But how can the coldest continent on Earth have such an abundance of wildlife? One answer is the huge supply of food in the rich waters surrounding Antarctica. Upwellings of deep ocean water bring high levels of nutrients to the surface layers. Add to that, up to 24 hours of daylight during the summer and you’ll get continuous photosynthesis, perfect for microscopic phytoplankton to rapidly reproduce and grow.
Shrimp-like krill can grow up to 6cm long. They are one of the key species in the Antarctic ecosystem thanks to their large numbers.
Krill are an essential part of the menu for penguins, seals, birds, fish, squids and whales. A blue whale can consume up to 4 tonnes of krill per day. Antarctic phytoplankton and krill support a large population of large animals.
The Southern Ocean is one of the largest carbon sinks in the world and these tiny krill have a huge influence on atmospheric carbon levels and the resulting global climate.
When the glaciers of Antarctica melt, the freshwater held in the ice will enter the sea, making it less salty. This will alter the living conditions for all life in the Southern Ocean, beginning with phytoplankton, going all the way up to the whales.
On our Antarctic expeditions you’ll be able to study this unique ecosystem first-hand and contribute to science at the same time by collecting data.
This information is key to better understanding this vital environment and being able to protect it.