SA Agulhas II returns from annual Antarctica Voyage

07 February 2017


The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), today, 07 February 2017, welcomed back the SA Agulhas II and the over-wintering team, SANAE 55, from Antarctica.

The role played by the over- wintering team in Antarctica is of utmost importance as it allows for a year round presence on the ice continent. Some of the functions performed by the SANAE 55 team members and DEA’s research team, include support for scientific data collection for local analysis and research, as well as international collaborations.

This season marked phase II of the refurbishment project at the SANAE IV base. New, more efficient power generation systems were installed at the base. A new water reticulation management system was installed and this will allow for greater efficiency in the operations.

The close collaboration with the Antarctic flight operators allow for 30 persons that have remained at the base to continue with the refurbishment work. They will fly back to South Africa later this month once their work is completed. This year for the first time an excess of six flights landed at the SANAE IV base. The added efforts in preparation of the Skiway landing strip at SANAE IV has resulted in good feedback from the International aviation community. This year saw successful flights logistic collaboration with Germany, Sweden, Finland, Norway and the UK.

DEA’s Dr Newi Makhado led the in-house DEA research project into setting up a monitoring system for seabirds in the Antarctic. This work is aimed at developing a long-term monitoring programme to use seabirds as indicators of ecosystem health and change in western Droning Maud Land of Antarctica. This work sees a re-emergence of active DEA work in Antarctica.

Talking about his experience, Dr Makhado said, “the launch went very well and we managed to collect data on the population of the seabirds as well as foraging data, this will assist with the proclamation of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) and understanding the distribution of penguins and snow petrel.”

During his welcome address, Deputy Director General of Oceans & Coasts, Dr Monde Mayekiso thanked the SANAE 55 team and wished, “everything of the best for their future endeavours and hope the Antarctic experience was a memorable one that you will fondly share with family and friends.”

The South African National Space Agency (SANSA) conducted monitoring of the space environment close to the Earth. These activities are critical to the understanding of earth-space interactions and their effect on the planet, including how space and the sun can impact things we take for granted like communications satellites.

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