Minister commends Antarctic documentary
9 June 2009
The new television documentary Expedition Antarctica gives the world an armchair view of New Zealand’s largest ever Antarctic marine research programme, says Minister of Fisheries Phil Heatley.
Mr Heatley spoke at a special Wellington preview of the documentary being held for scientists and others involved in the project.
The documentary covers the 51-day Ross Sea voyage of New Zealand’s deepwater research vessel Tangaroa in February and March 2008.
The voyage was New Zealand’s contribution to a major International Polar Year project to complete a census of Antarctic marine life around the continent.
The Ministry of Fisheries put professional film maker Max Quinn of Natural History New Zealand on board Tangaroa to create a film that would make the science more accessible to the public.
During the voyage, more than 31,000 specimens were collected. Fish experts on board recorded 88 fish species, of which eight are new to science, and many of which have special adaptations to deal with the extreme polar and deep-sea environments they live in.
Samples included giant-sized animals; starfish as big as a serving dish, large sea-spiders, jellyfish with tentacles up to four metres long, and hydroids (relatives of corals) three to four times larger than specimens previously seen in the Ross Sea. A whole new family of deep sea octopuses was also discovered.
To obtain a view of how different parts of the ecosystem interrelate, scientists took samples from the sea-surface, the water column and the sea-bed. These included shallow-shelf environments (200 to 400 metres), continental slopes, seamounts and abyssal depths (very deep plains) down to about 3,500 metres.
“New Zealand’s expertise and capability in this kind of research is something to be proud of,” Mr Heatley said.
“The wealth of data gathered during the voyage will assist decision-making on environmental issues and Southern Ocean ecosystems. The results will also support New Zealand’s commitment to ensuring the sustainable management of the Ross Sea region, including the Antarctic toothfish fishery.”
Tangaroa’s voyage to the Ross Sea was a collaboration between Land Information New Zealand, MFish, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Antarctica New Zealand, Te Papa, New Zealand universities, and both the Italian and United States Antarctic programmes.
Expedition Antarctica is due to screen on Sky Television’s National Geographic Channel later this year.