By Peter Ryan, onboard scientist, expert in general ornithology, seabird-fishery interactions, evolutionary ecology, marine debris, solid waste management, biology of oceanic islands.

Leg 2, Mertz to Balleny

Today (3 February) we celebrated day 45– the halfway mark for ACE. Over the last few days, the long hours of daylight resulted in a break in daily blogs as we focused on maximising transect time. The transit from Mertz Glacier to the Balleny Islands involved some spectacular cruising through extensive fields of brash ice interspersed by stretches of open water. Interestingly there were quite distinct mammal and bird communities in the different areas of ice and open water encountered (see the digital version of the blog for more details). The following lists all the birds and mammals counted in transect over the last three days since leaving the Mertz polynia early on 1 February:

Short-tailed Shearwater 1106 Snow Petrel 484
Antarctic Petrel 405 Adelie Penguin 179
Arctic Tern 121 Antarctic Fulmar 67
Mottled Petrel 52 Cape (Pintado) Petrel 38
Antarctic Prion 28 Light-mantled Albatross 24
Wilson’s Storm Petrel 22 Emperor Penguin 14
Southern Giant Petrel 17 South Polar Skua 6
White-headed Petrel 7 Black-browed Albatross 1
Crabeater Seal 116 Antarctic Minke Whale 35
Hump-backed Whale 22 Fin Whale 14
Killer Whale 8 Leopard Seal 4

No kelp or litter was seen, and water samples in the Mertz polynia were pretty clean, but we found fibres again en route to the Ballenys.

Male and female Killer Whales; the yellowish saddles are stained by ice-algae


The Snow Petrel is arguably the bird icon of Antarctic sea-ice