DEA hosts annual SA Agulhas II Open Day in Port Elizabeth

15 May 2016


The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) hosted its annual SA Agulhas II Open Day, yesterday, 14 May 2016, in Port Elizabeth.

The open day highlighted the Department’s work in the ocean and coastal environment, and also provided a guided tour of the vessel, from its state of the art scientific research laboratories, to the Miriam Makeba lounge. During the open day, visitors were also introduced to various career opportunities in Oceanography, Biology and other research carried out on the SA Agulhas II, as well as the Antarctic and Sub-Antarctic Islands. These careers in the maritime sector include, Maritime Engineers, Deck officers, catering, etc.

The vessel departed on 07 April 2015 for its annual science and logistic voyage to Marion Island. Marion Island is a volcanic island that forms part of South African territory and was proclaimed as a Special Nature Reserve Status in 1995. This year, also marks 50 Years of Research and Adventure on South Africa’s Sub-Antarctic Island.

SA Agulhas II is South Africa’s state-of-the-art Polar Research and Supply vessel, and plays a crucial role in support of the country’s involvement in Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic Islands, carrying out research of national interest in the Southern Ocean.South Africa has been conducting research since the mid 1960’s, and the Island is regarded as a natural laboratory due to its rich biodiversity and wildlife, and has produced numerous research papers and secondary degrees.  Science and research has expanded considerably over the past number of years, which is a healthy sign for South Africa.

This relief voyage offered another opportunity to conduct multi-disciplinary shore-based research at Marion Island focusing on population ecology of seals, killer whales, seabirds, ocean utilization by top predators, geomorphological processes, biotic and the spatial distribution of some species in and around the island, including the spread and distribution of invasive species.

The research conducted will assist in determining the monitoring of historical changes in trophic levels of Sub Antarctic and Antarctic fur seals from sites around the Southern Ocean including Marion Island. On the one hand, physical, chemical and biological ocean properties are believed to be influenced by the position of the Sub-Antarctic Front (SAF) relative to the Prince Edward Islands. Therefore the success in recovering and re-installation of long-term moored arrays of instruments on the ocean floor between the islands, since 2014, and continually recording water column temperature and currents, will lead to more effective monitoring of the position of the SAF throughout the year and in the long-term.

The sustained oceanographic monitoring efforts around the Prince Edward Islands contribute to form the scientific basis toward a better understanding of the impacts of environmental variability and climate change, including ocean acidification, the structure, functioning and productivity of this sub-Antarctic island ecosystem.

The vessel will prepare to sail from Port Elizabeth on 14 May 2016, to its final birthing station at the East Pier Quay in Cape Town, and will arrive on Monday morning, 16 May 2016. Aboard the ship will be some members of the Marion 72 expedition team, DEA researchers, officials, and scientists from tertiary institutions. Joining them in Port Elizabeth will be some members of the Portfolio Committee of Environmental Affairs (PCEA), who will have an opportunity to sail with the vessel and experience its capabilities while it travels to Cape Town.

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Zolile Nqayi
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