Department sends off SA Agulhas II to Gough Island
02 September 2019
Earlier today the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) had a send-off ceremony for the SA Agulhas II and the Gough 65 Expedition team at the East Pier Shed, as they departed for this year’s annual relief voyage to Gough Island.
As part of this year’s expedition, the department’s Deputy Director-General of Environmental Programmes, Dr. Guy Preston, will join the take-over voyage to lead the team that constructed the test hut which will be stationed on the island. The hut is principally comprised of wood-plastic composite material, poplar and gum wood, which was produced from the invasive biomass that was cleared by the department’s Working for Water programme.
The aim for deploying this hut to the island is to test the potential to use these materials for future island infrastructure, and particularly their capacity to withstand the harsh weather conditions on Gough Island, as they will also be used to accommodate the overwintering team. The success of this analysis will result in the opportunity to re-build the weather station on the island, using the material, and thus creating jobs for South Africans, as this process will then be extended to Marion Island and Antarctica.
The hut’s design attempts to provide a level of comfort that is more sympathetic to the team’s needs under the Island’s harsh conditions. It will also be equipped to meet the full needs of an emergency base for the team members when they conduct their field research away from the base.
Furthermore, the expedition team is also joined by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) who will undertake a multimillion-pound habitat restoration project to eradicate invasive mice from Gough Island in 2020. These mice are devastating the globally important native bird population and driving several species towards extinction. This voyage will see a major delivery of RSPB equipment to the island for depot until March 2020.
South Africa’s use of Gough Island is primarily to operate a full year weather observation station, one of three extremely important weather stations globally. The quality of South African and International weather forecasts relies heavily on the availability of data inputs from Gough Island region. Long term data observations are crucial to pick up climate change impacts and fluctuations. In this regard, 10 drifting weather buoys will be deployed en-route to Gough Island as part of an international agreement.
Some of the functions that will be performed include collecting diet and blood samples from the various bird species on the island and weather observation through different seasons in the year.
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