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United kingdom. The Royal Navy makes a rare visit to the remote South Atlantic island chain to study penguins (A. Martinengo)

HMS Protector, a research vessel HMS Protector off the penguin colony on Saunders Island

search ship Protector of the Royal Navy HMS He makes a rare visit to the remote South Sandwich Islands in the South Atlantic to study penguin populations and the effects of climate change.

The island chain is a British overseas territory located more than 1,300 miles east of the Falkland Islands and is home to about three million flightless birds. The Royal Navy contacts there only once every ten years.

By landing on uninhabited islands to study birds, scientists hope to better understand the impact of climate change and other environmental factors on colonies.

Experts from Great Britain and the United States, most notably scientists from Oxford University’s Department of Zoology and the Washington, D.C.-based scientific and educational organization, who have spent nearly three decades building a comprehensive picture of Antarctic penguin populations, work with the icebreaker to conduct research . The Oceanites maintain a database of penguins across the continent.

Doctor. Mark Belcher, Director of Fisheries and Environment, Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

“The opportunity to visit any of the South Sandwich Islands to research penguins – or any other species – is incredibly limited,” . said Doctor. Marc Belcher, Director of Fisheries and Environment, Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

“Any additional data that can be collected opportunistically is very valuable in determining population size trends for the various species that live there.”

The scientists relied on a combination of live counting, GPS mapping, and interpretation of high-resolution commercial satellite imagery to calculate colony size. Live footage and images captured by HMS Protector and scientists using drones over Saunders, South Thule and the Cook Islands will be crucial to making more accurate assessments of population size.

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Prior to visiting the ship, the islands were thought to be home to nearly half of the world’s penguins (1.3 million breeding pairs), as well as about 95,000 pairs of macaroni penguins and several thousand breeding pairs of gentoo penguins.

Population numbers have fluctuated in recent decades, but the cause of the fluctuations is uncertain. At first it was believed that the number of whales and fur seals recovering after a ban on whaling and poaching was to blame, eating krill in the ocean on which many penguins depend. But more recent scientific thinking has turned to climate change, melting sea ice and rising temperatures, as well as local volcanic eruptions, which are particularly affecting the dwindling chinstrap population.

Dr Tom Hart from the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford

“The more data we get on these islands, the more we can distinguish between the effects of climate change and volcanic eruptions,” explain the Tom Hart’s daughter From the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford.

“The entire archipelago is a marine protected area, so it represents an important contrast for understanding the threats to wildlife elsewhere in the Southern Ocean.”

Ron Naveen, President and Founder of Oceanites

Ron Naveen, president and founder of Oceanites, said that, “…The protector was provided with a number of major penguin breeding sites in Antarctica sites to allow his drones to fly and take photographs.” continued: “Once received, the images will be analyzed to calculate the nest, which will add significantly to our ongoing database of Antarctic penguin populations.”

Usually in Plymouth, Protor and his crew of 70 sailors and Royal Marines undertake a five-year mission to inspect the polar oceans and end illegal fishing.

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“We are exploring some of the most remote and wildest islands in the world. Their amazing natural beauty that you see through your eyes is hard to fathom”, . said Tennity Mike WeaverVice President of Logistics at The Protector.

In addition to studying penguins, Protector collects scientific data on Antarctic waters and updates charts used by sailors or, in the case of some parts of the South Sandwich Islands, mapping the area for the first time. The ship will remain in the Antarctic region until April.


Angelo Martinengo
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