It’s no secret that Andvord Bay is one of the most spectacular places on the planet. Sun glittering over the ice and snow, massive icebergs drifting just offshore, the sound of penguins calling to their mates. Since our arrival in the fjord, we have seen tourist cruise ships almost every day! One of the most heavily visited locations is a penguin rookery in Andvord Bay called Neko Harbor. This site must see thousands of visitors every year and is the nesting ground for hundreds of Gentoo penguins. But we weren’t here to see penguins, we were here to do science and Neko Harbor is an ideal location for collecting long-term weather data and images of nearby glaciers.
The physical oceanography team were the first of the science party to set foot on the Antarctic continent at Neko Harbor. There they scouted a suitable location for an Automated Weather Station (AWS) which relays wind, temperature, atmospheric pressure data and more for the duration of our study as well as a camera, which will take photographs of the nearby glaciers. These data will help inform other aspects of our project such as the glacial movement and melting rates, and the physical oceanography moorings. In addition to the AWS and glacier camera at Neko Harbor, there is also an AWS to be set up in the Gerlache Strait between Anvers Island and Andvord Bay and another glacier camera within the innermost portion of the fjord. As these instruments must be working for several months, part of the team returned to the AWS again to ensure that it is working properly relaying data to shore.
While ashore at Neko Harbor, members of the benthic ecology team made several collections. They were targeting mainly macroalgae and penguin poop….yes, penguin poop. Oh the glamorous lives we lead as scientists! These samples will determine the contributions of various food sources to the animals living on the seafloor in the fjord through stable isotope and biomarker analyses. By collecting samples of as many food sources as possible we will be able to better constrain animal diets and see how nutrients flow through the food web. Of particular interest is the role of Antarctic krill, a keystone species in this ecosystem.
Neko Harbor has been a great sampling location and site for our long-term weather stations and glacier camera, but we don’t need much more of a reason to want to stop here than the hundreds of charismatic Gentoos running about the shore. Hey, maybe we were here for the penguins after all!
Written by Amanda Ziegler.