Official Gough 69 Overwintering Team Photo

Official Gough 69 Overwintering Team Photo

(Back L – R) Meshack Mogorosi – Diesel Mechanic (DFFE) and Team Leader; Lucy Dorman –  Field Assistant – Birder (RSPB); Mbulaheni Kelcey Maewashe – Senior Meteorological Technician (SAWS); Fulufhelo Brenda Khobo  – Meteorological Technician (SAWS); Hannah Greetham – Field Assistant – Birder (RSPB); Fulufhelo Singo – Electrical Engineer (DFFE)

(Front L – R) Mndeni Hlatshwayo –  Medical Orderly (DFFE); Mayembe Kapenda – Communications Engineer (DFFE); James Burns – Meteorological Technician (SAWS)

  • DFFE: Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment
  • SAWS: South African Weather Services
  • RSPB: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Photo available on SANAP website and on ALSA archive

Gough Island Expedition 2023: South African Weather Service

Gough Island Expedition 2023: South African Weather Service

More about the South African Weather Service team on the recent Gough Island takeover expedition.
Gough Island Expedition_2023_SAWS

L-R: James Joubert Burns, Velelo Mazele, Samkelisiwe Thwala, Khuliso Collen Maphaha, Fulufhelo Brenda Khobo and Kelcey Maewashe.

The South African Weather Service (SAWS) has been part of the South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP) from the beginning, when the first team was appointed to stay on Gough Island. The metkassies (meteorological overwintering team members) continue to contribute to a long history of data collection on Gough Island. This includes an automatic weather station that measures temperature, wind speed and direction, humidity, and pressure.

What can the new overwintering team on the island look forward to?

The metkassies when on shift do visual observations which includes cloud height and type, horizontal visibility, precipitation type, weather present and past and sea temperature. Formal observation is done every hour from 06:00GMT until 15:00GMT and then every 3 hours during night shift. This is done every day of the week.

TEAM South African Weather Service (SAWS)
Project NameAtmospheric and Ocean interaction studies
Principal InvestigatorDr. Jonas Mphepya
Takeover Team Leader
Samkelisiwe Thwala
Takeover Technical Support MemberVelelo Mazele
Senior Meteorological Technician (Gough68) Khuliso Collen Maphaha
Assistant Meteorological Technician (Gough68)Mphumzi Brooklyn Zilindile
Assistant Meteorological Technician (Gough68)Tshililo Kharivha
Senior Meteorological Technician (Gough69)Kelcey Maewashe
Assistant Meteorological Technician (Gough69)James Joubert Burns
Assistant Meteorological Technician (Gough69)Fulufhelo Brenda Khobo

Check out the SAWS Marine Portal

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Project information supplied by SAWS. Images supplied by Mbulaheni Kelcey Maewashe and James Burns (G69 team members). 

Anche Louw, South African Polar Research Infrastructure, 09 November 2023. 

Gough Island Expedition 2023: Trace Metal Biogeochemistry Research

Gough Island Expedition 2023: Trace Metal Biogeochemistry Research

Research team on the recent Gough Island takeover expedition. 

Gough Island Expedition_2023_Trace Metals (2)

Phytoplankton are microscopic plants that live in the ocean, and just like plants on land they need to have enough food to grow and be happy. However, some places in the ocean don’t have enough food for them whereas some places do. The Southern Ocean Carbon & Climate Observatory (SOCCO) team based at CSIR, Trace Metals team based at Stellenbosch University (TracEx) and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment: Oceans and Coasts team are trying to figure out where those places are (in the Southern Ocean). 

During the Gough Island takeover expedition:

The Trace Metal Biogeochemistry research teams sampled upstream and downstream of Gough Island to look at how the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) interacts with the island to resuspend sediments from the seafloor. This resuspended sediments acts as a source of trace metals to the surface mixed layer in support of phytoplankton blooms. The team used a 12 bottle mini-CTD rosette system (see image below, right) to sample for dissolved trace metals, particulate trace metals and organic trace metal chemistry.

TEAM Trace Metal Biogeochemistry
Projects Name Seasonal Iron speciation in the Southern Ocean, from open ocean environments to naturally fertilized sub-Antarctic Islands (Marion and Gough Island)
Principal InvestigatorDr Thomas Ryan-KeoghSenior Researcher at the Southern Ocean Carbon-Climate Observatory (SOCCO), CSIR South Africa
Co-Principal Investigator (On board DFFE team leader) Dr TN MtshaliDepartment of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE)
Co-Principal InvestigatorProf AN RoychoudhuryStellenbosch University (TracEx)
SOCCO/TracEx on board team leaderOlie ValkTracEx
On board team member (PhD Student)
Thapelo RamalepeSOCCO-TracEx
On board team member (MSc Student)
Miranda SitofileSOCCO-TracEx
On board DFFE team memberMutshutshu TsanwaniDFFE
On board DFFE team memberKanyisile VenaDFFE
On board DFFE team memberHassan IsmaelDFFE
On board DFFE team memberMbulelo MakhethaDFFE
On board team membersIncluding all ship-based scientists sampling for trace metals

The project in more detail:

The Southern Ocean (SO) is one of the largest high-nutrient low-chlorophyll regions in the World’s Ocean, where primary productivity is limited by iron bioavailability, thereby impacting the strength and efficiency of biological carbon pump. There are, however, exceptions with large phytoplankton blooms persistently observed downstream of the sub-Antarctic Islands. While extensive research has focussed on iron-biogeochemistry around Kerguelen and Crozet islands, no such studies have been conducted at Marion and Gough islands.

Furthermore, whilst our previous studies have made substantial advances toward addressing the gaps in seasonal data coverage through the Southern oCean seAsonaL Experiment (SCALE) 2019 winter and spring expeditions, there is still a paucity of dissolved iron data in the SO, especially from autumn to late spring. This is severely hampering our understanding of the full seasonal biogeochemical iron cycle and its impact on primary production. This project aims to continue its focus on seasonality by expanding seasonal coverage of iron measurements to include autumn (Marion) and late-spring (Gough) expeditions for more comprehensive coverage of the SO seasonal cycle, with a particular focus on quantifying biogeochemical cycling of iron-pool around these understudied islands.

This project is funded by: The National Research Foundation, South African National Antarctic Programme funding (NRF-SANAP). 

Current NRF-SANAP funded projects

Visit SOCCO here!  Visit TracEx here!  

Featured Image: L-R (Back): Kanyisile Vena (DFFE), Ole Valk (TracEx), Hassan Ismael (DFFE), Mbulelo Makhetha (DFFE); (front) Miranda Sitofile (SOCCO-TracEx), Thato Mtshali (DFFE), Thapelo Ramalepe (SOCCO- TracEx), Mutshutshu Tsanwani (DFFE). 

Project information supplied by Dr Thomas Ryan-Keogh. Images supplied by Thapelo Ramalepe. 

Anche Louw, South African Polar Research Infrastructure, 30 October 2023. 

Gough Island Expedition 2023: Island Restoration

Gough Island Expedition 2023: Island Restoration

The Gough Island Restoration Programme

Gough Island Expedition_2023_Goigh Island Restoration Programme

Situated in the South Atlantic Ocean, positioned equidistantly between South Africa and South America, lies a highly significant breeding ground for seabirds known as Gough Island. This remote island serves as the breeding habitat for 24 distinct avian species, many of which are found nowhere else on the planet. Regrettably, the avian inhabitants now share their home with an invasive species, specifically the house mouse. These non-native mice, introduced to the island by human activity, are causing severe harm to the island’s native wildlife, including plants and animals that have thrived there for millennia. The mice’s voracious appetite leads to the consumption of over two million seabird eggs and chicks annually, driving certain species perilously close to extinction.

In an effort to safeguard the birds, the Gough Island Restoration Programme was launched with the aim of eradicating the mice. In 2021, the Gough Island Restoration Programme attempted to eradicate mice from the island in one of the most challenging and logistically complex island eradications ever ventured.

Although the endeavor did not achieve complete success, it significantly reduced the mouse population, providing a respite for the birds. During this period, the avian inhabitants managed to successfully raise numerous chicks.

Scientists continue to monitor the birds and gather valuable information that will hopefully aid in future endeavors to eliminate the mice entirely. Part of this takeover and the overwintering field team’s work programme will relate to follow-up activities to further underpin efforts to restore Gough Island.


Team The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
Project NameThe Gough Island Restoration Programme
Principal InvestigatorDr Antje Steinfurth
Field Team Leader
(Gough68 & Gough69)
Dr Lucy Dorman
Field Officer (Gough68)Ms Rebekah Goodwill
Field Officer (Gough69)Ms Hannah Greetham

More about the work on the island for this takeover: 

“During takeover our team is carrying out a census of Tristan Albatrosses and Southern Giant Petrels across the whole island, the so-called round island survey. At this time of year, the Southern Giant Petrels are starting to breed while the Tristan Albatross chicks are about to fledge. The number of fledged Albatross chicks will then be compared to numbers of breeding pairs that were counted at the beginning of the year and so breeding success for this Critically Endangered bird can be calculated (more than 99% of the global population breed exclusively on Gough Island). The round island survey also provides the team with the opportunity to monitor the abundance and distribution of the two landbird species, the Gough Bunting and the Gough moorhen.

This takeover the team will also be taking some soil samples from the upland parts of the island. This is to help monitor the ecosystem in the wake of the mouse eradication attempt”. 

RSPB_Gough Island Restoration team_takeover 2023

The RSPB Gough Island Restoration Programme takeover team (L-R): Hannah Greetham, Antje Steinfurth, Lucy Dorman and Rebekah Goodwill.

The RSPB overwintering team members’ work:

They will focus on Gough’s bird life, monitoring the breeding success of species, providing estimates of their populations and survival and documenting the impacts of House Mice.

For more information visit about The Gough Island Restoration Programme, click on the link below. 

The Gough Island Restoration ProgrammeThis project is funded by: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).


Project information and images supplied by Dr Antje Steinfurth. 

Anche Louw, South African Polar Research Infrastructure, 12 October 2023. 

Gough Island Expedition 2023: Mammal Research

Gough Island Expedition 2023: Mammal Research

Featuring research teams currently on the Gough Island takeover expedition. 
Gough Island Expedition_2023_subantarctic fur seals_Tristan da Cunha

The Tristan da Cunha Conservation Department recruited two Tristan Islanders to assist in the field at Tristan for the duration of the takeover. Image of the two members of a previous team.

During the annual Gough Island takeover (relief) expedition, the S.A. Agulhas II delivers passengers and cargo to Tristan da Cunha Island, which is 350 kilometers from Gough Island.  Additionally, several researchers are given the chance to carry out their research at Tristan da Cunha during the relief period for Gough Island.

Prof Marthán Bester,  semi-retired, Emeritus Professor and senior Research Fellow of the Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria, is currently on the Tristan da Cunha to conduct field research on Subantarctic fur seals.

Find our more below about this project and prospects for the takeover period. 


TEAMTristan Mammal Research
Project NameSubantarctic Fur Seals at the Tristan da Cunha Islands, South Atlantic Ocean
Principal Investigator Prof Marthán BesterUniversity of Pretoria
Co-Principal InvestigatorProf Nico de BruynUniversity of Pretoria
Co-Principal InvestigatorDr Mia WegeUniversity of Pretoria
Co-Principal InvestigatorMr. Trevor GlassTristan Conservation Department Head

The history of fur seal research on Tristan da Cunha

Fur seal research at the Tristan da Cunha (TdC) Islands started during the 1970s (1974–1978). In its present form, the research continues through a next phase (2009–2019), and beyond.

Short description of the project
Using Subantarctic fur seals as bioindicators of environmental conditions and as tools for suitable management of natural resources, contributing to observing marine ecosystems in the TdC Islands, since 2019 and beyond, the aim is to: (a) determine the seasonal attendance patterns of primarily lactating adult females, from the smallest (incipient) population of the species in the world at Cave Point Peninsula, TdC, (b) measure and contrast the growth rate and/or weaning mass of pups at the Cave Point breeding colony (10 month nursing period), (c) collect scat (non-invasive) and whiskers (invasive) samples for diet analyses.
During this ‘takeover’ the team aims to service and/or retrieve the Attendance Pattern Automated System (satellite-linked) at Cave Point, collect and process fur seal scat samples to determine diet, and weigh pup/under-yearling fur seals (at around 290 days of age) to compare their weaning weights amongst years and with those of pups from other island populations (including Gough Island).
In everyday language
The fur seals breed and rest on the islands, and they feed at sea. The research team aims to determine (1) what the seals feed on when they are away during feeding trips, (2) how well the pups, which remain on land, grow on a diet of milk which they suck from their mothers when these return to land after each feeding trip, and (3) how far away from the island, and for how long, do the mothers of the fur seal pups have to remain at sea on each feeding trip to be able to sustain their pups until weaning.
For more information visit about Subantarctic fur seals, click on the link below. 


Marion Island Marine Mammal Programme  

Tristan Mammal Funding

This project is funded by: The National Research Foundation (NRF-SANAP), The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Tristan da Cunha Conservation Department (TdC Conservation Department). 


Update posted by the Tristan Conservation Department (on Facebook, 09 October 2023):

“The weather has been very nice last week. The conservation team and professor Martian Bester managed to go to the caves to do seal work with the seal pups. It was a great success as they managed to weigh fifty pups. Martian has been working with the conservation department for fourty nine years but sadly this is his last year working with the conservation team as he is retiring”

Photo’s Taken by: Tristan Glass, Tristan Conservation Department.


Project information and feature image supplied by Prof Marthán Bester. 

Anche Louw, South African Polar Research Infrastructure, 03 October 2023, updated on 10 October 2023.

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