Berkeley Sound is a large body of water less than 10 kilometers from Stanley. It is a major mooring ground for fishing vessels that use the FICZ and as such is subject to environmental stresses such as the introduction of invasive species, oil spills, and other boat-based influences. Despite this, exploration of this Sound has been minimal andbaseline data on native species and natural distributions are unknown.
Berkeley Sound is also interesting oceanographically. As a large body of water, it contains habitats and water mass features that would be expected to vary dramatically between the cliffy eastern headlands and the western beaches and shallow bays. For the most part protected from high winds and seas, the wide mouth of the sound does allow for periodic disturbance if there is a strong easterly wind. How the flora and fauna of the Sound vary spatially and are affected by these events is as yet unknown.
|The fleet, led by the yacht Damien II, ushered the group to fourteen different sites around the large body of water. At each location, numerous scientific observations were made.
Birders Sarah Crofts and Frances Taylor analysed the shoreline for coastal birds. Dion Poncet, Steve Cartwright and Steve Brown photographed the marine substrate for future analysis of the animals that colonise the muddy, rocky and sandy bottoms.
And marine biologists Paul Brickle, Karen Neely, Vlad Laptikhovsky and Jude Brown counted marine organisms for comparisons of the fauna among different sites and habitats
|The SMSG fleet at anchor in Berkely Sound|
With permission to come ashore kindly granted by numerous land owners, the birders used foot and boat surveys to document shoreline habitats and compare them with the thousands of birds counted. Sarah Crofts noted, "The species composition really changed throughout the Sound. The bays were full of wading birds and ducks, but as we moved through the cliff areas nearer to the ocean, the communities became seabird-dominated."
|Steve Brown enters the water as the RHIB takes birders ashore.|
|Echoing the diversity of habitats above the water were the variety of habitats found underwater. SCUBA divers found familiar ecosystems such as kelp forests, but also previously undocumented habitats including: bedrock areas monopolised by sea urchins, muddy areas dominated by mussel beds, and areas completely covered with snail-like slipper shells that created bumpy living reefs.|
|A sea lion accompanies Karen Neely on a transect survey.|
|Of the animals seen and counted in Berkeley Sound, several stood out as highlights. The most common species was a large red sea urchin which was frequently found in such densities that individuals were touching spines. Particularly striking was a stark white albino individual found among these.|
|An albino sea urchin (Loxechinus albus) stands out.|
Berkeley Sound in March is synonymous with whales, and these behemoths were plentiful. Though dolphins, penguins and sea lions were all observed by divers in the water, the skittish whales generally steered clear of the boats and the divers and were for the most part only spotted from a distance. One exception was a whale that surfaced directly in front of one of the smaller boats as it was making its way through rough seas. Frances Taylor commented, "The whale came up right in front of us, and we couldn’t rapidly turn the boat because of the wind and the waves. It went right back down, but it was a heart stopping experience."
|Murex snails (Acanthina monodon) congregate to lay their eggs on exposed rocks.|
|The likely prey of these large whales were also commonly observed. Numerous lobster krill were caught in a trap that was deployed overnight, and shoals of juvenile Falkland’s sprat were frequently observed on the sonar. Schools of slender tuna or cormorants often created large boils of splashing water as they fed on these aggregations.|
|Giant barnacles (Austromegabalanus psittacus) were common on rock faces and often formed large filter-feeding reefs.|
|These observations and data points each highlight the diversity and productivity of Berkeley Sound. Karen Neely concluded, "This largely unexplored body of water is located right on Stanley’s doorstep, but the animals and habitats within are only beginning to be understood."|
|Paul Brickle, Vlad Laptikhovsky, and Jude Brown examine a sample of sea stars to determine the distribution patterns of the various species.|