'Special breed' of SA researchers monitor climate change on sub-Antarctic islands

2016-10-06 15:19
Sazi Junior, 5, waits patiently for his dad, who was part of the relief team, to disembark from the SA Agulhas II. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Sazi Junior, 5, waits patiently for his dad, who was part of the relief team, to disembark from the SA Agulhas II. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cape Town - Over 2 000km from the sunny shores of South Africa, local researchers are patiently recording and bearing witness to what are suspected to be the effects of climate change.

South African teams are deployed to Gough Island and Marion Island for more than a year at a time. These two sub-Antarctic islands, south-west and south-east of Africa, are cold, wet and remote.

They house a number of protected seabirds and mammals, as well as bases for weather and research data collection.

Environmental Affairs Deputy DG of oceans and coasts, Dr Monde Mayekiso, said it took a special breed of person to live there.

"I really commend people who go there and stay for 14 months. They are curious and adventurous," he told News24 after the latest expedition team returned to Cape Town from Gough Island on Thursday morning.

They had collected a number of insights over the years.

At Marion Island, there appeared to be a change in the water temperature and the way animals conducted themselves.

"Seabirds at Marion are foraging further and further than before," he said, with a furrow in his brow.

"Their body condition is not as good as it was in the past and even their reproductive success has gone down."

They were beginning to see the impact of what they thought might be the impacts of environmental change.

Mayekiso noted that they had to monitor these environments for many years to pick up trends.

On Thursday morning, the SA Agulhas II brought home the 61st expedition team to spend time in isolation on Gough. 

They were congratulated for their contributions.

'It’s an amazing experience'

A relief voyage, carrying food, supplies and people, takes five days to travel the 2 700km journey from Cape Town.

The relief team spent six weeks on the island. Part of their job was to maintain the base. 

Sazi Gugushe, from public works, was part of this team and was responsible for logistics. 

His wife Charlotte, also in the public works department, waited patiently for him to disembark.

"He’s been doing these trips for more than eight years," she said, as their young children milled around her legs.

"It’s an amazing experience. I normally tell the kids he is going to do maintenance. They watch him and know how to fix things in the house."

Lilitha, 8, Sazi Junior, 5, and Akeelah, 3, buzzed about impatiently and fiddled with their warm jackets.

Charlotte smiled at them and said: "We missed him so much."

Read more on:    science

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.