Happy Birthday, Australian Antarctic Program!

Seventy years ago on November 28, the maiden expedition of Australia’s Antarctic Program set sail from Western Australia, establishing the first of the nation’s research stations in the polar region. Nowadays, Australia is considered a key player in Antarctic affairs and holds the largest segment of Antarctica.

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Waking up the Antarctic princess

The Belgian Antarctic station Princess Elisabeth Antarctica is one of the latest and most advanced stations. During summer season up to 16 researchers can be housed at the station, which is situated in Queen Maud Land, East Antarctica. The station is a summer station and thus, closed for the winter and maintained automatically from Belgium thanks to a sophisticated control system. Now, the station has been manned and reopened for the season.

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South Georgian albatrosses on the downhill slope

Albatrosses are one of the iconic bird groups in the Antarctic. Almost no one can evade the fascination of these elegant birds when watching them sailing in the winds over the Southern Ocean. However, their numbers have made a significant drop over the last 35 years, especially those breeding on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia, according to a recent study published now in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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What is underneath Antarctica’s fastest melting glacier?

A UK team of researchers has produced high-resolution maps of the bed beneath a major glacier in West Antarctica, which will help them predict future sea-level rise from this region. Radar surveys of the land beneath Pine Island Glacier have revealed a diverse landscape under the ice with some surprises. The results are published in the journal Nature Communications.

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Wind turbine at Australian station collapsed

Generating electricity in Antarctica is a tricky business. Most Antarctic stations use diesel generators and a few wind turbines, which is more sustainable. However, those wind turbines have to withstand harsh conditions and the strain on the material seems very big. At Australian Mawson station, part of a wind turbine collapsed on the evening of November 7. Luckily, no one was injured in the incident.

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Habitat influences penguin calls

Birds use vocalizations to attract mates, defend territories, and recognize fellow members of their species. But while we know a lot about how variations in vocalizations play out between populations of songbirds, it's far less clear how this variation affects birds such as penguins in which calls are inherited. A new study examines differences in the calls of Little Penguins from four colonies in Australia and finds that disparities in habitat, rather than geographic isolation or other factors, seem to be the key driver of variation in the sounds these birds use to communicate.

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Super-cooled Southern Ocean clouds aimed for investigation

Atmospheric scientists will use ships, aircraft and satellites to study super-cooled Southern Ocean clouds this summer. The project involving Australian and United States researchers will gather data on super-cooled cloud formations, which are clouds that remain as liquid water well below freezing.

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Ancient scars by icebergs tell story of ice retreat

Thousands of marks on the Antarctic seafloor, caused by icebergs which broke free from glaciers more than ten thousand years ago, show how part of the Antarctic Ice Sheet retreated rapidly at the end of the last ice age as it balanced precariously on sloping ground and became unstable. Today, as the global climate continues to warm, rapid and sustained retreat may be close to happening again, and could trigger runaway ice retreat into the interior of the continent, which in turn would cause sea levels to rise even faster than currently projected.

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Why albatross can sail the Southern Oceans

Albatrosses sail the Southern Oceans almost effortlessly. Even though known for centuries, only now, engineers have developed a new model to simulate dynamic soaring, and have used it to identify the optimal flight pattern that an albatross should take in order to harvest the most wind and energy. They found that as an albatross banks or turns to dive down and soar up, it should do so in shallow arcs, keeping almost to a straight, forward trajectory.

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Penguins like jelly: Gelatineous animals as part of penguin diet

Footage from penguin-mounted mini video recorders shows four species of penguin eating jellyfish and other gelatinous animals of the open ocean, a food source penguins were not previously believed to partake of, scientists report this month in the Ecological Society of America's peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

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