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SPRI Review 2000: SPRI Review 2000

SPRI Review 2000

Polar Ecology and Management Group

Dr B. Stonehouse

During November and December 1999 Dr Stonehouse lectured aboard cruise ships in the Peninsula sector of Antarctica. In the second half of November, with Dr John Snyder (University of Denver) and Kathryn Schuster (Phillips University of Marburg), he worked at Henryk Arctowski Station, Admikralty Bay, King George Island, by courtesy of the Department of Antarctic Biology, Polish Academy of Sciences. Ms Schuster began a study of heartbeat in Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae), using a modified version of artificial egg equipment developed by Dr Stonehouse and Professor Robert Schroter (Imperial College, London). The equipment had previously been deployed by Amanda Nimon in her doctoral studies of gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua).

Drs Stonehouse and Snyder continued studies of developments in polar tourism at the station. In early December the party moved to Turret Point, a site of considerable historic and biological interest some 40 km east of Admiralty Bay on King George Island, where the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic has announced plans for establishing a biological research station. The overall objective was to improve the draft topographic map drawn by K.V. Blaiklock and B. Stonehouse in 1997, and to provide information toward a model management plan for the site. Persistent strong winds delayed the start of the operation, shortening the planned period of study by five days and hampering both camping and field observations. The topographic survey was enhanced by the addition of more than 20 GPS stations, and a full inventory was made of breeding penguins, giant petrels, skuas, shags, and other birds, mapping vegetation, and assessing the relative vulnerability of different areas and communities. The work was completed by the early morning of 8 December, when the party was transferred back to Arctowski Station. Schuster continued her observations at the station, later joining other German researchers in an ecological survey of Penguin Island. We are grateful to tour operators Marine Expeditions and Society Expeditions, whose logistic help made these operations possible.

Between 20 January and 2 February 2000, Dr Stonehouse and Lawson Brigham were guest lecturers and observers aboard MV Rotterdam, flagship of the Holland America Line, during the ship's maiden voyage in Antarctic waters. With a crew of 670 and almost 1000 passengers, this was by far the largest cruise liner ever to bring tourists to Antarctica, attracting considerable media attention and apprehension. MV Rotterdam crossed overnight from Cape Horn to Melchior Channel, then spent a day cruising in Gerlache Strait, reaching the southern end of Lemaire Channel. Returning north overnight, she cruised off Hope Bay and Antarctic Sound, heading eastward to the South Orkney Islands en route for Buenos Aires. No landings were attempted. Having enjoyed excellent weather and visibility, passengers voted this by far the most spectacular and popular event in their world cruise. Stonehouse and Brigham's assessment of the voyage, its environmental implications and its possible bearing on future tourist operations, is reported in Polar Record 36 (199): 347-349.

In early July Dr Stonehouse gave the opening address at the Second International Conference on Frozen Ground, presenting a paper on principles of remediation in polluted polar soils (to be published in Polar Record). In August Dr Stonehouse cruised as guest lecturer in MV Caledonian Star (Lindblad Expeditions) off northern Norway and Svalbard. Favourable weather and ice conditions allowed a complete circumnavigation of West Spitsbergen and a landing on Kvitøya. Repeated voyages by ice-strengthened cruise ships in successive summers provide opportunities for gathering information on ice conditions, distributions of birds and mammals, and other environmental data in these remote and seldom-visited areas.

In association with Arthur Credland, director of Hull Town Docks Museum and Heather French, a student of art history, Dr Stonehouse is compiling a database of artists and art of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century whale ships. This quest has so far involved research in local museums in Hull and Whitby, the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and whaling museums in Sandefjord, Tønsberg, and Tromsø (Norway).

Dr Stonehouse's book The last continent: discovering Antarctica, a popular guidebook for visitors to Antarctica, was published in January 2000 (for a review see Polar Record 36 (199): 357-359). Dr Stonehouse is currently completing reports and a book based on his 10-year study of polar tourism. He is also compiling and editing Encyclopaedia of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, a work involving more than 40 contributors, that is scheduled for completion by mid-2001 and for publication by John Wiley and Sons in 2002.