This year the Integrated Marine Observing system (IMOS) Animal Tracking facility again sent a team of three researchers to Davis Station in Antarctica for the southern summer to partner with some unlikely research collaborators - southern elephant seals. Sophisticated Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) relay loggers were attached to the seals to collect ocean profiles from south of 60 degrees South.
Doctors Clive McMahon, Esther Tarszisz and Louise McMahon, all from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, teamed up to build on ten years of ocean sampling by the Australian and French Antarctic Programs and IMOS between Iles Kerguelen and Prydz Bay. The CTD profiles that are currently being beamed back to us via the ARGOS satellite system build on the time-series of high-resolution oceanographic data that looks at annual variation in ocean structure and the formation of the globally important Antarctic Bottom Water.
This year the teams at Davis and at Kerguelen managed to get 16 instruments out on southern elephant seals all of which are sending back crucial information on ocean structure of particularly interest is the information being collected in the Barrier and Amundsen Polynyas that will help us build a better picture of dense water formation in the Antarctic. Dense water is the precursor of Antarctic Bottom Water that drives the Southern Ocean component of the ‘global ocean conveyor belt’, a constantly moving system of deep-ocean circulation driven by temperature and salinity.
Being part of this globally importnat project is not only scientifically stimulating but, also personally rewarding – after all how fantastic to spend a summer in the Antarctic surrounded by seals, penguins and scenery that is simply stunning.
The team returned in March and while it still seems like a long way off preparations are in full swing for the upcoming season which include; ordering and shipping equipment, recruiting field staff and of course the all important grant and proposal writing.