As mentioned in the previous post, I had the chance to take part in the annual relief voyage to the Prince Edward Islands (PEIs) during the last couple of months. This trip brings the new over-wintering team that will spend a year on Marion Island and returns the outgoing team to South Africa. At the same time, scientists of both terrestrial and marine disciplines had the opportunity over the takeover period to conduct different kinds of research.
We were 17 people as ship based scientist with very distinct projects. I was leading the benthic marine survey looking at variation in biodiversity and trophic dynamics around the islands. I managed to collect samples from different areas, encountering some very unfamiliar species! Another student was looking at forams, which are small animals that can be used as a proxy for paleontological studies, while other projects investigated fluctuation in water temperature and velocity , microbial activity and biodiversity around the islands, and more generally, in the Southern Ocean. We also helped in collecting data for the monitoring line of the Department of Environment Affair and for the Crossroads line, which consists of collecting data via a CTD transect between the PEIs and South Africa. We were coming from different universities and institutions, including the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, University of Pretoria, Department of Environmental Affairs and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, but all worked together as team for 40 days!
We had the chance to spend two days on Marion Island itself, where we were able to get right up close to some very interesting animals such as orcas, fur seals, elephant seals, penguins and albatrosses... an amazing unforgettable experience!
South African research in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica has really developed in the last few decades and more and more research is conducted in this area. A place difficult to access but that at the same time offers so much to discover and explore!
More to discover on the next trip!!!