The Department of Environmental Affairs hosted SA Agulhas II Open Day in Durban

09 June 2018


Today, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) hosted 2000 people at its annual SA Agulhas II Open Day at the Port of Durban. The Open Day gave members of the public an opportunity to explore the ship and the Department’s work in the oceans and coastal environment.

Visitors enjoyed guided tours of the vessel, from its state of the art laboratories to the lounge area which is dedicated to the late South African music icon Miriam Makeba. The vessel was dedicated to the icon in recognition of her role in the struggle towards democracy. This augers well with the research mandate that the South Africa National Antarctic Programme is charged with.

The SA Agulhas II is a state of the art South African owned polar research and supply vessel which was a first of its kind acquired by the Department in March 2012.

The Open Day was hosted as part of the celebration of the World Oceans Day celebration under the theme: Preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean.

South Africa has for more than half a century maintained a presence in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic by establishing permanent research bases in Marion Island, Gough Island and in Antarctica. Having a year round presence in these remote locations enables researchers to conduct seasonal data analysis on various research disciplines thus allowing a better understanding of the ecosystem behaviour and functioning of the Earth System.

The Southern Ocean on the doorstep of South Africa is a key resource in understanding the balance of earth, ocean and atmosphere interactions. South Africa, through various institutions of higher learning and international collaboration has built up an extensive dataset on the Southern Ocean and the resources therein. This can only be enhanced through the world class technological advancements on the SA Agulhas II.

Voyages to Marion, Gough, and Antarctica allow for data such as sea surface temperature, oxygen and carbon measurements to be collected, which are instrumental to further enhance our understanding of present day global climate change. Furthermore, gliders serving as robotic vehicles were deployed for 13 months to also collect long term data (e.g. sea surface temperature, oxygen and carbon levels) all year round further shedding light towards the better understanding of present day global climate change.

The vast experience in Southern Ocean research has contributed to making the SA Agulhas II a unique research vessel with facilities that enable modern day Oceanographic research to take place on-board. Prior to the arrival of the SA Agulhas II, research in the Southern Ocean was limited to the schedules and transit tracks of the vessel during the resupply of the research bases. However in the last five years, through close collaboration between DEA, Department of Science and Technology (DST) and National Research Foundation (NRF) there has been dedicated research voyages that are geared towards dual objectives - One being the acquisition of data in other parts of the Southern Ocean at different times of the year, as well as to ensure building of capacity in Ocean and related sciences.

The studies in Antarctica, the sub-Antarctic and Southern Ocean have produced numerous National and International research publications in areas such as Ocean Biogeochemistry, Ornithology, Geology, Zoology, Botany, Meteorology and Space Science thus broadly inspiring the rest of the world. The weather systems experienced by South Africa originate in the Southern ocean and having weather stations at these remote sites allows the South African Weather Service to forecast severe weather and destructive events.

Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic presents a unique opportunity to undertake long term monitoring and research without being influenced by human activities. These enable climate change related studies to be conducted. In addition to research there are also opportunities for persons with technical expertise to support the expedition teams by ensuring optimal operation of communications and power generation systems.

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