Iceberg A57a & False Bay

Feb 08, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer

What an amazing expedition day in Antarctica! We left the Drake Passage behind and arrived at our first destination in the morning: the famous tabular iceberg A57a. This iceberg calved off an ice shelf in the Weddell Sea in 2008 and has since then traveled about 1,100 nautical miles to its current location. The visible part is about 40 meters above the water.

Free-drifting icebergs have been described in previous studies as hot spots of biological enrichment, with an abundance of chlorophyll and krill (Smith Jr. et al. 2007). As a result, we were able to observe animals close to the iceberg that feed on krill: humpback whales, gentoo penguins, and Antarctic fur seals. We also saw two small icebergs right next to A57a and speculated that those must have calved off in the past 11 days since we’d last seen it.

After those fantastic sightings, we headed to False Bay and went for our first Zodiac cruise of the expedition: beautiful glaciers surrounded the bay, which was full of brash ice, growlers, and bergy bits! We were very excited when we spotted our first leopard seals, resting on the ice—what a great first expedition day!

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About the Author

Hannah Kriesell


Having a great interest in science and love for nature, Hannah started travelling at an early age and engaged in work supporting local science projects and nature conservation efforts, such as being a ranger in South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park, a volunteer in a wildlife rescue station in Ecuador, and monitoring the desert elephant population in Namibia. Her experiences during those trips led her to do a bachelor’s degree in biology in Germany and a master’s degree in international nature conservation in New Zealand. She studied insect species in Malaysia and New Zealand, whales and dolphins in Namibia and Australia, and endangered birds in Tahiti. Driven by her curiosity and her desire to explore, she did her Ph.D. on king penguins. Spending a total of 8 months amongst thousands of king penguins on Possession Island, Crozet Archipelago, she studied the mate choice behavior and communication in this fascinating seabird while also learning about the other 26 bird species inhabiting this beautiful and remote island. Together with renowned experts, she published an assessment of the biodiversity conservation efforts in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean and actions that can be taken to preserve those pristine environments.

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