Here we are again, that time of year dedicated to the Prince Edward Islands voyage!
The Prince Edward Islands are a South African archipelago composed of Prince Edward and Marion Island located in the Southern Ocean, approximately 2000 km south-east of Cape Town.
These islands represent a very pristine and wild environment. South Africa has a permanent base on Marion Island that hosts for one year a group of 20 people, composed of researchers in many fields, from marine biology to botany and geology, as well as a medic, weather service or environmental staff.
Every year the Department of Environment Affair in collaboration with many partners organize a dedicated voyage to the Prince Edward Islands for approximately five weeks, as part of the South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP). This provides the opportunity to exchange the old and new team, but at the same time many researchers, such as myself, use this occasion to conduct some quality research in the surrounding of the islands. I am mainly interested in marine benthic fauna, but there are many other people involved in both terrestrial and marine life, including birds, ocean biogeochemistry and plant invasion.
Why are these islands so special?! These islands represent a very unique and special environment, which support a high abundance and diversity of marine life, from small benthic organisms up to top predators. In fact both islands support birds, seal and penguin colonies.
I had the fortune to visit Marion Island for the first time in 2015. As part of the ship-based scientists, we were allowed to visit the island for only one day, and it was completely worth it! We had the chance to visit Ship’s Cove beach, one of the beaches on the island that has a penguin colony. We saw King, Gentoo and Rockhopper penguins, albatross, fur seals and elephant seals. It was really an amazing experience!
I will be lucky enough to go to the Prince Edward Islands again this year on board of the SA Agulhas II. This time I will be going as a group leader for the ship-based University of Cape Town team. I feel really fortunate and I am really looking forward to this new amazing experience! We will be out at the sea for approximately 40 days!
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More information about the Prince Edward Islands can be found at these website