An ice-strengthened research vessel will set sail from Wellington tomorrow for a six-week scientific voyage to Antarctica.
The Tangaroa will leave port with 23 scientists and 17 crew on board, first sailing for a week to reach the Ross Sea, which late last year became a vast no-fishing zone.
The scientists - led by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research - will look at how fauna is faring both inside and outside the marine protected area, and other aspects of marine life such as whales' role in the Antarctic ecosystem.
Niwa's voyage leader David Bowden said another key aim was to refine models to help predict and plan for climate changes.
The research trips take place every two years, taking those on board into some of the harshest conditions on the planet.