Hello to all my friends, especially to Room 5 at Spotswood Primary!
I finally got someone to take a photo of me with my friend, Mr Tippett!
We're at Campbell Island today, about 500 km from New Zealand. It's quite a big island, and it used to be a farm a long time ago. When you look at it today, it's amazing to think that anyone thought sheep would be happy here. It was a nice day, with the odd shower of rain, and quite warm for Campbell Island (about 8 degrees). But it never gets much nicer, so you would have cold, wet sheep all the time, and cold, wet farmers, too.
In the morning, we went ashore and looked at the place where the farmers used to live. There were lots of sea lions around, and they were very friendly. As we were driving in from the ship to the shore on our speedboats (called Zodiacs), they were swimming behind us very fast, jumping out of the water every now and then. They looked like they were having heaps of fun! When we were ashore, the sea lions were all around us. Sometimes they would come flopping up to us as though they were going to bite us, but they would stop short. Mostly, they were very polite and well behaved (although their breath smells like squid).
In the afternoon, we went for a walk up into the hills, where there are lots of Royal albatrosses. You've probably seen two types of seagull before. There's a small grey one with a red beak, and a great big one with a black back. The Royal albatrosses are just like the big, black-backed gulls that you're used to seeing, only about 5 times as big! They were everywhere in the long grass up there. Some were sitting on their nests (occasionally, one would get up and you could see a white, fluffy chick sitting there all snug and warm. I was worried the chicks would get squashed if their great big mums or dads sat on them, but the experts tell me they like being under there.
The amazing thing about the albatrosses is they aren't afraid of people, let alone bears, at all. They would come walking right up to you, and sometimes have a bit of a nibble at your fur with their great big beaks. It was a bit scary!
When they came flying over, you could hear the wind in their feathers like a big kite or a plane going past, Zoooom! Sitting up there in the grass watching and listening to these amazing birds was one of the best bits on the trip. I'm sure one of the reasons we enjoyed ourselves so much is that we've been at sea for so long that it's just wonderful to stretch your legs again.
Well, it's quite late, and we've had a big day. I'm a tired bear. I think I might go to bed and have a big sleep, ready for another day of adventure on Campbell Island.
We had a 6.30 a.m. wake up call today with expedition leader Rodney telling us that Campbell Island was appearing through the dark and cloud. After six days at sea it was lovely to see land again. A number of albatross and petrels swooped down over the ship as we sailed into Perseverance Harbour. This volcanic island out in the middle of the ocean was discovered in 1810 by Captain Fredrick Hasselburg, who also discovered Macquarie Island. He named this island after his employers in Sydney, Robert Campbell and Co. Over the years the island has been used as a sealing station, for science experiments, as a castaway depot, for farming, for weather forecasting and as a lookout for enemy ships during the Second World War.
This morning we took the zodiacs out to places of interest around the harbour. We had our wet weather gear on, as this island gets 1425 m of rain a year and it rains 6 days out of 7 here. As we cruised into the Beeman Base landing sea lions jumped and played in the water alongside the zodiac. Once out of the zodiac Rodney gave us an oar to protect ourselves- these sea lions wanted to play a bit too closely with us! People with sticks played with the seals to distract them as we walked to the remains of a coast watch station. During World War 2 people manned this station and would climb the nearby Beeman Hill every day to look out for enemy boats. If they saw a boat they were to alert New Zealand by radio and then go and hide in a cave on the island.
The next stop was Tucker Cove, the site of a farming homestead from 1895 to 1931. All that remains of the house and woolshed that were built on this site is a coal stove sitting on a grassy patch above the shore line. After the farm was abandoned there were 4000 sheep still on the island. It was felt that these sheep were damaging the native plants on the island so over time parts of the island were fenced off. The last sheep on the island were taken off in 1990. Another pest on the island was rats. The Department of Conservation decided in 2001 to try and make the island rat free. They did a big bait drop and were very successful in killing the rats. Now there are no rats, sheep, cats or cows on the island so the tussock grassland, ferns, colourful mega herbs and natives are now regenerating all over the island.
The final stop this morning was to Camp Cove where an entry in the Guinness Book of Records stands. This is the site of the loneliest tree in the world. This Sitka Spruce is the only tree on the island and the next closest tree to it is on Auckland Islands, 150 nautical miles away. Some people hugged the tree, others sheltered under it as a rain shower passed through. I did the yoga tree pose so the tree was not alone. Some people asked why there was weren’t more trees on the island. Can you think of the reasons why?
Much of the open ocean has a salinity between 34ppt and 36ppt. Salinity is controlled by a balance between water removed by evaporation and freshwater added by rivers and rain.
Note: Click the image below to view a larger version.
We left Antarctica behind a couple of days ago now, and we've been at sea ever since. We passed an iceberg yesterday, but apart from that, there's been nothing but ocean, ocean and more ocean (hardly any waves), with foggy skies. We having lots of talks from our experts, and people are reading, watching movies and playing cards. There was a card tournament last night, where lots of the people played a game called 500 against one another. That seemed to be a lot of fun, but it went way past my bedtime. The food we are getting is delicious, and there's lots of it, and now that there's nowhere to go, it's hard to do any sort of exercise. I'm pretty sure there'll be a lot more of me to cuddle by the time we get back!
So now I've been to Antarctica! I feel like a very lucky bear, and while I was sorry to leave, I'm glad we've got another island — Campbell Island — to go, and I'm also sort of glad we're heading home. But I have lots of memories. The thing that kept surprising me about Antarctica and the sea around it was how fast everything changes. One minute the sea is quite choppy and the next it's gone all heavy-looking and smooth because the ice is forming on it. Or one minute you're sailing along in open water, the next you're in thick blocks of sea ice with great big bergs around you. The weather changes fast, too, with blue skies turning to black skies and snow so fast you can hardly believe it. We were lucky with the weather, but our coldest day — the day we visited Captain Scott's Terra Nova hut — was so cold it made your paws and your nose hurt. And the water when we went swimming felt even colder!! At times like that, you wonder how anything can live there at all. But there's living things all over the place: Adelie penguins (which are very cute), Emperor penguins, seals, snow petrels, skuas and whales… (Looking at my photographs, I found I'd taken one of a whale, after all, so I've attached it. Anton the whale expert tells me it's a Minke whale). You wonder what happens to all those animals when it gets really cold, in the winter. The sea freezes over for hundreds of kilometers to the north, so there's nowhere to go for food. Everything must go north, or sit tight for the winter. Apparently one of the kinds of penguins stays there all winter with no food. Does anyone know what kind that is?
And the other thing I have been thinking about is the people who did the exploring in Antarctica. They must have been very brave, and very tough. I think I'm quite a brave, tough bear, but I felt very small in the middle of the snow and ice. I don't think I would have got very far before I needed a hug. And just as brave and tough are the scientists who do their work down here, sciencing the place, everything from the animals to the snow, ice, rocks, mud and the sea itself. I've loved hearing about all the clever things they do, and how they have found out some of the things that we know about the world and how it works.
Another talk is about to start: more stuff to learn about, so I had better head downstairs to the lecture room.
Dr Sara Mikaloff-Fletcher, an atmospheric modeller at NIWA, describes the role of the Southern Ocean in taking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Some computer models suggest that this carbon sink is slowing, which might accelerate climate change. The Argo project is providing data to test this model.
We are sailing over the sea towards Campbell Island. While most of us on board look out and see water others on board know exactly what sector of the ocean we are on. Jack Fenaughty is alongside me and tells me that we are in the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLAR) Subarea 88.1. The fishermen need to know where they are allowed to go fishing, as some parts of the ocean around Antarctica are protected marine areas, where fish are not allowed to be caught.
Jack has been involved in fishing and fisheries research for 40 years. He has just spent the last two and a half months on board a NZ fishing vessel, San Aotea 2 catching fish and doing research on how many fish there are in the Ross Sea region and how big they are. We picked Jack up off the San Aotea 2 when we were in McMurdo Sound.
Jack’s main focus is on the Antarctica Tooth fish. This fish lives in very deep cold water around the fringes of Antarctica. The tooth fish can live for up to 50 years old. Boats that go fishing in Antarctica are only allowed to take a certain number of fish- this is called a quota. However, the fishermen don’t take home all the fish they catch. Some of them they carefully tagged and put back in the water alive. These tags are like a sheep tag, that records where and when the fish is caught. It helps the fishermen and the scientist know about the fish stocks- that is how many fish there are in the sea and how fast they are growing. A certain number of fish are opened up so information can be found out about what the fish are eating and if they are carrying fish eggs.
All the fishing vessels have two scientific observers on board to study the fish and help the fishermen do everything properly. One observer is from the country the boat comes from and the other observer is from another country in the world. The boats go for 24 hours- there is no night time because it doesn’t get dark in Antarctica in the summer, so they don’t need lights. Once the fishing boats have reached their quota they all must go home. Each year a group of CCAMLAR scientists meet together in Hobart, Australia and decide how many fish the fishermen will be allowed to catch that year. That way they hope that the fish stocks will stay healthy.
Jack told me about how to catch tooth fish. "To catch a tooth fish the boats use very long lines which have many hooks attached to them. Surprisingly enough these are called long lines. The hooks are very big, about as big as your hand and on each hook there is a piece of squid for bait. Tooth fish really like squid. The lines stay down in the water for about a day and are then they are hauled up and the fish are pulled onto the boat. The fish are taken off the hooks, are cleaned and are frozen solid. There are big freezers on board to store the fish. Once the fishing is finished the fish is sent to other places in the world like China and the United States. It is a sought after fish and is mainly used in restaurants."
"The boats are very careful not to catch any seabirds. They have special bird lines behind the boat when the hooks are going out, to scare the birds away from the boat so they don’t try to eat the bait and get caught. Also they are not allowed to throw anything in the water especially things birds might like such as bits of fish. The whole time that NZ boats have been working in Antarctica, since 1997, they have never caught a bird."
After 40 years at sea, Jack is now going to spend some time on land but will still be involved in fishing research and consultation, with a particular interest in fishing in the Ross Sea. With debate over whether the entire ocean around Antarctica should be set aside as a reserve, with no fishing allowed at all, Jack will no doubt be talking about fishing in Our Far south for many years to come.
Dr Phil Sutton of NIWA explains why measuring ocean salinity and temperature is important. These two measurements are closely related to water density and the formation of ocean currents. They also tell us about the exchange of water between the ocean and the atmosphere as part of the water cycle.
On this voyage South we have experienced all kinds of weather. Some days the skies have been a clear blue and the sun shines, on other days the skies are a dark grey and there are snow flurries whisking over the sea and ship. When you are out on the deck of the ship the temperature seems to change depending on where you are standing. If you are on the sheltered side of the boat you can stand and admire the scenery for some time. But if you go up to the front of the boat and stand on the bow the cold wind hits and any areas of your body not covered by clothing begin to tingle with the cold. In Antarctica the temperature is measured in two ways- one if you are out of the wind and the other with what is called ‘the wind chill factor’. The coldest temperature we have been in down here is minus 17 degrees- and that’s without the wind chill factor!
Scientists who study weather over a long time use the term ‘climate’. Some of the scientists on board have been studying what the climate has been like over millions of years. They can take a sample of rock from way down deep in the earth. From this core sample they are able to tell from the type of rocks and organisms in it what the climate was like at the time. The core samples look like a thick tube of multi-layered cake, with different colour and thickness showing the changing time.
The scientists can see patterns in our climate that change over time. Sometimes the Earth has been warmer, sometimes it has been colder. They know that when the sun has sun spots and lots of activity then the Earth can warm a little bit and if there are large volcanic eruptions then the Earth get a little bit cooler. They also know that a gas called carbon dioxide, or CO2 for short, can make the Earth temperatures a lot warmer. Scientists are finding out more about this gas and have been working out how warm the Earth might get if there is a lot of CO2 in the atmosphere.
The climate down here at the bottom of the world is cold, much colder than where you live in New Zealand. During the winter it is so cold that the sea turns to ice and blocks the way to the land. This is happening right now in Antarctica. The sea ice was too thick for us to get through to stand on land yesterday. So last night we sadly said farewell to Antarctica and we are now starting our 4 day sea journey to Campbell Island. Standing up on the ships bridge last night is was snowing and the clouds were so low you could hardly see the sea in front of the boat. It looked like Antarctica was wrapping herself up, ready for the long winter ahead.
Dr Phil Sutton of NIWA outlines what the Argo project has told us about the ocean so far. By comparing Argo data with older measurements, it has become clear that the ocean has warmed, and salty parts have got saltier. There have also been changes in the water cycle that fit predictions made by climate change models.