where diesel
                                                                                                 with virtual reality headsets. ‘i’ icons on
                                                                                                 points of interest in the tour provide more
   station is located on a narrow isthmus             generators produce electricity for
                                                                                                 information, images and videos relevant
   that is subject to storm surges and often          Macquarie Island research station.
                                                                                                 to the location.
   occupied by elephant seals. (Graphic:              (Photo: Sky Avenue/Australian
   Alison McKenzie)                                   Antarctic Division)
ANTARCTIC AUSTRALIAN MAGAZINE - Australian Antarctic Program
1                                                                                              2

                                                    Could e-DNA enhance
                                                    ecosystem monitoring?
                                                    Environmental DNA or e-DNA could be the next ‘disruptive innovation’ when it comes
                                                    to monitoring changes in Southern Ocean ecosystems.

                                                    Australian Antarctic Division molecular         To find out, Dr Deagle and his colleague          “We need to ensure that our processing
                                                    ecologist, Dr Bruce Deagle, said the            Andrea Polanowski collected about 200             method captures all the eDNA in the
                                                    technology allows scientists to identify        two-litre water samples during a voyage           sample and not just a subset of what’s
                                                    hundreds of species in an environmental         to Macquarie Island in March this year*. At       there,” he said.
                                                    sample – such as water or soil – by             the same time, they collected zooplankton
                                                                                                                                                      If the technique works, it could open up
                                                    sequencing DNA in the sample.                   samples using a Continuous Plankton
                                                                                                                                                      new discussion in the Southern Ocean
                                                                                                    Recorder (CPR) – a century-old technology.
                                                    The approach relies on ‘barcodes’, which are                                                      research community about whether it is a
                                                    segments of DNA unique to different species.    The CPR is towed behind the ship and              useful addition, or replacement, to existing
                                                    These genetic markers are amplified from        catches phytoplankton and zooplankton             ecosystem monitoring methods.
                                                    the total DNA extracted from the sample,        on a silk mesh that slowly winds through
                                                                                                                                                      “DNA could be a good tool for monitoring
                                                    and their sequences are then compared to a      the instrument. The organisms captured
                                                                                                                                                      but we have to decide if we want the data
                                                    reference database to identify the organisms.   on the silk can then be identified under
                                                                                                                                                      in that form – if it’s going to be useful,” Dr
                                                                                                    the microscope.
                                                    “If we can collect a small volume of water                                                        Deagle said.

                                                    and characterise what’s in it, this technique   “We’ll be able to compare the CPR
                                                                                                                                                      “Use of the technology could disrupt old,
                                                    could be very useful for monitoring changes     zooplankton samples with our eDNA results
                                                                                                                                                      long-term ecosystem monitoring datasets,
                                                    in the occurrence of organisms in the           to see how well they match,” Dr Deagle said.
                                                                                                                                                      but at his stage, our focus is on showing
                                                    Southern Ocean,” Dr Deagle said.
                                                                                                    “While we don’t have a direct comparison          what’s possible.”
                                                    “We can already monitor phytoplankton           for fish, we’ll compare our eDNA results

                                                    and bacteria using this method, but we          with our knowledge of what fish species
                                                                                                                                                      WENDY PYPER
                                                    want to see if we can identify larger           should be there. We’d expect to see a good
                                                    zooplankton, like copepods and krill,           fish community, but if we only get a handful      Australian Antarctic Division
                                                    as well as different fish species, and          of eDNA results, then that may suggest the        *Australian Antarctic Science Project 4313
                                                    potentially even penguins and seals.            method is not very useful.
                                                    “e-DNA has been used in lakes and ponds,        “We’ll also try to identify penguins and seals,
                                                    where the inhabitants don’t move much and       just to see if we can detect free-floating DNA
                                                    the water doesn’t move in large volumes, but    from these animals.”
                                                    we don’t know yet whether it will be useful                                                       1. Andrea Polanowski examines zooplankton
                                                                                                    Dr Deagle and his team are now                       specimens collected on silk by the Continuous
                                                    for open ocean samples.”
                                                                                                    experimenting with different sample                  Plankton Recorder (silver box on right) as it
                                                                                                    processing methods to find one that is               was towed behind the ship. (Photo: Bruce
                                                                                                    easy to use and provides consistent and              Deagle)
                                                                                                    comprehensive results.
                                                                                                                                                      2. Dr Bruce Deagle is trialling methods to
                                                                                                                                                         identify zooplankton and fish in seawater
                                                                                                                                                         samples by amplifying environmental DNA.
                                                                                                                                                         (Photo: Glenn Jacobson)

    Hungry humpbacks take migratory snack breaks

    Satellite tracking data has                      “The satellite data shows us they travel             The paper also examined the characteristics of
                                                     east via New Zealand, south via Tasmania,            the Antarctic feeding ground, which scientists
    identified new warm water                        or west via the Pacific Ocean.”                      believe could be responsible for the strong
    feeding areas for south-bound                    The research also showed that the whales
                                                                                                          recovery of the population after whales were
    humpback whales en route to                                                                           hunted to near extinction in the 1950s and
                                                     fed more during their migration than
                                                                                                          early 1960s.
    the krill-rich seas of Antarctica.               previously thought, spending time foraging
                                                     in warmer temperate waters on their way               “The whales time their arrival for when the
                                                     to Antarctica. This counters traditional             ice is retreating rapidly towards the continent,
    A paper published in Scientific Reports in
                                                     assumptions that humpbacks adopt a ‘feast            and the data shows they concentrate their
    August, examined the movements of
                                                     and famine’ approach to migration – feasting         foraging where the ice was located two
    30 humpback whales tracked via satellite
                                                     in Antarctica and then fasting for the rest of       months prior,” Dr Andrews-Goff said.
    tags over three consecutive summers,
                                                     the year as they migrate to and from their
    from 2008 to 2010.                                                                                    “We can see that the whales move with the
                                                     low latitude breeding grounds.
                                                                                                          ice as it melts and retreats, and it’s this melt
    Australian Antarctic Division marine mammal
                                                     “As the whales migrate south they are                that releases new production, triggering the
    scientist and the paper’s lead author, Dr
                                                     stopping for up to 35 days to forage for krill       accumulation of Antarctic krill.”
    Virginia Andrews-Goff, said the research* is
                                                     – either off the New Zealand coast, in Bass
    the first to examine the foraging habits and                                                          While the marginal ice zone in the whales’
                                                     Strait, or off the east coast of Tasmania,”
    migration path of East Australian humpbacks.                                                          foraging area provides good foraging and
                                                     Dr Andrews-Goff said.
                                                                                                          protective habitat for adult and larval krill,
    “For the first time we have been able to see
                                                     “These observations of ‘supplemental feeding’,       Dr Andrews-Goff said the timing and location
    the varied routes East Australian humpbacks
                                                     which have been observed in other Southern           of sea ice formation within the area was
    take on their migration to Antarctica, some of
                                                     Hemisphere humpback populations, may help            highly variable.
    which were unknown until now,” Dr Andrews-
                                                     refuel their energy reserves prior to reaching
    Goff said.                                                                                            “The overall trend indicates an increase in ice

                                                     their Antarctic feeding grounds.”
                                                                                                          season duration over the past 30 years, along
                                                                                                          with decreasing sea surface temperature and
                                                                                                          primary productivity, which ultimately may
                                                                                                          result in less food for krill,” she said.
        2                                                                                                 “So ongoing monitoring of the humpback
                                                                                                                                                             9 AUSTRALIAN ANTARCTIC MAGAZINE ISSUE 35 2018

                                                                                                          population is important to understand and
                                                                                                          predict the whales’ ability to adapt.”
                                                                                                          The research will help inform whale
                                                           2                                              management and conservation policy.

                                                                                                          ELIZA GREY and WENDY PYPER
                                                                                                          Australian Antarctic Division
                                                                                                           *Australian Antarctic Science Project 4101

                                                                             1. Humpback whales forage extensively between their breeding
                                                                                grounds and Antarctica. (Photo: Ari Friedlaender)

                                                                             2. Migratory pathways for 30 humpback whales, satellite tagged off the east
                                                                                coast of Australia (at Eden and the Sunshine Coast) and in Antarctica,
                                                                                over three consecutive summers. (Photo: Australian Antarctic Division)
1                                                                              2

                                                 Antarctic ice shelf collapse triggered
                                                 by wave action following sea ice loss
                                                 Storm-driven ocean swells can trigger the catastrophic disintegration of Antarctic ice shelves following
                                                 regional loss of adjacent sea ice, according to research* published in Nature in June.

                                                 Lead author, Dr Rob Massom, of the Australian       Study co-author Dr Luke Bennetts, from              Study co-author, Dr Phil Reid, from the
                                                 Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Climate        the University of Adelaide’s School of              Australian Bureau of Meteorology, said
                                                 and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre,         Mathematical Sciences, said the findings            the research identifies a previously under-
                                                 said that reduced sea ice coverage off the          highlight the need for sea ice and ocean waves      appreciated link between sea ice loss and ice
                                                 Antarctic Peninsula since the late-1980s            to be accounted for in ice sheet modelling.         shelf stability.
                                                 exposed ice shelves to storm-generated ocean
                                                                                                     This will be a key step towards enabling            “Our study also underlines the importance of
                                                 swells, causing their vulnerable outer margins
                                                                                                     scientists to more accurately forecast the fate     understanding and modelling the mechanisms
                                                 to flex and eventually break.
                                                                                                     of the remaining ice shelves and better predict     driving recent sea ice trends around
                                                  “Sea ice acts as a buffer to protect ice           the contribution of Antarctica’s ice sheet to       Antarctica, to improve prediction of future
                                                 shelves, by damping destructive ocean swells        sea level rise, as climate changes.                 coastal exposure, particularly in regions where

                                                 before they reach the ice shelf edge,” Dr                                                               sea ice acts as a protective buffer against
                                                                                                     “The contribution of the Antarctic Ice
                                                 Massom said.                                                                                            ocean processes,” he said.
                                                                                                     Sheet is currently the greatest source of
                                                 “But where there is regional loss of sea ice,       uncertainty in projections of global mean           The discovery comes after the international
                                                 storm-generated ocean swells can readily            sea level rise,” Dr Bennetts said.                  research team combined satellite images and
                                                 reach the exposed ice shelf and cause its outer                                                         ocean wave data with surface observations
                                                                                                     “Ice shelves and floating glacier tongues

                                                 few kilometres to flex.                                                                                 and mathematical modelling, to examine five
                                                                                                     that fringe about three quarters of
                                                                                                                                                         major ice shelf disintegration events that
                                                 “The cumulative effect of this flexing is to        the Antarctic coastline play a crucially
                                                                                                                                                         occurred on the Antarctic Peninsula between
                                                 enlarge pre-existing fractures until long, thin     important role in moderating sea level rise,
                                                                                                                                                         1995 and 2009.
                                                 ‘sliver’ icebergs calve off the shelf front.”       by buttressing and slowing the transfer of
                                                                                                     land-based glacial ice from the interior of         These included the abrupt and rapid losses
                                                 This calving removes “keystone blocks” that
                                                                                                     the continent to the ocean.                         of 1600 square kilometres of ice from the
                                                 provide structural stability to the ice shelf. If
                                                                                                                                                         Larsen A Ice Shelf in 1995, 3320 square
                                                 the ice shelf is severely weakened by decades       “While ice shelf disintegrations don’t directly
                                                                                                                                                         kilometres from the Larsen B Ice Shelf in
                                                 of extensive surface melting and fracturing,        raise sea level, because the shelves are already
                                                                                                                                                         2002, and 1450 square kilometres from the
                                                 this outer-margin calving causes the abrupt         floating, the resulting acceleration of the
                                                                                                                                                         Wilkins Ice Shelf in 2009. Each disintegration
                                                 and rapid runaway collapse of the weakened          tributary glaciers behind the ice shelf, into the
                                                                                                                                                         event occurred during periods when sea ice
                                                 shelf behind (see satellite images).                Southern Ocean, does.
                                                                                                                                                         was significantly reduced or absent, and
                                                 “Disintegration marks an unprecedented              “These dramatic events are in addition to           when ocean waves were large.
                                                 departure from naturally-recurring calving of       ocean-driven thinning of ice shelves in recent
                                                 large icebergs every decade or so, to a sudden      decades, which also reduces the buttressing
                                                 onset and catastrophic large-scale fracturing       capacity of non-disintegrating ice shelves.”
                                                 and calving,” Dr Massom said.


In only a matter of days, the collapse of
the Larsen B Ice Shelf in 2002 removed
an area of ice shelf that had been in place
for the previous 11 500 years. Removal of
the ice shelf buttressing effect also caused
its tributary glaciers to flow eight times
faster in the year following disintegration,
contributing more to sea level rise.
Dr Massom said not all remaining ice
shelves are likely to respond in the same

way in coming decades to sea ice loss and
ocean swells.
“Their response will also depend on their
glaciological characteristics, physical
setting, and the degree and nature of
surface flooding,” he said.
                                                                                                                                                  11 AUSTRALIAN ANTARCTIC MAGAZINE ISSUE 35 2018

“Some remaining ice shelves may                Also involved in the study were Dr Ted           1. Sliver icebergs calve off the Larsen B Ice
well be capable of surviving prolonged         Scambos of the National Snow and Ice Data           Shelf on February 17, 2002. (MODIS satellite
absences of sea ice.”                          Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado        image: NSIDC/NASA)
                                               Boulder (USA), Dr Sharon Stammerjohn of
                                                                                                2. By March 7, 2002, most of the Larsen B Ice
                                               the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at
WENDY PYPER                                                                                        Shelf had disintegrated. (MODIS satellite
                                               the University of Colorado Boulder, and Prof.
Australian Antarctic Division                                                                      image: NSIDC/NASA)
                                               Vernon Squire of the University of Otago
*Australian Antarctic Science Project 4116     (New Zealand).                                   3. Storm-generated ocean swells can contribute
                                                                                                   to the break-up (calving) of outer ice shelf
                                               Massom, Robert A., Theodore A. Scambos,
                                                                                                   margins by flexing and working pre-existing
                                               Luke G. Bennetts, Phillip Reid, Vernon A.
                                                                                                   fractures. (Photo: Ian Phillips)
                                               Squire, and Sharon E. Stammerjohn. Antarctic
                                               Ice shelf disintegration triggered by sea ice    4. Reduced sea ice coverage since the late
                                               loss and ocean swell. Nature, 2018 (https://        1980s has led to increased exposure of ice
                                     ;          shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula to ocean
                                               doi: 10.1038/s41586-018-0212-1)                     swells. (Photo: Nick Roden)
Yellow submarine prepares
                                                 for first Antarctic mission
                                                 A high-tech yellow submarine
                                                 will head to Antarctica this                           1
                                                 summer for its first mission
                                                 under an ice shelf.
                                                 The seven metre-long, 1600 kilogram
                                                 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), will
                                                 be deployed around and beneath the Sørsdal
                                                 Glacier, near Davis research station, to study
                                                 the sea floor and underside of the ice shelf,
                                                 and develop the AUV’s capability for future
                                                 missions under larger Antarctic ice shelves.
                                                 The project, led by Professor Richard Coleman,
                                                 Director of the Australian Research Council’s
                                                 Antarctic Gateway Partnership*, will see a
                                                 team of scientists and engineers deploy the
                                                 torpedo-shaped AUV from the station’s boat
                                                 ramp and travel alongside it in a small boat to   The AUV has a multi-beam echosounder                “The topography of the underside of the ice
                                                 the glacier, about 11 km south-east of Davis.     that emits sound waves and listens to the           shelf is important because its ‘roughness’
                                                                                                   returning echoes, to build a picture of the         creates turbulence in the water as it flows past
                                                 While the AUV is at the surface the team
                                                                                                   environment. The echosounder can point              the ice shelf,” he said.
                                                 will communicate with it over WiFi, but once
                                                                                                   downward to map the bathymetry (shape
                                                 under the ocean surface and ice shelf it must                                                         “The rougher the surface, the more heat is
                                                                                                   and depth) of the sea floor, or upward to
                                                 have all the information it needs to operate                                                          mixed up from the ocean cavity below, and
                                                                                                   map the shape and roughness of ice. A
                                                 autonomously. To provide this the team use                                                            this affects melting.
                                                                                                   side-scan sonar can point sideways to map
                                                 a geographic information system package to
                                                                                                   the shape of ice walls. Also onboard are a          “The side-scan sonar may also help us
                                                 draw mission lines for the vehicle to follow
                                                                                                   sub-bottom profiler that can see beneath sea        discriminate between ice that is melting,
                                                 and establish ‘rules’ for encountering changes
                                                                                                   floor sediment, instruments to measure water        which will appear smoother, and ice that is
                                                 in the environment, such as what to do if the
                                                                                                   temperature, depth, salinity and velocity, and a    refreezing, which will appear rougher.”
                                                 sea floor is shallower than expected or the ice
                                                                                                   magnetometer that measures the magnetism
                                                 surface is too close, and when to come ‘home’.                                                        Measurements of ocean characteristics
                                                                                                   of geological features.
                                                                                                                                                       beneath the ice shelf will also provide
                                                 AUV engineer Peter King, from the University
                                                                                                   The upward looking echosounder will provide         important information on the temperature of
                                                 of Tasmania’s Australian Maritime College, said

                                                                                                   critical information to ice-ocean modellers,        the water that enters the cavity and where it
                                                 that the team will use a range of on-board
                                                                                                   Dr David Gwyther, from IMAS, and Dr Ben             has come from (such as warmer water from
                                                 sensors to survey the front of the ice shelf
                                                                                                   Galton-Fenzi, from the Australian Antarctic         the continental shelf), and the speed the water
                                                 and, all going well, venture beneath it, with
                                                                                                   Division, who are working to understand the         is moving. This information will help scientists
                                                 increasing distance and duration as the AUV’s
                                                                                                   speed of ice shelf retreat in East Antarctica       improve models of ice-ocean interactions,
                                                 performance is assessed.
                                                                                                   and the contribution of ice shelf melt to sea       essential for projections of sea level rise.
                                                 “First we’ll test the AUV in open water to        level rise.

                                                                                                                                                       For IMAS PhD student Erica Spain, the
                                                 ensure all the systems are performing as
                                                                                                   “One of the difficulties of estimating future       information revealed by the downward-
                                                 required, then we’ll survey the open water
                                                                                                   sea level is understanding how the Antarctic        looking echosounder is of most interest to her
                                                 in front of the ice shelf, to understand the
                                                                                                   ice sheet will contribute,” Dr Galton-Fenzi said.   project investigating underwater habitats.
                                                 density layers and currents in the water
                                                 column,” Mr King said.                            “Half of the mass loss of the ice sheet is          “I’d like to see if there are any glacial features
                                                                                                   melted off the underside of ice shelves by the      under the ice, such as glacial moraines and
                                                 “As we get closer to the face of the ice shelf
                                                                                                   ocean, but we know little about how the ocean       cold seeps, which can tell us about the glacial
                                                 we’ll build a map of the sea floor and the
                                                                                                   interacts with the ice sheet because these          and geological history of the region,” she said.
                                                 depth of the ice face below the surface, to
                                                                                                   regions are so difficult to access.”
                                                 understand the shape of the cavity opening.                                                           “We may also see some biology, as any time
                                                 From there we’ll plan our safest entry path       Dr Gwyther said the AUV would provide the           you have thick sediments and long residence
                                                 and venture beneath.”                             very first look at the shape of the underside of    times, you often get a build-up of methane
                                                                                                   the Sørsdal Glacier.                                and biological communities around it.”

                                                                                                                                                       1. Erica Spain from the Institute for Marine
                                                                                                                                                          and Antarctic Studies pushes the AUV into
                                                                                                                                                          Lake St Clair. (Photo: Wendy Pyper)

               POP-UP                         ACOUSTIC
                                  VB                           LIFT LUG    DVL/ADCP     USBL   DSPC        VCC               PLANES
                BUOY                            MODEM
                                                                                                                 LIFT LUG

                       SONAR                      ACOUSTIC                                                                   DROP
                                                                DEPTH        DVL/ADCP           BATTERIES                                            THRUSTER
                     PAYLOAD                        MODEM                                                                   WEIGHT
(Photo: ISE)

Ms Spain has been working closely with the                   This cut-away of the Explorer class AUV, developed by
AUV team for the past 12 months to test the
vehicle’s capabilities for mapping sand waves                International Submarine Engineering in Canada, shows the
and sponge gardens in northern Tasmania and                  various technologies that allow it to operate autonomously and
Bass Strait.                                                 collect information about its environment.
“We’ve been mapping features at spatial scales
we expect to find under the Sørsdal Glacier
and looking to see how much data we can get
out of it with minimal processing, and how
accurate that data is,” she said.
“Most recently we conducted a full dress
rehearsal at Lake St Clair in Tasmania’s
highlands in winter – the closest we could get
to simulating Antarctic conditions.”
After a year of preparation and practice the
team are confident the AUV will perform                                                                                 3
as expected, but there will no doubt be
challenges and learnings in this first of many
icy missions.                                                At the front of the vehicle is an obstacle
                                                             avoidance system (OAS) and the scientific
“The lessons learned from this deployment of
                                                             hardware – the side-scan and bathymetric
the AUV will help shape future deployments at
                                                             echosounder (‘sonar payload’). A variable
locations that are likely to be more critical for
                                                             ballast (VB) system helps the AUV maintain
sea level rise, such as the Totten and Amery ice
                                                             its position in the water.
shelves,” Dr Galton-Fenzi said.
                                                             An acoustic modem enables communication
The AUV (named nupiri muka or ‘eye of the
                                                             with the vehicle when it’s below the surface,
sea’ in palawa kani, the language of Tasmanian
                                                             to transfer data such as vehicle status.
Aborigines) is funded by the Australian
                                                             When the vehicle is at the surface, the
Government through the Antarctic Gateway                                                                         The pop-up buoy and drop weight at each

                                                             AUV team can exchange sensor data and
Partnership — a $32 million Special Research                                                                     end of the AUV are part of its safety system.
                                                             updated mission tasks over WiFi.
Initiative of the Australian Research Council                                                                    The drop weight is released when the AUV
that aims to provide new insights into the role              The Doppler Velocity Log (DVL) is a                 needs to quickly return to the surface in
of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in the                  velocity tracker to help calculate the              an emergency. The pop-up buoy can be
global climate system. The Australian Maritime               distance travelled. The Acoustic Doppler            triggered acoustically, releasing a floating
College contributed $3 million to the cost of                Current Profiler (ACDP) measures water              tow line to aid in recovery.
                                                                                                                                                                  13 AUSTRALIAN ANTARCTIC MAGAZINE ISSUE 35 2018

the vehicle.                                                 current velocities over a depth range
                                                             using the Doppler effect of sound
WENDY PYPER                                                  waves scattered back from particles within
                                                             the water column.
Australian Antarctic Division
                                                             The AUV is powered by rechargeable
*The Australian Research Council’s Antarctic                                                                     2. The AUV will use on-board instruments
                                                             lithium ion batteries for 24 hours
Gateway Partnership is hosted at the Institute                                                                      to build a picture of the underside of the
                                                             (140 km). This endurance can be
for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of                                                                     floating portion of the Sørsdal Glacier
                                                             doubled with a second battery.
Tasmania. Professor Coleman leads Australian                                                                        (pictured) and the sea floor beneath it.
Antarctic Science Project 5138.                              The USBL, which stands for ‘Ultra-Short                (Photo: Wendy Pyper)
                                                             Base Line’, is part of the AUV’s navigation
                                                                                                                 3. In preparation for Antarctica the AUV was
                                                             system. VCC and DSPC relate to the
                                                                                                                    tested in Australia’s deepest lake, Lake
                                                             AUV’s power supply and information
                                                                                                                    St Clair in Tasmania, which is about 167
                                                             processing respectively.
                                                                                                                    metres at its deepest. The AUV ran a series
                                                                                                                    of 10-plus kilometre missions at over 100
                                                                                                                    metres depth, supported by a small boat.
                                                                                                                    (Photo: Guy Williams)

                                                 Krill, whales, and poo power
                                                 Do krill swarms affect the distribution and behaviour of whales,
                                                 and does the potent mix of predators, prey and their poo,
                                                 positively affect productivity in the Southern Ocean?

                                                                                                                                                     1. Australian Antarctic Division marine mammal
                                                                                                                                                        scientists Dr Elanor Bell (left) and Dr Mike Double
                                                                                                                                                        (right) will lead the science contingent on the
                                                                                                                                                        voyage. (Photo: Dave Brosha)

                                                                                                                                                     “This voyage will provide the first detailed,
                                                                                                                                                     three-dimensional description of the
                                                                                                                                                     variability of krill swarms in East Antarctica,
                                                                                                                                                     and the first assessment of iron fertilisation
                                                                                                                                                     by whales and krill and its effects,”
                                                                                                                                                     Dr Double said.
                                                                                                                                                     A range of modern technologies will be used
                                                                                                                                                     throughout the voyage.
                                                                                                                                                     To begin with, Australian Antarctic Division
                                                 These are just some of the questions a team of   The voyage will look specifically at the           acoustician, Dr Brian Miller, will use
                                                 krill, whale and biogeochemistry experts hope    distribution and behaviour of Antarctic blue       small underwater listening devices, called

                                                 to answer during an ambitious 49 day voyage      whales in the Ross Sea region, in the presence     sonobuoys, to track and locate blue whales
                                                 aboard the CSIRO Marine National Facility’s RV   and absence of Antarctic krill                     once the ship leaves Hobart.
                                                 Investigator this summer.
                                                                                                  “We’ll track Antarctic blue whales in real time,   Sonobuoys can detect blue whale vocalisations
                                                 Voyage Chief Scientists from the Australian      from hundreds of kilometres away, using            up to 1000 kilometres away, and once the
                                                 Antarctic Division, Dr Mike Double and Dr        passive acoustic technology that detects their     team get within about 50 kilometres of the
                                                 Elanor Bell, said krill swarms can be deep or    low frequency calls,” Dr Bell said.

                                                                                                                                                     vocalising whales, multiple sonobuoys can be
                                                 shallow, dense or diffuse.                                                                          deployed to triangulate their precise location.
                                                                                                  “Once we find whales we’ll study their
                                                 However little is known about how these          distribution and behaviour in the presence         Once whales are located within the survey
                                                 different swarm types are distributed across     and absence of krill. We’ll also look at the       area, the team will count and photograph the
                                                 the Southern Ocean and whether some are          characteristics of krill swarms in the presence    whales and use video tracking technology to
                                                 more attractive to whales than others.           and absence of whales.”                            record movements, swimming speeds, and
                                                 “Previous research suggests that large, dense    Biogeochemists on the voyage will test             blow and diving intervals. These recordings
                                                 swarms may be targeted by fast-moving blue       whether there is more iron in aggregations of      can then be used to compare whale activity in
                                                 and fin whales that engulf their food, while     feeding whales than in areas containing only       areas with and without krill.
                                                 smaller, deeper krill swarms may be suited to    krill, or neither species.
                                                 more manoeuvrable whales, like humpbacks
                                                                                                  They will also investigate whether the iron
                                                 and minkes,” Dr Double said.
                                                                                                  in whale poo stimulates phytoplankton and
                                                 “Understanding which swarms are favoured by      bacteria growth in the local area, and if this
                                                 which whales will inform the development of      has broader effects on the ecosystem.              2. Dr Brian Miller will deploy sonobuoys
                                                 ecosystem management tools for whales and                                                              (pictured) to pick up blue whale vocalisations
                                                 the expanding krill fishery.”                                                                          from hundreds of kilometres away. (Photo:
                                                                                                                                                        David Donnelly)
You can also read