The oceanographic campaign of the IDEAL Center and AWI was developed in the Yendegaia fjord, a site of great ecological importance, where estuarine and marine waters converge.

For eight days, a team of scientists from the Center for Dynamic Research of High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) of the Austral University of Chile (UACh) and the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) conducted an oceanographic survey of the Yendegaia fjord, located in the Beagle Channel, south of the Magallanes and Chilean Antarctic Region.

On board the Huracán vessel, the multidisciplinary group of eight expedition members set sail from Mansa Bay, 50 kilometers south of Punta Arenas. The oceanographic campaign had four objectives: To recover an anchorage with biological and physical information; reinstall the monitoring system with oceanographic sensors and a sediment trap that captures various types of samples; carry out an oceanographic transect along the fjord; and download data from a weather station installed on Hoste Island.

In addition, other scientific activities were carried out on the journey, such as the extraction of environmental DNA and visual surveys for marine mammals. Four species of cetaceans were sighted: Southern dolphin, Chilean dolphin, humpback whale and sei whale.

“The geographical area where we carry out the scientific work is key, because two water systems come together: Estuary (from melting glaciers) and marine (Beagle Channel)”, said Carla Mellado, marine biologist and master’s degree in water resources from the IDEAL Center. “The oceanographic transect involves many maneuvers simultaneously, from the mouth of the fjord. In this case, collaborative work on site was essential to achieve all the objectives,” she added.

“Prospecting studies are especially relevant in systems that have been little studied, such as the Beagle Channel. It is important to appreciate the ecological role that high latitudes have and, from that perspective, this expedition was a great opportunity to carry out various scientific works,” affirmed the researcher from AWI and the IDEAL Center, Dr. Diego Filún.

A channel rarely studied

The Beagle Channel is approximately 280 kilometers long and was formed by the advance and subsequent retreat of glaciers. At the same time, it has a strategic location, since it connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Despite the fact that it has a rich marine biodiversity, there is not a large amount of oceanographic information about it.

The expedition was led by marine biologist Dr. Luis Bedriñana, a researcher at the Copas Coastal, Ballena Azul and IDEAL centers. “All the objectives were achieved in the planned time, despite the fact that we had adverse weather conditions for practically the eight days. There was good coordination between the technical and scientific team and the crew,” concluded Dr. Bedriñana.

The anchorage installed in the Beagle Channel is part of the marine and terrestrial observatory that is developed within the framework of the DYNAMO Project in cooperation with Argentina, Germany and Chile.