Susmita Mohanty

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Susmita Mohanty

A slushy green and pink cocktail in a white tundra

Bangalore, India
CEO, Earth2Orbit; Curator, MAD Salon + Lab

Photograph by Barbara Imhof. Courtesy of Antarctic Biennale.

When I visited the Antarctic Peninsula three autumns ago with a boatload of artists, I was pleasantly surprised to find blooms of microscopic grow on the surface of ice in pastel hues – caterpillar green, peachy orange and flamingo pink. These algae blooms are expanding as our remotest white tundra is starting to warm up prompting scientists to conduct surveys of snow algae in Antarctica. Apparently, over sixty percent of the blooms are found near penguin colonies because bird guano is an excellent fertilizer. The blooms also demonstrate an affinity for slushy snow. Some live in top layers, others are a little bashful and hide below. Satellite imagery supported by two recent field campaigns revealed a total of 1,679 individual blooms, with the largest covering hundreds of square meters.
So hey, don’t think Antarctica is all snow and penguins. There are the playful seals, gentle humpbacks, krill shoals, swaying planktons, ice fish, sea birds and a growing garden of algae that are a vital part of the Antarctic carbon cycle sucking up several hundred tons of carbon each summer.