Diving to new depths for Antarctic science

March 15, 2019, University of Canterbury
This year, as part of her research into the Ross Sea region Marine Protected Area, Gateway Antarctica scientist Dr Regina Eisert partnered with Boxfish Research to study Type-C killer whales with a new kind of remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Credit: University of Canterbury

A University of Canterbury scientist is using Kiwi technology in her Antarctic research to capture fascinating footage of life beneath the surface in McMurdo Sound.

This year, as part of her research into the Ross Sea region Marine Protected Area, Gateway Antarctica scientist Dr. Regina Eisert partnered with Boxfish Research to study Type-C killer with a new kind of remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

The stunning footage is just a snippet of what was recorded during 21 hours underwater this season. It includes, Adélie penguins, whales, Weddell seals, bright red octopus and a glowing ctenophore.

A University of Canterbury marine mammal expert, Dr. Eisert says the technology is a game changer for , being safer and having a wider scope than scuba divers.

"Before this, I feel that my view of marine animals was quite biased, we would observe penguins waddling along and seals sleeping on the ice and whales on the surface, but they spend most of their lives in the water and this is the important stuff to see.

"We got confirmation of the overlap between penguins and Type-C killer whales, the ROV captured unconcerned penguins freely entering and exiting the water in the presence of theses whales, and being ignored by them" she says.

The Boxfish ROV carried out 15 dives, gathered 21 hours of footage and reached depths of 210 metres this season.

Boxfish Co-Founder Ben King travelled to Antarctica to drive the device and see how it would perform in the extreme cold.

"This season went exceptionally well and there is scope for us to take it further in years to come. Alongside surveying we did some environmental monitoring around the near Scott Base and could go to many more sites," he says.

Antarctica New Zealand Chief Science Advisor Dr. Fiona Shanhun says the footage showcases the underwater Antarctic world which is rarely seen.

"The possibility of using this technology to support future research projects is exciting," she says.

The Boxfish ROV carried out 15 dives, gathered 21 hours of footage and reached depths of 210 metres this season. Credit: University of Canterbury

Dr. Eisert's research is supported by Antarctica New Zealand and a Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship.

Ross Sea region Marine Protected Area

The Ross Sea region is one of the most pristine marine environments in the world and now hosts the largest Marine Protected Area. In December 2017, the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area was formed, covering 1.55 million square kilometres of which 1.12 million is a no fishing zone.

At different times of the year the region is home to more than 30% of the world's Adélie penguins, around quarter of all emperor , around half the Ross Sea killer whales and rare and vulnerable benthic species like sponges that can live for 500 years.

It is also a and habitat for Antarctic toothfish. The Ross Sea MPA requires active research and monitoring to ensure it provides effective protection for its unique ecosystem.

Explore further: Researcher captures striking Antarctic video of minke whale

Related Stories

Japan's whale kill 'frustrating' – marine researcher

September 6, 2018

As Japan comes under fire from international conservation groups alleging more than 50 minke whales were killed inside Antarctic's Ross Sea Marine Protected Area, New Zealand scientists say important research on whale populations ...

Drive for giant new marine sanctuary in Antarctica

October 16, 2017

Australia and France kick off a fresh push Monday to create a vast marine sanctuary in pristine East Antarctica, hoping to build on the success of landmark deal secured last year at a key annual conservation summit.

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

Paleontologists report world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex

March 22, 2019

University of Alberta paleontologists have just reported the world's biggest Tyrannosaurus rex and the largest dinosaur skeleton ever found in Canada. The 13-metre-long T. rex, nicknamed "Scotty," lived in prehistoric Saskatchewan ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.