The Spirit of Mawson - Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013 - 2014

Australasian Antarctic Expedition

Past change

The subantarctic islands lie in a vast belt of waves and wind that encircle the mid- latitudes of the southern hemisphere. The region has acquired dramatic names—the ‘screaming sixties’, the ‘furious fifties’, the ‘roaring forties’— because of the temperature difference of several degrees over a relatively narrow band of latitude. Disentangling the mechanisms of past change and the role of westerly airflow, however, has proved difficult due to the dearth of published records. By analysing peat, lake and ocean sediments back through time it’s possible to reconstruct past environmental, climate and human change. The subantarctic islands offer the chance to resolve questions on what drives global climate change.

The research program

  1. On the AAE 2013-2014 we undertook extensive coring of lake and peat sediments to reconstruct vegetation change across the subantarctic islands over the last 40,000 years.
  2. On the AAE 2013-2014 we set out to identify the changes in Southern Hemisphere westerly airflow and their influence on global climate in the past.
  3. On the AAE 2013-2014 we wanted to find out what were the early Polynesian and European impacts on the subantarctic islands?

Research Papers

Palaeoecological signatures of vegetation change induced by herbivory regime shifts on subantarctic Enderby Island

Wood, J.R., Wilmshurst, J.M., Turney, C.S.M. and Fogwill, C.

Testing the impact of large herbivore extinction remains a major challenge. Here we use a peat core from subantarctic Enderby Island to investigate how dung fungi alongside pollen can be used to reconstruct the impact of mammals on vegetation.


Intensification of Southern Hemisphere Westerly Winds 2000 to 1000 Years Ago: Evidence from the Subantarctic Auckland and Campbell Islands (50-52 ̊S)

Turney, C.S.M., McGlone, M., Palmer, J., Fogwill, C., Hogg, A., Lipson, M., Thomas, Z., Wilmshurst, J., Fenwick, P., Jones, R., Hones, B. and Clark, G.

On the subantarctic islands, peat exposures show Dracophyllum once grew above present day tree line. Here we find there was a major collapse in the altitudinal limit of growth between approximately 2000 and 1000 years ago suggesting westerly winds were stronger at this time.