Queensland

Queensland scientist captures breathtaking images of Antarctica expedition

A Queensland scientist has shared photos from his expedition in the Antarctic, capturing life in one of the world's most dangerous and desolate environments.

The risks involved in working in the Antarctic were made clear following the death of Canadian pilot David Wood earlier this week, however many scientists still risk their lives to better understand a world we still know very little about.

A penguin colony on Signy Island.
A penguin colony on Signy Island. Photo: Dr Paul Dennis

University of Queensland's Dr Paul Dennis, of the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, who has been on two Antarctic expeditions, said there were just some things people working in the Antarctic couldn't control.

"All of the surveys, they do everything they can to minimise risk," Dr Dennis said.

The desolate landscape of Antarctica.
The desolate landscape of Antarctica. Photo: Dr Paul Dennis

"Very often people think about heroic explorer tales, but because it is such a dangerous environment, your attitude to how you approach things is always safety first."

Dr Dennis travelled to Antarctica several years ago to conduct his first postdoctoral research with the British Antarctic Survey to understand the importance of microorganisms in one of the most rapidly changing ecosystems in the world.

Organisms taken from southern and northern parts of the Antarctic were examined to determine whether temperature had an influence on the number and of species present and their role in ecosystems.

"What we found out of all of these variables we measured, temperature had the strongest influence on the number of species present and the composition on the community," Dr Dennis said.

Elephant seals fighting.
Elephant seals fighting. Photo: Dr Paul Dennis

"This implied that the organisms have already been responding to change and they will continue to respond to change into the future."

Dr Dennis said he had to go through rigorous training before embarking on the expeditions.

Dr Paul Dennis, complete with facial frost.
Dr Paul Dennis, complete with facial frost. Photo: Dr Paul Dennis

"We went to England and were doing lots of rock-climbing, crevasse rescue, we learnt how to travel along glaciers," he said.

Dr Dennis said the training was vital to help him get through the extremely cold conditions, that plummeted to minus 40 degrees, and rugged terrain.

An Adelie penguin on Signy Island.
An Adelie penguin on Signy Island. Photo: Dr Paul Dennis

"There was one afternoon where we were walking back each with about 70 kilograms of soil and every single time that we stepped forward, our feet would just go through pancake ice," he said.

"The dedication of the people I was working with was just incredible. We all just got stuck in and made it happen."

Dr Dennis also managed to make the most of his downtime while working in the extreme conditions.

"We did a lot of photography. After the first trip I must have come back with 7000 photos. We spent a lot of time with animals and going for walks," he said.

Dr Dennis said most people he spoke to asked him if he ever got depressed being in an environment that was so desolate.

"There is no way you can be depressed - the place is so beautiful, and you are doing such amazing things, you feel an immense connection with the environment there you are trying to protect," he said.

"It was just like a massive privilege every day."

Stay informed. Like Brisbane Times on Facebook

1 comment