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SA Agulhas II returns from Winter Research Voyage

16 August 2015


The Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) SA Agulhas II has returned from a successful winter research expedition on 14 August 2015.

DEA collaborated with the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the National Research Foundation (NRF) and Council for Scientific Industrial and Research (CSIR) on the research voyage.

 This was the first high resolution experiment to span a full seasonal cycle in the Southern Ocean using a combination of a ship (the SA Agulhas II), robotics platforms (buoyancy gliders, wave gliders and bio-optics floats), high resolution models and satellite observations.

An ambitious array of moorings were deployed West and South of South Africa in 2013 and 2014. Each of these moorings were successfully retrieved, data downloaded and redeployed. This marks a major step in understanding the role of the Agulhas current on the meridional overturning circulation.

Furthermore the first high resolution measurements in winter, which reveal the characteristics of phytoplankton primary productivity and carbon draw down, were taken as well as Isotopic measurements that investigate the role of the Southern Ocean in driving past glacial and interglacial climate cycles.

Other research highlights include:

  • Bio-optical characterisation of the winter phytoplankton community towards new and improved remote sensing ocean colour algorithms.
  • Measurements that fill the gaps in the ocean atmosphere CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) flux record.
  • Successful collections of trace metal Fe (Iron) concentrations to resolve the seasonal supply and demand mechanism of the phytoplankton community in winter.
  • Basin scale mapping of the abundance, distribution and diversity of plankton communities in the Atlantic and Indian sectors of the Southern Ocean.
  • Acoustic determination of the distribution and biomass of krill, an important food source for whales, seabirds, seals, fish and squid.

In addition this was the second winter survey ever conducted on density and distribution of Southern Ocean pelagic bird species. South Africa plays a fundamental role in Southern Ocean research as it is the closest country to Antarctica.

For media queries contact:

Zolile Nqayi
Cell: 082 898 6483