Alasdair Turner Captures Mysterious Sea Star Phenomenon

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A couple months ago, Aurora photographer Alasdair Turner came across hundreds of sea stars washed up on the snow-covered beach at Cape Evans on Ross Island Antarctica. Turner, who was working for the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) as a mountaineer flagging the sea ice route between McMurdo Station and Cape Evans, documented the mysterious site. Stacy Kim, a benthic ecologist, said based on the photos, it appears that there was a strong wave or wind event while there was open water in front of the beach that washed the sea stars onto the shore.

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“It was the first time anyone had been to Cape Evans last season,” explained Turner. “The water in front of the beach is only ice free for about two months a year (Feb-March) and no one visits at that time.  Like most other areas of the world, the tidal zones of McMurdo Sound are covered with seastars.  The difference is that if any get caught outside the water they would freeze.” This type of mass sea star freezing had never been documented before in Antarctica and these are some of the only photos that exist, since Turner and one other person were the only ones to witness the sight.

The sea stars were only on the beach for a few weeks before they disappeared. While some scientists and other experts said that skua, an Antarctic seabird, would not eat them, Turner believes otherwise, “[They say] that skua would not eat them, but I saw some photos of one of them swallowing them whole so we know what happened to them.”

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To see more work by Alasdair Turner, visit the Aurora Photos website here