Kerguelen Islands, or Desolation Islands as captain James Cook called them, are some of the most isolated islands in the world. These barren and windswept islands are hidden away right on the border between the Indian Ocean and the Southern (Antarctic) Ocean. There are no permanent residents here, on what is today a French colony, but the French Polar Institute operates a research station at Port-aux-Français.
This is going to be my home for the next few months. My closest neighbours will be penguins, elephant seals, and reindeer, but these fantastic animals are not the reason I’m going. The goal of my trip is the sea trout – a fish we know very well here in Norway. Together with seven other species of salmonids, this species was introduced into the fish-free rivers at Kerguelen. Three of the species did not survive and establish. Out of the remaining five species, the sea trout is the only one that has been able to spread into adjacent river systems. But now it looks like this initial colonisation of new habitat is halting.
This raises a lot of questions. The adjacent river systems that the trout don’t seem to be able to colonise, are they unsuitable in some way; are the fish not able to reach them; or are there completely different reasons behind this. In our part of the world rising temperatures will continue to make new rivers and lakes available to for many different species of freshwater fish, so the questions raised at Kerguelen may be relevant also far away from the Antarctic.
This is what I am going to spend the southern summer to try and answer, together with my good colleagues from France and Canada. But first I have to get down there…
(This text was translated into Engligh by Anders Lorentzen Kolstad)