28 November 2010 - 5 February 2011

In the winter of 2010-2011 I have participated on an Antarctic expedition from the German institute Forschungs- und Technologiezentrum Westküste (FTZ). On board the icebreaker Polarstern (AWI) research has be done into the distribution, density and abundance of whales and dolphins in the Southern Ocean.

Knowledge on distribution, density and abundance of cetaceans in the Southern Ocean is rather limited. Especially in pack-ice regions little research has been conducted as only few vessels can penetrate into the ice. By means of a dedicated cetacean sighting survey following standard line-transect distance sampling methodology, the project aims to contribute to solid base line data on cetacean occurrence and abundance, needed by decision makers for management and protection. In addition behavioural observations shall investigate response behaviour of cetaceans towards vessels in Antarctic waters.

Shipboard and aerial cetacean sighting surveys has be conducted whenever sighting and weather conditions permit. For the shipboard survey the observation platform has been the crow’s nest and the survey has been along the cruise track of RV Polarstern. The aerial surveys has been conducted by helicopter in order to survey areas away from the ship. In addition to the distance sampling survey some tracking from the crow’s nest will be conducted, i.e. following detected (groups of) animals with powerful binoculars („Big Eyes“), noting down their track as long as possible. This is a means to evaluate cetacean behaviour, for example in response to the ship.

The data will be used for population assessment of cetaceans in Antarctic waters. Along with distributional analyses of species occurrence, distance sampling evaluation will contribute to abundance estimation of species, e.g. the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonarensis), which is still being hunted. The tracking data will not only be used for behavioural studies, but also for a comparison with infrared cetacean detection data collected by the MAPS project during the expedition.

The research team consists of: Linn Sophia Lehnert, Hans Verdaat, Denise Risch, Carsten Rocholl.

The upcoming expedition continues the work that was done on an expedition in the winter of 2008/2009 where the IMARES researchers Meike Scheidat and Hans Verdaat participated.

Involved institutes


Stations to be (re)supplied during this expedition


Antarctica 2008 - Light-mantled Albatross (Phoebetria palpebrata)

Antarctica 2008

Antarctica 2008 - Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri)

Southern Ocean 2008 - Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)