Endurance 22 – Reach the World

Endurance 22 – Reach the World

Sir Ernest Shackleton. 

Tom Crean with puppies. 

The year is 1914, with the imminent threat of World War I, Sir Ernest Shackleton was on the cusp of embarking on a journey to the uncharted South Ocean and treacherous Antarctic region. Upon learning about the mobilization of troops, supplies and volunteer soldiers, Shackleton offered up his ship the “Endurance”, men, and services in the event of war breaking out. He was initially given the “Proceed” command from the Admiralty office, however soon after received a telegram from Winston Churchill thanking him for the offer but would prefer that they proceed with the expedition.

Sir Ernest Shackleton and Frank Wild with the crush “Endurance”. 

The “Endurance”

Thus, giving birth to one of history’s most epic expeditions, tale of bravery, resilience and spirit of adventure. The “Endurance” set sail for South Georgia, where it was stocked, and preparations made for the harrowing journey into the uncharted Weddell Sea. Unfortunately, the “Endurance” was met with an unforgiving sea and severe ice conditions which soon caused the untimely demise of the expedition and eventual loss of the vessel, beneath the frozen tundra. Although the ship was lost to the sea, the spirit of survival and unshakeable brotherhood of the “Endurance” crew is a timeless tale echoed throughout history. Shackleton’s efforts in rescuing his men and safe return of every crew member remains a remarkable story never to be forgotten and has paved the way for future intrepid explorers.

SA Agulhas II sailing bow-slamming in the Southern Ocean. Photograph: Marcel du Plessis

Fast forward 104 years, in February 2019, the S.A. Agulhas II set out to make the first attempt (Weddell Sea Expedition 2019) in reaching the last known sinking site of the “Endurance” with the hopes of uncovering the wreck. The expedition was successful in that the vessel, along with its ambitious expedition team reached the sinking site and conducted a plethora of oceanographic operations. Unfortunately, the search for the “Endurance” was abandoned due to the technical difficulties and subsequent loss of oceanographic equipment. The expedition team and S.A .Agulhas II crew faced treacherous seas and extreme ice conditions, indicative of the Weddell Sea. Thus, serving as firm reminder of the unforgiving nature of the Southern Ocean, but with that said the Weddell Sea Expedition team (Endurance 22) returns with renewed hopes in discovering Shackleton’s lost “Endurance”.

Coverage and updates of Endurance 22 Expedition will be covered by and ALSA via social media channels (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram). There is also an amazing opportunity for schools to engage and gain wonderful insight into the voyage through a virtual classroom made possible by “Reach the World” foundation. Register here: https://bit.ly/3HtS8jK

Reach the World, in partnership with the Falklands Maritime Heritage Trust will be the largest virtual exchange expedition in organisational history! Real-time articles, video content from explorers and scientists will be made available as well as communication from Endurance 22 participants throughout the voyage. A number of classroom subjects will be addressed such as STEM, Social Studies, English Language Arts (ELA), and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

Learn more and register at explore.reachtheworld.org

Track the S.A. Agulhas II during the Endurance22 Expedition with Captain Knowledge Bengu in the bridge and Freddie Ligthelm as Ice pilot.

Ice-Core and UCT Team of Weddell Sea Expedition 2019. Photograph: Tamara Stubbs

 Image above and below taken during the Endurance Expedition in 2019 

UCT scientists conducting ice core work during WSE 2019. Photograph: Hermann Luyt


“Sir Ernest Shackleton’s name will for evermore be engraved with letters of fire in the history of Antarctic exploration.” – Roald Amundsen

Images from Sir Ernest Shackleton obtained from : https://www.coolantarctica.com. A great source that can be used in the classroom.


Tahlia Henry, Antarctic Legacy of South Africa, 03 February 2022

Celebrating International Day of the Seafarer 2021

Celebrating International Day of the Seafarer 2021


On the 25th June, we celebrate International Day of the Seafarer and recognise the invaluable contribution seafarers make to world trade and the global economy.

The Day of the Seafarer was established in 2010 by a resolution adopted in Manila during a diplomatic conference and has since been driven by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). This year is the 11th anniversary of the Day of the Seafarer and the IMO has outlined the following theme: “Seafarers: at the core of shipping’s future”. The theme “seeks to increase the visibility of seafarers by drawing attention to the invaluable role they play now and will continue to play in the future.”

This day allows for the recognition of the unique and vital roles seafarers play in the global community and the United Nations recognise this as an observance day. The Day of the Seafarer encourages the public and ignites official conversations about seafarers and the need to uphold their well-being, ensure a safe working environment and pay tribute to the great sacrifices made within this industry.

The Antarctic Legacy of South Africa (ALSA) wishes to extend our thanks to the African Marine Solutions: AMSOL seafarers that have served aboard the SA Agulhas I and II over the years. The SA Agulhas II has played host to many Overwintering teams, ushered to the Sub-Antarctic Islands and “home” to SANAP scientists and students for research expeditions. Captains, officers, engineers, deck crew and stewards all play an essential role in the success of a research cruise. Working round the clock to ensure the smooth execution of scientific operations, ensuring a safe working environment and navigating through some of the world’s most treacherous seas.

This is an industry which requires great sacrifice and time away from home, however the AMSOL personnel have a level of professionalism which makes working on board efficient and turns the vessel into a “home away from home” for many scientists.

A great sense of pride and honour is instilled in all who sail aboard the SA Agulhas II and is seen as privilege to be part of this legacy of exploration. We thank all administrative staff involved with ensuring safe and efficient operations and celebrate all seafarers, without whom our scientific endeavours in the Southern Ocean would not be possible.

Tahlia Henry, Antarctic Legacy of South Africa, 25 June 2021

Celebrating World Albatross Day 2021

World Albatross Day 2021 is finally here! In May 2019, The Agreement of Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) Advisory Committee stated that a conservation crisis is faced by 31 listed species of seabirds. Thousands of petrels, shearwaters and albatrosses are dying every year due to the impact of the fishing industry. The need to increase global awareness was instituted by the ACAP in 2020 and thus World Albatross Day is now celebrated every year on the 19th June.

The theme for World Albatross Day 2021 is “Ensuring Albatross-friendly Fisheries”. Due to the large number of seabirds killed as a result of fisheries industry was a main catalyst for the establishment of ACAP and the need to continue and strengthen conservation efforts on a global scale.

Fun and amazing facts about the albatross is that there are 22 species in the world and they can fly 16,000 km without returning to land! These seabirds are incredible and in support of World Albatross Day, ACAP have created posters and artwork of the 22 albatross species which can be downloaded at (www.acap.aq). The hope is that through the use of these resources, awareness and appreciation for the albatross will be steered amongst members of the public, organisations, schools and Trusts. More albatross images can be viewed on the Antarctic Legacy of South Africa digital repository, which have been collected over the years from Overwintering team members and Takeover Personnel.

Furthermore, South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP) in conjunction with Birdlife – South Africa and Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology (UCT) has played an integral role in seabird preservation through ongoing conservation programmes and research projects. Ornithologists form part of the Overwintering teams stationed at South Africa’s research bases namely, Marion Island and Gough Island. Their aim is to conduct conservation research on the seabird population and how best to combat the threats impacting the seabird population. The Gough Island Restoration Programme, was established to eradicate the invasive mice species (introduced by sailors during the 19th century) which exploit available food resources and cause bodily harm to albatross chicks and adults. The Mouse-Free Marion programme objectives are as follows: – as seen on Gough Island Restoration Programme webpage.

  • To prevent the extinction of the Critically Endangered Tristan albatross, the Endangered MacGillivray’s prion, and several other small seabird species that are affected by invasive non-native mice.
  • To restore the fortunes of Gough Island’s seabirds and ensure the island remains one of the world’s most important seabird nesting sites, worthy of its World Heritage Site status.
  • To support Tristan da Cunha in ensuring the long-term future of this special island and its unique wildlife.

Tristan Albatross

Waved Albatross








Two critically endangered albatross species (namely: Tristan and Waved albatross) from Gough Island and the Galapagos islands have been chosen to serve as the “feature species” to draw attention to the continuing threats all the world’s species of albatrosses face. It is essential to protect and conserve seabirds as they form an integral part of the oceanic ecosystem. Let’s celebrate World Albatross Day, by raising awareness, educating the public about the ongoing issues and show our support of research endeavours such as the Mouse-Free Marion project: https://blogs.sun.ac.za/antarcticlegacy/2021/04/16/do-you-want-to-be-part-of-the-legacy-to-make-marion-island-mouse-free/

Cover photo: Tahlia Henry


World Oceans Day 2021 – Together for a Sustainable Future

United Nations World Oceans Day, is celebrated every year on the 8th June and this day serves as a reminder of the major role oceans have in our everyday lives. The oceans cover over 70% of the planet and is thus an essential source of life, supports and sustains humanity. The ocean also produces at least 50% of the planet’s oxygen supply and supports most of the earth’s biodiversity and a source of protein for billions of people around the globe. A further key component of the ocean is that it supports a global economy with an estimated 40 million people who rely on this ocean-based industry.

The theme for this year’s United Nations World Oceans Day is “Life and Livelihood”. This theme is also in line with the declaration of intentions that launched a decade of challenges to reach the Sustainable Development Goal 14, “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”, by 2030. This highlights the need to conserve our marine resources for future generations. The main aim of this day is too educate and inform the public of the impact human activities (anthropogenic influence) have on the ocean and to develop a worldwide network of united citizens working together for a sustainable future.

“Life and Livelihood” is a particularly relevant theme this year, in the lead-up to the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021 – 2030). The hope is that this Decade will strengthen international cooperation in developing innovative technologies and promote scientific research which links ocean science with the needs of society. The South African ocean science community has played a key role in continuous scientific research within the Southern Ocean and Coastal regions of South Africa. This research is conducted at the South African Sub-Antarctic bases namely, Marion Island and Gough Island and during research expeditions aboard the S.A. Agulhas II in the Antarctic region by various institutions. SANAP principal investigators, researchers and students took part in the All Atlantic 2021 Conference (2nd – 4th June 2021) and presented on the need for sustainable development and capacity building for future generations, through innovative programs and a network of Floating Universities such as SEAmester South Africas Class Afloat.  Thus highlighting the need to “Connect, Act and Cooperate” within a global network to achieve sustainably with ocean based resources, preserved marine environment and pave the way for future generations. 

Members of the Southern Ocean community set up a Task Force to develop the Southern Ocean Action Plan. This Action Plan will provide a framework for Southern Ocean stakeholders to formulate and develop concrete activities that support the Decade vision. To ensure this Action Plan represents the diverse perspectives and priorities of a wide range of Southern Ocean stakeholders, the Southern Ocean Task Force is now inviting all interested stakeholders to get involved in the process.

Whether you are an early career professional or have an extensive background in polar activities, or you represent an institute, programme or initiative, your insights into how Southern Ocean science should evolve over the coming years to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals will provide valuable information to develop an inclusive Action Plan.  If you wish to help us identify Southern Ocean priorities, we kindly ask that you read our report and complete our survey no later than 23:59 UTC on 18 June 2021.  – The SOdecade Team

(Images : ALSA archive)

World Migratory Bird Day 2021

“Sing, Fly, Soar – Like a bird!” That is the 2021 theme for World Migratory Bird Day, observed on the 8th May and on the 10th October (International Migratory Bird Day). This theme highlights the phenomena of the “bird song” and “bird flight” which inspires people to celebrate and appreciate migratory birds, their habits and unique behavioural patterns.

In a joint collaboration between the Secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (UNEP-AEWA) and Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, a day to observe and highlight the need for conservation of migratory birds was initiated. World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD), was officially established in 2006 and served as a yearly awareness-rising campaign to highlight the importance of migratory birds and the need for global conservation of the “Flyway” regions.

These “Flyway” regions are denoted as theAmericas, African-Eurasian and East Asian-Australasian and highlight the migratory patterns of birds. The 2021 theme for WMBD is to inspire people around the globe to share in the desire to celebrate migratory birds and unite in the common effort to protect the diverse habitats which these birds need to survive.

The South African National Antarctic Program (SANAP) plays a large role in the conservation and preservation of Marine Birds and their habitats. Ornithology researchers (Birders) deployed to Marion Island and Gough Island (South African research bases) are tasked with updating ongoing databases and continue conservation efforts in protecting the marine bird population on the islands. Similarly, Birders (ornithologists) are deployed on the SA Agulhas II for the duration of a voyage in order to observe and count marine birds at sea. This data is used by BirdLife South Africa to continue efforts in conservation. To read more about the ongoing conservation projects around the Sub-Antarctic Islands, refer to the following links: Gough Island project – https://www.goughisland.com/ Marion Island project- www.mousefreemarion.org

(L-R) Wandering Albatross perched on a nest, Atlantic Yellow Nosed Albatross.

On this World Migratory Bird Day, take the time to actively listen to and watch the birds wherever you are. Activities such as bird watching and identification is encouraged in order to nurture a shared appreciation of birds and nature. The take home message for WMBD 2021 is that “migratory birds connect us with their unique songs and flights, and remind us of the importance of working together, across borders, to protect them.”

For further reading on current and past Marine Bird research projects conducted by scientists such Dr Maelle Connon please refer to https://www.sanap.ac.za/explore/research. If you wish to view more images of birds please take the time to browse the archive. 

Fun Fact

Arctic Tern (https://ebird.org/species/arcter/)

The Arctic Tern has the longest migratory pattern following a convoluted route from its Northern breeding grounds (Arctic) to the Antarctic coast for summer season and returning north six months later.

Cover image: Tahlia Henry

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