Aquarium - by Andy Miller
Transport Aquarium on RRS Ernest Shackleton
There is a chilled transport aquarium on the ship housing various Antarctic marine organisms bound for the UK. These organisms will allow scientists to continue work on physiological responses to climate change. There are 6 tanks housing a variety of invertebrates, such as sea urchins, limpets, and crustaceans. There are also two beasts that demonstrate polar gigantism; a fifty armed starfish the size of a dustbin lid and a sea spider 30cm across. These beasts grow to a larger size compared with their equatorial and temperate cousins due to a larger percentage of oxygen dissolved in the freezing Antarctic waters.
Maintaining the aquarium is a full time job. The animals have to be fed and the water cleaned and filtered. Every few days we have to conduct a water change, which involves pumping fresh uncontaminated seawater into a refrigerated container. This brings the temperature down to 2 degrees Celsius. It is then pumped into a holding tank in the aquarium itself, which brings the temperature down to zero degrees and hence ready to replace water in the tanks. Once back in the UK, the animals are transferred to the aquarium at Cambridge.