The Southern Ocean

The Southern Ocean

Welcome to my Southern Ocean site.

2001 saw the launch of a new sister site to 'The Southern Ocean' which I hope many of you will find both easy to use and informative. Please visit the site at GreenHouse Gas and have a look around.


If you're interested in Climate Change, find out about my new books:

Climate Change Begins at Home (for adults)


Your Planet Needs You! (for kids)


Lastly, I'd like to recommend - nothing to do with the Southern Ocean, but full of beautiful things nonetheless, all made by my even more beautiful wife.

Dave Reay


This site contains photos of the harshest sea on Earth, The Southern Ocean. Here you can see pictures of its mountainous seas, rugged islands, and the penguins, seals and many other animals which live in this severe habitat.

This site also provides information on Southern Ocean natural history and explores some of the threats to this unique environment, together with the steps being taken to protect the Antarctic region.

Fur seal pup Gentoo penguin chick Growler ice Giant starfish

Climate and Southern Ocean Science News

To follow breaking climate and Southern Ocean science news stories follow me on Twitter:

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News Archive

MSc in Carbon Management, University of Edinburgh

The Southern Ocean plays a key role in absorbing some of the carbon dioxide released due to human activities, yet it has recently been suggested that its strength as a carbon sink may be decreasing (see this BBC article). At the University of Edinburgh we have introduced a new MSc in Carbon Management to examine this and other changes in the global carbon balance and the ways we might better manage carbon to avoid dangerous climate change.


1st December 2003 - Ice Cold Eclipse

Antarctica has recently played host to a total eclipse of the Sun. Some keen eclipse watchers paid large sums to get the chance to see the two minute eclipse, though for scientists working on the continent it was a free and awe-inspiring treat. More at BBC online.

28th July 2003 - With Greatest Sympathy

A scientist working at the British Antarctic Survey's Rothera Station on the Antarctic Peninsula tragically died last week as a result of an attack by a leopard seal during a routine snorkelling mission. Kirsty Margot Brown, 28, was an experienced diver working for BAS. More at BAS.

28th July 2003 - Bigger Bullies (Source: Nature online 7/2003)

Global warming may threaten marine life in the Southern Ocean by allowing the invasion of large predators which until now have been excluded from the waters by their near-freezing temperature. Much of the marine fauna in water surrounding Antartica is not adapted to cope with the faster predators, like sharks, found in warmer waters. Read more at Nature Online.

13th April 2003 - The Kraken Awakes (Source: BBC online 4/2003)

A huge squid has been caught in Antarctic waters, the first specimen of the so called 'Colossal' Squid retrieved almost completely intact from surface waters. Read more at BBC Online.

6th April 2003 - Tell-tale Bubbles (Source: Nature online 3/2003)

Bubbles of the noble gas Argon trapped in the ancient ice layers of Antarctica have revealed that, in past millenia, levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in our atmosphere increased in response to a rise in global temperatures, rather than the other way around. Read more at Nature Online.

2nd March 2003 - Mobile Canteen (Source: New Scientist 3/2003)

Male King penguins are apparently able to store undigested food in their stomachs for up to three weeks, so as to ensure a continual supply of food for their chicks in the case of bad weather delaying the return of the female. Read more at New Scientist Online.

16th February 2003 - Penguin Poo Problem (Source: BBC Online 2/2003)

The first ever dwelling to be built on the Antarctic continent, a hut built by Norwegian explorer Carsten Borchgrevink in 1899, is under threat from penguin poo. Apparently the penguins are are using the sides of the hut as a mass latrine and this is damaging the outer walls of the building. Read more at BBC Online.

26th January 2003 - Polar Highway (Source: New Scientist 1/2003)

Engineers from the US have begun working on a polar highway designed to connect the large US base at McMurdo Sound with the base at the South Pole. The road is expected to be completed in around two years time. Read more at New Scientist Online.

17th December 2002 - More Penguin Problems (Source: BBC Online 11/2002)

Thousands of dead penguins are being washed up on Falkland Island shores. It is feared that the birds may have suffered from the toxins produced by the algal blooms, commonly known as 'Red Tides'. Read more at BBC Online.

17th November 2002 - Penguin Problems (Source: BBC Online 11/2002)

Emperor penguins, the forebears of whom were visited by members of Robert Scott's South Pole expedition, face a real danger of extinction as a result of giant icebergs. The two bergs, known as B-15 and C19 have apparently broken up the shore where the penguins normally breed. Read more at BBC Online.

13th October 2002 - World's Largest Marine Reserve (Source: New Scientist Online 10/2002)

Australia has declared a huge area of remote sub-Antarctic waters a marine reserve. The reserve, covering 6.5 million hectares should help to protect a range of Southern Ocean species, inlcuding the southern elephant seal. Read more at New Scientist Online.

29th September 2002 - Penguin Napping (Source: Nature 09/2002)

Gerard Dewasmes, a French ecologist, has reported on the afternoon napping habit of penguins. It seems that King Penguins on the Crozet Archipelago, 1000 km north of Antarctica, spend their afternoons either sleeping off their dinner or just having a rest. Read more at Nature Online.

18th September 2002 - Ozone Optimism (Source: Ananova 09/2002)

Researchers have reported that the ozone 'hole' above Antarctica is showing signs of recovery. Levels of ozone destroying CFCs have begun to fall in the area for the first time 20 years. There is now hope that sustained recovery of the ozone layer over Antarctic will take place. Find out more at Ananova.

10th September 2002 - Heat Shock (Source: BBC Online 09/2002)

Lloyd Peck and colleagues, from the British Antarctic Survey, have reported that many Southern Ocean invertebrate species may become extinct if warming predictions for the region are correct. Read the full news article at BBC online.

24th August 2002 - Wired Pole (Source: Ananova 08/2002)

High-speed internet access may soon be possible at the South pole, with the US government seeking bids from industry to supply fibre-optic cable Internet links to its South Pole base. Find out more at Ananova.

16th July 2002 - Anthrax in Antarctica (Source: Ananova 07/2002)

Anthrax spores have been discovered in a hut used by British Polar explorer Robert Scott. Apparently the spores do not pose a health risk, but the hut has been closed for a short time. The hut has seen thousands of visitors over the years without any known cases of anthrax occurring. Find out more at Ananova.

14th July 2002 - Ice Trash (Source: Ananova 07/2002)

Clive Clasby, an environmental protection officer, has put his video diaries of his work as an Antarctic rubbish collector online. Clive has been helping to clear waste at bases on King George Island. Already over 100 tonnes of scrap metal and the like have been successfully removed. Find out more at Ananova.

3rd July 2002 - Ice Rescue Success (Source: Ananova 07/2002)

89 of the scientists and crew of the ice-locked Magdalena Olendorff have been successfully rescued by the South African ship Agulhas. A further 18 crew have remained aboard to help free the ship from the ice when an ice-breaker, currently on its way, reaches them. Find out more at Ananova.

20th June 2002 - Ice Rescue (Source: Ananova 06/2002)

Food rationing has been instigated on the trapped ship, the Magdalena Olendorff, in Antarctica's Muskegbukta Bay. Rescue ships are on their way, but those on board the trapped ship are playing things safe in case freeing them takes longer than expected. Find out more at Ananova.

17th June 2002 - Ice Rescue (Source: Ananova 06/2002)

107 people are trapped aboard the Magdalena Olendorff, the ship was surrounded by drifting ice in Muskegbukta Bay making progress impossible. A rescue mission has been launched, with South African and Argentine ship planning to rendevouz and break a path through the ice to the trapped ship, its 79 Russian scientists and 28 crew. Find out more at Ananova.

24th May 2002 - Break up continues (Source: Ananova 05/2002)

Yet another berg has broken away from Antarctica. This time, a berg measuring about 34 miles long and 7 miles wide has broken away from the Lazarev ice shelf in the Weddell sea. For more information and related stories visit Ananova.

12th May 2002 - More Break Up (Source: Ananova 05/2002)

Another huge section of ice has broken away from the Ross Ice Shelf. The new berg is said to be long enough to stretch across the English Channel and continues a worrying trend of ice break up in the area. Whether global warming is directly responsible remains open to debate, but the damaging impact such break ups have on the local ecosystem is undeniable. See a satellite image of the new break up at Ananova.

10th May 2002 - Hot and Cold Answer (Source: Ananova 05/2002)

A likely answer for the apparent paradox of rapid warming on Antartica's peninsula and cooling in other areas has been found. It seems that Antartica's ozone hole has led to changing wind patterns, with the new winds causing both cooling and warming at ground level depending on which part of Antarctica you are in. The finding complicates the issue of whether global warming is indeed responsible for any of the observed warming in Antarctica in recent years. Read more at Ananova.

30th April 2002 - Shadow of the Berg (Source: New Scientist 04/2002)

Huge icebergs, which resulted from the recent break up of the Larsen B ice shelf (below), are affecting the ecosystem of Antartica's Ross Sea. The huge amounts of surface ice are dramatically reducing phytoplankton growth by reducing water circulation and light levels. Phytoplankton are key to the whole Southern Ocean food chain, with large reductions in their numbers having a cascade effect on the numbers of phytoplankton grazers, larger crustaceans (krill) and eventually top predators like seals and penguins. Read more at New Scientist.

21st April 2002 - Signs from Signy (Source: BBC News Online 01/2002)

A team from the British Antarctic Survey, including my old supervisor Cynan Ellis-Evans (If you read this, hello Cynan), have reported dramatic effects of temperature rise on the ecology of the lakes on Signy Island, Antarctica. Signy Island lies at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, an area which has seen rapid warming in recent decades. This warming has been most noticeable in Signy's lakes where higher temperatures and increased nutrient inputs have led to an increase in algal growth and a shift in lake ecology. Read more at BBC Online .

21st March 2002 - Larsen B no more (Source: New Scientist 03/2002)

The gigantic Larsen B ice shelf has broken away from the Antarctic peninsula and has disintergrated into thousands of icebergs. It is estimated that around 500 million billion tonnes of ice broke away, all inside the space of a month. Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey had predicted the collapse, but the sheer speed of its disintegration has been incredible. The loss of Larsen B, the largest in a series of such losses in the last decade or so, should serve as a further warning to world governments that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced. Read more at New Scientist.

12th March 2002 - Cold tap (Source: BBC News Online 02/2002)

UK scientists, from the University of East Anglia, have been studying the flow of water around the Scotia Sea as part of a project designed to help determine the role it plays in ocean circulation. They found that cold water from the bottom is churned up to the surface as it circulates, helping to cool the World's oceans. The full research article appears in the journal Nature, but an overview can be found at BBC News Online.

26th February 2002 - Eye in the Sky (Source: Nature news 02/2002)

Satellites have now made it possible to travel across Antarctica much more safely. The satellites are able to pick up crevasses which on the ground might remain unseen until disaster struck. The danger of such accidents has, until now, meant supplies to the South Pole have had to be flown in. With this new mapping tool reliable transport of supplies and people over the surface may become possible. Read more at Nature Online.

22nd February 2002 - Southern Ocean Warming (Source: Science Magazine 02/2002)

Data gathered since the 1950s shows an increase in mid-depth Southern Ocean water temperatures. Sarah Gille from the Scripps Institute in the US reports that between the 1950s and 1980s Southern Ocean waters within the Antarctic Circumpolar Current warmed by around 0.17 degrees centigrade. The Southern Ocean plays a critical role in global climate and such changes are therefore worrying to say the least.

14th January 2002 - Antarctica getting colder?(Source: New Scientist 01/2002)

A US group has suggested that, contrary to current climate models, the Antarctic is cooling down rather than warming up. The group have studied 35 years of climate data, but their findings are disputed by other climate researchers. The US group suggest that the recent cooling they have observed is having a great impact on life in the Dry Valleys area of Antartica. Read more at New Scientist.

12th January 2002 - probing the depths (Source: Nature News 12/2001)

Plans have been drafted for the first exploration of the water in Antarctica's subglacial lakes. The lakes lie under ice around 4km deep and may harbour forms of life never previously encountered. A big fear is that the techniques used to study this unknown environment may contaminate the lakes with microorganims from outside. Currently, much thought is being put into how this can be avoided and further information is due to be released this Summer.

26th September 2001 - Life and Research in Antarctica (Source: BBC World Service 6/2001)

During the Summer the BBC World Service opened its airwaves to the friends and families of those who work in Antarctica. You can read about the programme and hear the full broadcast online (including some Tom Jones!) by following this link: Cold Comfort.

10th May 2001 - Overheating Penguins (Source: Guardian Newspaper, UK 5/2001)

The catalogue of damage which global warming may cause to widlife and the environment in Antartica now includes overheated penguins. It seems that a temperature rise of only a few degrees can greatly damage the Emperor penguin population. With the poles likely to be hit by the largest increases in temperature as a result of global warming, entire species may face extinction. To read more about these findings visit The Guardian Archive.

25th March 2001 - Richard Hollingham in Antarctica (Source: BBC Radio 4 1/2001)

Richard Hollingham reports on his travels in Antarctica - updated every day his diary allows you to join him in his polar exploits from the comfort of your armchair. You can not only read Richard's reports, but can also see some great pictures and hear commentary on topics ranging from extarterrestrial life to tent living in Antarctica. Visit this great diary at Reporter's Notebook.

22nd February 2001 - Inner Space (Source: New Scientist Magazine 2/2001)

The possibility of as yet unknown higher life forms existing in the depths of Lake Vostok, Antarctica became stronger recently with the discovery of seismic activity near the lake. Lake Vostok is about 4km below the frozen surface of Antarctica and may support life forms never previously recorded. The existence of bacteria and algae has previously been shown by a team under the leadership of John Priscu, however many scientists felt that there would be insufficient energy in such a deep lake to sustain higher life forms. The discovery of seismic activity opens up the possibility that organisms similar to those found around deep sea hydrothermal vents may exist. For more information on this article visit New Scientist.

3rd February 2001 - Penguins Steady on their Feet (Source: BBC Radio 1/2001)

Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey, together with assitance from the British Armed forces, have finally put to rest the urban myth that when aircraft fly over Penguin colonies all their inhabitants become so fixated on watching the plane pass over that they fall over like a row of dominoes. In reality it seems that the Penguins simply go quiet until the plane has passed out of sight.

21st January 2001 - Ice Thawing Even Faster (Source: New Scientist News 1/2001)

Researchers from the University of Boulder, Colorado have shown that the thawing and break up of the Antarctic ice shelves may be happening more rapidly than previously thought. The study modelled the effect of meltwater ponds, within ice shelves, on their rate of break up and found an increased threat of ice shelf break up where these meltwater ponds occurred. For more information on this article visit New Scientist.

10th January 2001 - Southern Ocean Fishing Moratorium Needed (Source: Environment News Service 11/2000)

The increasing danger to toothfish stocks, and to Albatross populations, from illegal long line fishing in the Southern Ocean continues to be a high conservation priority. Current fisheries protection policy does not appear to be at all effective in protecting toothfish and bird poulations, including already endangered albatross species, from the activities of 'pirate fishing' in the Southern Ocean. Indeed, it is thought that such unregulated fishing may account for two or three times the toothfish catch that is currently allowed as a maximum quota.

9th January 2001 - Waddle This Way (Source: Guardian Unlimited 12/2000)

A study into the way penguins get around on land has established why they waddle. Apparently the waddle inducing combination of short legs and very big feet, common to all penguins on land, is a great way to conserve energy in the cold of Antarctica. For more information on this story visit The Guardian Archive

Hope you enjoy the site

Dave Reay

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