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PORT ELIZABETH, April 30 — Marine scientists in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province are leading an international project to determine the effects of the Aghulas Current on South African waters and its sea life.
The Agulhas System Climate Array (ASCA) project was launched in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday by the South African Environmental Observation Network. ASCA is a multi-institutional, international collaboration designed to provide the first long-term observations of Agulhas Current volume, heat and salt transport and its impacts on climate variability and climate change.
The heat of the Agulhas current seems to have an influence on the regional and global climate and specialised equipment like the ASCA mooring array will be used to determine the coastal effects, analyze the sea temperature and fish biomes (regions of the world with similar climate).
ASCA Co-ordinator Tamaryn Morris says the project is focused on unlocking at the economic potential of the sea. “It has a huge impact on the shipping lanes. Ships make use of the Agulhas Current to travel down the coast, saving fuel and saving time. We also have the Agulhas Current or rather hope that one day use it to generate electricity in terms of renewable energy that would benefit our economy and communities in general.”
The Manager of SEAON Egagasini Node, Juliet Hermes, said they are excited about the project as it gives South African scientists a platform to showcase and share information on an international level.
“For South Africa to lead a project, the first ever project monitoring the Agulhas Current, is an incredible opportunity for, not only our own science and technology of the current, but also to really show that South African science and technology is on par with international marine science.”
Mthuthuzeli Khulekana, a scientist working on the project, believes that it is vital that students get exposed to marine science. “We try by all means to take young people as much as possible. We take them to the sea to be able to monitor the environment to use the instruments we have, to get on our ships and monitor the environment, to makes sure it’s safe to people on land of exploring opportunities. We have learned education on the ship to go and experience it first and then later become marine scientists that we need for the future.”
Pupils who attended the launch were optimistic and intrigued by the new technology. “I learnt that there is so much more than just fish in the sea and I learnt about the food chain in the sea and the oxygen that is needed for the fish to survive. It is important because we can pass the knowledge about fish down and how important the ocean is to humans. I’ve learnt about the different seas and how the oceans affect the climate and civilisation.”
The bulk of the research will take place off-shore as water samples will be captured under the surface with state of the art equipment. The research vessel, the Algoa, is also fully equipped with an on-board laboratory. Scientists also say the future may involve the development of new and perhaps even more complex mooring arrays within South African waters.