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From the category archives:

Antarctic Connection

whaler

Anti-whaling ship the Steve Irwin is currently in pursuit of the Japanese ship Nisshin Maru in the Ross Sea, more than 2,000 nautical miles south-east of Tasmania.

The Sea Shepherd Society ship found the Japanese whaling fleet just before Christmas, but had to return to Hobart to refuel.

But they found a lucky break in the ice, and were able to track down the Nisshin Maru and harpoon vessels Yushin Maru Numbers 1 and 2 in the middle of the Ross Sea about 9.30am today.

Mr Watson said the vessel was engaged in full pursuit of the three ships and expected to keep them within view, despite contending with loose ice, strong winds and fog.

“When we found them this morning it looked like they were in the process of a whaling operation – the vessels were all stopped altogether.

“Then when they saw us, they began running.”

“As long as we’re chasing them they’re not going to kill whales,” he said.

{ABC-News]

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The new island may have been caused by changing sea levels. Australian Antarctic Division: Gary Miller.

The new island may have been caused by changing sea levels. Australian Antarctic Division: Gary Miller.

Australian scientists making a visit to sub Antarctic Heard Island in the Southern Ocean have found a rapidly changing landscape.

The island is 4,000 kilometres south west of Western Australia and is home to two active volcanoes.

Australian Antarctic Division researchers found that an area known as “Elephant Spit” was no longer attached to the mainland.

Senior Environmental Policy Adviser, Ewan McIvor, says the creation of what appears to be a new island may have been caused by changing sea levels.

“Certainly the air temperature at Heard Island has been observed to have increased by about one degree celsius in the last 50 years,” he said.

“But it’s really hard to remove the possible contribution of rising sea levels from other contributions like the strong ocean swells and winds.”

The glaciers are in retreat too. Read more here.

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oil-barrels

Heard Island is windswept, mountainous and eerily beautiful, home to many creatures that thrive in the peace and safety of this island outpost of Australia.

Kingston-based Graeme Wheller, formerly a vulcanologist, today involved in Tasmanian tourism, took the photographs you see here when in 1986-7 he was part of a scientific expedition to Heard Island.

His adventures continue here.

heard-volcano

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macquarie-is.jpg

A major earthquake (magnitude 7.4) hit 90km south of Macquarie Island this morning at 10:30am local time.

No tsunami was generated.

Macquarie Island is a subantarctic island and a part of the state of Tasmania, Australia.

Macquarie Island is on the Macquarie Ridge at the junction of the Pacific and Indo-Australian plates. Large earthquakes (6 or greater on the Richter scale) occur approximately once a year.

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sea-cow.jpg

This sea cucumber — held by Sadie Mills of New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research — is known as a sea pig.

Mills and colleagues from around the world, including Tasmania, collected the organism, among more than 30,000 animals, during a marine census of southern Antarctica earlier this year.

Sea cucumbers are part of a group of marine animals that inhabit the seafloor, including sea squirts, sea stars (starfish), sea slugs, corals, clams, sponges, and urchins.

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penguin.jpgAFP photograph

Climate change may threaten the survival of king penguins — one of the most iconic creatures of the Antarctic, researchers warn.

A long-term study of the penguins, known for their distinctive yellow feather ‘ear muffs’, reveals just a slight ocean warming had a significant effect on their breeding success.

International researchers behind the project say that under current predictions for global warming, the penguins face the risk of being wiped out.

King penguins — the second largest penguin after the emperor penguin — live in the sub-Antarctic islands, including Macquarie Island, south-east of Tasmania. There are about 2 million breeding pairs worldwide.

Their diet consists mainly of small fish and squid, and because of their one-year breeding cycle they are considered sensitive to any seasonal change in food supply.

Over nine years, researchers studied the birds on an island in the Crozet Archipelago in the southern Indian Ocean, marking 456 penguins with electronic tags.

They found that high sea-surface temperatures reduced the amount of marine prey available to the king penguins, forcing them to travel further in search of food.

According to their calculations, a sea-surface warming of 0.26 degrees would lead to a 9% decline in the adult penguin population.

Current models by the UN’s panel of climate scientists predict an average increase of 0.2 degrees a decade for the next two decades.

(Via The Age)

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whale-calf.jpg

The body of a minke whale and its calf are dragged onto the whaling ship

The Australian Federal Government says photographs taken by the Customs ship the Oceanic Viking of Japanese whalers killing a whale and its calf will strengthen any legal case against the whalers.

The pictures, released by the Government today, show a slaughtered minke whale and its calf being hauled up the ramp of the Japanese ship, the Yushin Maru.

Customs has also released video of whales being harpooned from the ship.

The Government is extending the duration of its whaling surveillance program and says the Attorney-General is still considering what kind of legal action should be taken and who it should be brought against.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett says the pictures released today support Australia’s position.

‘I think it’s explicitly clear from these images that this is indiscriminate killing of whales, where you have a whale and its calf killed in this way,’ he said.

‘To claim that this is in anyway scientific is to continue the charade that surrounded this issue from day one.’

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remote-1.jpgLaunching the ABE from Southern Surveyor. Image credit – CSIRO

Scientists aboard the research vessel, Southern Surveyor, return to Hobart today with a collection of coral samples and photographs taken in the Southern Ocean at greater depths than ever before.

Using a remotely operated submersible vehicle the international research team captured images of life found on deep-sea pinnacles and valleys up to three kilometres beneath the Ocean’s surface.

[click to continue…]

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whale-refuel1.jpg

Posted by Dave Walsh, onboard the Esperanza

It’s been an intense morning here on the Esperanza – after eleven days preventing the Japanese whaling fleet from killing whales, this morning we blocked the Nisshin Maru from refuelling in Antarctic waters from the dodgy Panamanian-registered vessel Oriental Bluebird.

As part of a dramatic non-violent protest against the whaling fleet’s activities in the Southern Ocean, Jetske and Heath placed their inflatable boat between the factory ship and refueling vessel, as the massive two ships tried to come alongside to refuel.

However, despite radio calls explaining our protest and plan, the vessels continued to close in on each other — and after half an hour, the inflable was forced out, with Jetske nearly getting caught by a cable. Only then did the refuelling begin.

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Amazing footage of synchronised swimming from a pod of killer whales determined to make a meal of a lonely seal adrift on an ice floe.

(Via Zooillogix )

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