Sailing towards discoveries

2018-03-06 06:00
The Antarctic sea ice

The Antarctic sea ice

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A Cape Peninsula University of Technology student from Pinelands excitedly speaks about his sea-ice experiment with the aim to educate the public about the complexity and importance of conserving natural resources.

Michael Hart-Davis was among 80 scientists who travelled to the Antarctic sea ice last year to conduct research on “sea ice growth, understanding complex wave physics in the region, characterising phytoplankton communities, and measuring trace metals in the water column to measure nutrients in the sea ice, as well as in the water column”.

“We also had to record the abundance and distribution of seabirds throughout the cruise and evaluate various meteorological processes acting on seawater. The major goal of the cruise was to study the open ocean condition, as well as the marginal ice zone (MIZ), with the emphasis on studying the variability of the MIZ.”

The scientists also attended seminars where they presented their research, conducted either on the ship or back on land.

Hart-Davis says the trip was a dream come true for him, as it exposed him to so many things he had only read about in books during his four years as a student. He says it taught him the importance of following your heart and doing something you love.

“My message for the youth is just to do what you love. When you work for years studying a topic and then finally get to experience it in all its glory, the work is worth it. I had been studying the currents and the processes we were seeing and studying with our own eyes for over four years and for me, this experience made it all worth it, says Hart-Davis.”

Following his discoveries, he encourages the public to do the best they can to protect the environment. “Reduce your impact so that the future generations can see the amazing organisms and processes that we are fortunate enough to experience.”

Hart-Davis says he was involved in the phytoplankton research team, which focused on looking at characterising the phytoplankton in terms of their community composition, as well as their biomass in the water column along the ship’s track towards the ice and in the MIZ.

He explains that phytoplankton are marine microalgae that contain chlorophyll and require sunlight to survive and grow, and which serve as a food source for many marine organisms such as shrimp and whales.

Hart-Davis says this makes phytoplankton very important in regulating the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

He says he also enjoyed the “rollercoaster” of their trip as they braved the high waves that rocked their SA Agulhas ship, as well as the wonderful hospitality on the ship.


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