Tag Archives: antarctica

Weddell Sea Expedition underway

Associate Professor Wolfgang Rack (expedition remote sensing coordinator) and drone pilot Paul Bealing (Gateway Antarctica / Geography) were farewelled by a large crowd of Antarcticans, students, staff, and stakeholders who congregated at the Biological Science Building, Atrium earlier this week.

The two are departing to undertake in the Weddell Sea Expedition, a privately funded expedition to the most remote marine area of the world to conduct cutting edge science and marine archaeology.

One of the expedition highlights is to locate the ship wreck Endurance of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition, which is expected to be in 3000m depth after it sank in 1915.

A large team of UC and Christchurch based people are involved in this undertaking:

  • Greg Hatley (summer scholarship student), Usama Farooq and Shanelle Dyer (postgraduate students) will support the ship from Christchurch with high resolution satellite images.
  • Campbell McDiarmid (MSc student of the Wireless Research Centre) developed a sea ice experiment using a drone.
  • Adrian Tan from Lincoln Agritech provided a radar antenna for drone measurements.
  • Neil Gilbert (Constantia Consulting, Gateway Antarctica adjunct fellow) is the designated point of contact ashore, and provided the assessment for the environmental impact and the expedition’s risk management.

The UC contingency, which is responsible for sea ice measurements and remote sensing on the ship, will leave Cape Town on 30 December and is expected back on 19 February.

For more on UC’s involvement in the Weddell Sea Expedition, click here>

Photo: the UC expedition gear is loaded on the South African icebreaker Agulhas II (November 2018)

Secret lives of killer whales explored

A series of recording devices will be deployed in Antarctica this summer to explore the secret lives of killer whales in an unprecedented monitoring programme.

University of Canterbury PhD student Alexa Hasselman is preparing for her first Antarctic field season with Gateway Antarctica this summer. In an expansion of Gateway Antarctica’s ongoing Antarctic top predator programme in the Ross Sea  the recording devices  will monitor the species for four-weeks,  24 hours a day.

As top predators, killer whales are sentinels for the Ross Sea ecosystem. More specifically, tracking their interactions with one commercially important prey species in particular, the toothfish, is critical to supporting the recently announced Ross Sea region Marine Protected Area (MPA) established under the auspices of CCAMLR.

Gateway Antarctica’s work is leading the effort to meet New Zealand’s commitment to study top predators such as killer whales under that agreement. Alexa’s work adds a key capability  says  field team leader Dr Regina Eisert,  who is Alexa’s supervisor at Gateway Antarctica.

“Establishing a passive acoustic monitoring network is a critical step in getting the data we need to effectively protect the Ross Sea.” 

The research team includes two acoustics experts, Dr Andrew Wright, also of Gateway Antarctica, and UC’s College of Engineering Associate Professor Dr Michael Hayes.

Alexa says the New Zealand-made devices will be recording the sounds made by killer whales, and other marine mammals at multiple locations.

“The recorded sounds give us the ability to study animals all day and night, even at times when we cannot be in the field. This will provide a comprehensive record of the various patterns of the whales’ movements, and explore whether Antarctic killer whales have a regular daily schedule.”

In addition to supporting the MPA, this information will direct other work by Gateway Antarctica, specifically the deployment of non-invasive satellite transmitters onto the whales.

The wider initiative, funded through United Nations Environment Programme and a Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship to Dr Eisert, aims to provide further information about the ecology of Antarctic killer whales and other top marine predators, and the connectivity between the Ross Sea and New Zealand.

Erskine, Cambridge and Oxford Visiting Fellows to arrive next week at UC

The Erskine Programme is pleased to announce the arrival of more visitors to UC next week.

Arriving on 1 February will be Professor Yuris Dzenis, visiting the Department of Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln (USA) . Also arriving on 1 February and visiting the Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering will be Associate Professor Brady Cox from the University of Texas, and Professors David Hill and Kendra Sharp from Oregon State University.

Visiting Cambridge Fellow Dr Poul Christoffersen will arrive on 1 February and will be teaching in Gateway Antarctica, and on 3 February, Visiting Oxford Fellow Dr Ian Thompson will be joining the School of Teacher Education.

We wish all Visiting Fellows and their families a warm welcome.

UC researchers in exciting new National Geographic documentary

Regina Eisert shares some exciting news from Antarctica.


National Geographic has partnered with Antarctica New Zealand to produce an exciting new documentary about Antarctica that focuses on Antarctic research.

Several scientists from UC were filmed last season, including Dr Kurt Joy (Dry Valleys), Dr Wolfgang Rack (ice), and my team studying the ecology of Antarctic killer whales.

Just last week, a film team from New York conducted follow-up interviews with us at Antarctica NZ (in a cold, dusty attic full of debris that looked a lot like parts of Scott Base, before the recent refurbishment).

While the trailer for the new documentary obviously emphasises the sensational aspects of working in Antarctica (snow storms, hardship, crevasses!), we were genuinely thrilled to participate in the filming.

It’s as though our work has been touched with a magic wand and made glamorous, but I guess it always was: Antarctica is like nothing else on Earth.

Antarctica: Christchurch’s opportunity to be a world leader

Public Antarctic Talk
Wed 25 May
Christchurch’s opportunity to be a world leader on Antarctica
Speaker: Eric Assendelft, Antarctic Office
Bentleys, UC, 90 Ilam Road
6.00 pm (doors open 5.30; refreshments available)

Our new “Antarctic Office” is all about Christchurch asserting its role as an Antarctic gateway city.  This encompasses us all – challenging what the city does currently and aspiring to be the partner of choice for international science, logistics, business and engagement.  In turn, this will strengthen our country’s diplomatic and geopolitical ambitions in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean.

Antarctica