Heard Island Expedition 1997 (Planning Documents)


Robert Schmieder KK6EK


We plan to examine the cryptofauna on Heard Island, in particular the meiofauna. We would concentrate on identifying protozoa, insects and other arthropods, annelids (if any), and other small, interstitial species living in the sand, soil, plants, structures, or on the rocks. The general procedure would be to make representative collections of soil, with some onsite processing and full documentation, for forwarding to specialists. We would carry with us sterilized containers (e.g., plastic bags, small vials) for the samples. Extraction of the meiofauna could be done shipboard, or the samples could be returned intact. We propose that an extractor such as a large Berlese funnel (for dry extraction), a Baermann funnel or sand extractor (for wet extraction), and perhaps light traps be taken to assess the effectiveness of the sampling onsite, and to concentrate the effort on the most useful location and procedures {Southwood, 1978]. We would be pay particular attention to sampling in and around sites of former human habitation, under the hypothesis that foreign structures or substances could provide niches for foreign organisms. Thus, we would propose to visit disused buildings, dumps, and excavations to sample the resident cryptofauna [Jenkins-Smith, 1985].

In addition to this primary activity, we propose to collect representative specimens of plants, together with their surrounding soil, processing them in similar fashion. Since only about 8 species of plants are documented from Heard Island, confirmation of their presence, and archiving of representative specimens, would be of value to ongoing protection and management of the resources. A more extensive mapping of the occurrence of the plants within a limited region could be undertaken.

In the absence of more detailed information, and based on similarities of latitude, we might have expected the ecosystem at Heard Island to have much in common with South Georgia, for which we have some guidance [Headland, 1984]. However, South Georgia supports several hundred plants, including 26 native vasculars, 125 mosses, and 150 lichens, far more than the reported 8 plant species at Heard. Therefore, one would naturally expect the entire ecosystem to be correspondingly impoverished. It appears to be more similar to that of the Antarctic Peninsula [Moss, 1988], which lists only 18 plant species, mostly cryptogamous. The corresponding fauna is likewise impoverished: a few protists, rotifers, nematodes, tardigrades, mites, springtails, and midges. Thus, we will be searching for very small animals, probably less than a few mm. With some foresight, we could plan specifically for species known from Heard Island, thereby increasing the efficiency of their identification.


The area of Atlas Cove is subject to extremely unstable air movements, due tot he proxity of the Laurens Peninsula. We plan to record the temperature, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, humidity, and precipitation at the campsite. Combined with the information from the automatic weather station, this should provide insight into the microclimate in the vicinity of Atlas Cove.


We plan to document the current disposition and condition of the remains of the ANARE station at Atlas Cove. This will include photo-documentation, and a site drawing. We will also record the contents of any stores (no stores will be used for any part of this expedition).

The Campsite at Atlas Cove
Computers, Networks, and Logs
Food Services
Radio operations
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Last update: 17 Nov. 1996 Robert W. Schmieder cordell@ccnet.com