Feeds

Researchers probe Southern Ocean's icy depths

Here be monsters, me biodiverse buckaroos

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Researchers from Australia, France and Japan have returned to port from the Southern Ocean following a two-month jaunt to probe the icy depths, which yielded some impressive footage of the abyss as well as a range of hitherto-unknown Antarctic sea monsters.

The floor of the Southern Ocean. Image: Australian Antarctic Division

Oz's Aurora Australis joined France's L'Astrolabe and Japan's Umitaka Maru on the "census of life" dubbed the "Collaborative East Antarctic Marine Census" (CEAMARC). While the French and Japanese ships busied themselves with examining the mid and upper ocean environment, Australian researchers concentrated their efforts on the ocean floor.

Aurora Australis head boffin Dr Martin Riddle says that the vessel's expedition uncovered "a remarkably rich, colourful and complex range of marine life in this previously unknown environment".

He added: "Some of the video footage we have collected is really stunning – it's amazing to be able to navigate undersea mountains and valleys and actually see what the animals look like in their undisturbed state.

"In some places every inch of the sea floor is covered in life. In other places we can see deep scars and gouges where icebergs scour the sea floor as they pass by. Gigantism is very common in Antarctic waters – we have collected huge worms, giant crustaceans and sea spiders the size of dinner plates."

The floor of the Southern Ocean. Image: Australian Antarctic Division

CEAMARC, the Australian Antarctic Division explains, forms part of the international Census of Antarctic Marine Life which it coordinates, and will involve 16 voyages to Antarctic waters during the "International Polar Year" of 2007-2009.

The census will "survey the biodiversity of Antarctic slopes, abyssal plains, open water, and under disintegrating ice shelves", and aims to "determine species biodiversity, abundance and distribution and establish a baseline dataset from which future changes can be observed".

Riddle elaborated: "This survey establishes a point of reference to monitor the impact of environmental change in Antarctic waters. For example, ocean acidification, caused by rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, will make it harder for marine organisms to grow and sustain calcium carbonate skeletons.

"It is predicted that the first effects of this will be seen in the cold, deep waters of Antarctica. Our results provide a robust benchmark for testing these predictions."

There are links to more pictures and movie material of the Southern Ocean's depths here. ®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.