In brief: A cold case for our farthest south
In February, philanthropist Gareth Morgan set sail with a crew of scientists, educators, business leaders, campaigners and commentators, bound for the subantarctic and beyond into Antarctica. Morgan mounted the voyage, dubbed Our Far South, to increase understanding of the issues facing the polar latitudes and the wildlife that calls them home.
"The more aware we are of the issues that face Antarctica," says Morgan, "the more likely our future governments are to make decisions that reflect an ongoing commitment to this region."
Aboard Spirit of Enderby, the crew examined impacts on climate change, biodiversity, overfishing, tourism, territorial aspirations and mineral exploration.
NIWA General Manager of Research, Dr Rob Murdoch, says the voyage was a unique opportunity to raise public awareness about the Southern Ocean and Antarctica, as well as New Zealand scientific research conducted there.
"As a major New Zealand and international provider of Antarctic and Southern Ocean scientific research, NIWA's delighted to have been involved in this voyage. NIWA is playing a key role in helping New Zealand and the world learn more about the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic – knowledge that will help everyone respond to the significant challenges this unique environment faces, such as climate change, a potential decline in biodiversity, the use of the area's natural resources, and the future influence this region will have on New Zealand."
During the voyage, Murdoch presented findings from NIWA's Antarctic work, such as the Southern Ocean's critical role in regulating the Earth's climate, ocean acidification and trophic webs. Videos from his talks are posted on the Our Far South section of our website, where you can also read his blog posts. The voyage was open to all New Zealanders on the condition they make some contribution to the project's goal, says Morgan. "We need the awareness of New Zealanders lifted, and the best way is viral communication. The ship's complement ended up as I'd hoped: a wide cross section of New Zealanders."
Spirit of Enderby visited the subantarctic Snares, Auckland and Macquarie island groups before rounding Cape Adare and entering the Ross Sea, and on the return leg, it called into Campbell Island.
"The trip was spectacular," says Murdoch. "It really did emphasise the uniqueness of the subantarctic islands. The wildlife is spectacular – there's no other way to describe it. It's just awe-inspiring.
"The voyage highlighted the central importance of the Southern Ocean in driving the global and NZ climate. The climate will continue to change, and if we're to adapt, we need to have a feel for how it will change."