Antarctica: Thurs 6.30 Jan 19th

January’s science night is brought to us by marine scientist Matt McArthur. RSVP a must 9662 2062.

Diving with the Kiwis among the Penguins

I’d harboured amitions to work in Antarctica for as long as I’d understood that a frozen continent lay to our south. In 2004, through a combination of dumb luck and determination, I finally found myself with the skills and the contacts necessary to be granted a place in a University of Otago research programme examining the effects of UV light on marine invertebrate larvae under the sea-ice around Ross Island. Flown to McMurdo Sound by the USAF, housed in the Antartica New Zealand run Scott Base, and equipped with all the mod cons a cold water dive team could wish for, we had a pretty rosy time of it compared to the pioneering divers of the area in spite of our dive site being just shy of the furthest south ever used.

Photo: Mat McArthur ©
Photo: Mat McArthur ©

Machinery straight out of Thunderbirds, gin clear water with visibility in the hundreds of metres, Weddell seals visiting the dive hut, skuas circling to see if my afternoon nap was terminal, penguins nicking stones from one anothers’ nests our summer visits to the ice fulfilled my ambitions without requiring that I endure any of the sea-sickness, man-hauling or scurvy so prevalent in the area just a century before.

Photo: Matt McArthur©
Photo: Matt McArthur©

The presentation takes in the history of human activity on Ross Island and its key role in many of the most exciting and most disastrous chapters of human endeavour in the Antarctic, the challenges of diving in – 2 deg C water, the marine life below the sea ice and the evolutionary outcomes of the area’s glacial history, and the methods and findings of the project in which we were engaged.

Bio: Matt McArthur

Matt turned a childhood interest in snorkeling into a way to pay the bills when his desired career in aviation was made impossible by colour vision issues.  Severe seasickness threatened to curtail the new endeavour, but bloody minded resentment of his own body had taken hold by this point and he refused to give in to its demands. His career in marine science has led him to travel and work in many exotic locations, to examine organisms rarely considered and never before seen, and to vomit copiously.
Matt met his wife Tarius, also a marine biologist, over a struggling octopus they were trying to get back into an aquarium.  Their two children are being encouraged to take up plumbing for the job security and the relative riches it offers.

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