• Pristine Antarctica: The Deep Sea

    Antarctica, Climate, Conservation, Ecology, Marine Reserves, Science

    In a time and place where giants are fighting to save the whales. And where wide concern is arousing about the way the Japanese government is handling the disaster that took place on the world's sole remaining whale floating factory, the Nisshin Maru. It is worthwhile to see what precious nature is actually there to protect . A little series about the Antarctic environment.

    Far below the icy top layer of the Antarctic waters a small man-made apparatus is roaming around looking for anything of interest. The ROV, named Isis, is the UK's first deep-sea remote operated vehicle and is capable of diving down to 6.5 kilometre below the surface. Isis's mission, here on its inaugural science mission, on the Antarctic seabed, is the first time men is looking at the deep sea near this vast continent. A continent we know little about and still we have began commercial exploitation of its resources already.

    The first results of the scientific mission, performed from the British Antarctic Survey's ship RSS James Clark Ross, are already appearing; it found interesting evidence of the "ice-driven evolution of Antarctica's coast" and it found huge ancient "meltwater channels" which can learn us how the ice sheet will change in the years to come.

    Although mostly a geology mission Isis also looked at the fauna and did some interesting finds, causing a Professor Tyler to proclaim "The wealth and diversity of the fauna in this area was incredible!", which in itself led me to proclaim: We want picture proof! (and found some here) What the researchers found was beautiful but also included a warning on the fragility and vulnerability of this remote ecosystem to the climate change we see everywhere. As the sea water is now a bit warmer as ten years ago the temperature has become right for the king crab to enter, and these were actually found closer to the coast as ever before.

    Isis found unique communities of filter feeders with proof of these flourishing there for millions of years. The rapid entering -invasion- of king crabs and other species alien to the system might endanger that. While more research is needed this is yet another example of climate change affecting everything and everyone. Not all is lost though, overall the Antarctic deep sea ecosystem is a fascinating one that we hardly know anything about. Sciencemag wrote some good articles about the mission and the first results.

    A king crab caught by the Isis grabbing arm. Photo by BAS.

  • By Pepijn on 21 02 07 - 05:00 | nine comments |

    nine comments:

    Good post... I was thinking of starting an Antarctic series too... You beat me to it!
    Juliette (URL) - 21 02 07 - 08:32

    COML has an in-depth page on the ChEss Vents and Deep project. Follow the URL.
    Roger Danz (URL) - 21 02 07 - 11:25

    Some more high resolution photo's on http://www.awi.de/en/news/press_releases..
    Pepijn - 27 02 07 - 18:47

    Appreciate you sharing, great blog post.Thanks Again. Really Cool.
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