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NIWA deepwater research vessel Tangaroa docks in Wellington today to complete a successful six-week New Zealand-Australia Antarctic Ecosystems voyage.“It is good to be home safe and sound” said Voyage Leader Dr Richard O’Driscoll, “Antarctica is a tough environment and we’ve had to work around some difficult ice conditions during the voyage.” Beyond the imperative of returning safely, Dr O’Driscoll said that the 21 scientists and 19 crew onboard Tangaroa had accomplished all five science objectives they set out to achieve. “We’ve been able to visit some of the ocean’s top predators – humpback whales, blue whales, killer whales and Antarctic toothfish – on their own patch, and we’ve thoroughly surveyed the ecosystems of Antarctica that support them. We’ve also gathered valuable oceanographic and atmospheric data to help monitor the Southern Ocean climate.” The 42-day voyage achieved all five scientific objectives:
- To determine factors influencing the abundance and distribution of humpback whales around the Balleny Islands
- To locate and study blue whale foraging ‘hotspots’ in the northern Ross Sea
- To survey demersal (bottom-dwelling) fish species on the Ross Sea slope, particularly grenadiers and icefish, to better understand the ecological effects of commercial toothfish fishing in the region
- To deploy a moored echosounder in Terra Nova Bay to study Antarctic silverfish spawning during winter
- To collect oceanographic and atmospheric data from the Southern Ocean.