Since 2011, I have been spending November to April each year working for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) on Signy Island in the South Orkney Islands, Antarctica. I work as a Zoological Field Assistant on the penguin and seal long-term monitoring programme. Before this, I spent 2.5 years on the sub-Antarctic island of Bird Island, South Georgia, in the South Atlantic.

This blog gives readers an insight into my day-to-day life in the Antarctic, from my first trip south in 2008 to the present day.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Going to Antarctica!!!!

My lastfew days in Cambridge were a bit hectic, involving lots of packing/unpacking/repacking etc etc etc. I spent my last weekend at home with family, which was nice.

On Sunday 9th November, we loaded up the car and drove to RAF Brize Norton, near Oxford, where i met up with the rest of the people from BAS. My flight was at 11pm. Family saw me off at the airport. The flight was an 18hour flight, to the Falkland Islands, with a 2hour stop at Ascention Island on the way down. It was a good flight, and we were well fed. Arriving in Ascention a 9am on Monday morning, we all got out of the plane and got our passports stamped, and waited in the lovely hot sunshine for the plane to refuel. We werent allowed to explore, but it looks an interesting place! All too soon we were herded back onto the plane for the second leg of the journey to the Falklands.

The Falklands runs 3hours behind UK time so we arrived at 3pm on Monday. A bus ran us to the James Clark Ross (JCR), the British Antarctic Survey ship that was anchored just outside Stanley (the capital). We were given our cabins and a safety briefing and left to our own devices.

The next few days, the JCR remained in Port in Stanley, awaiting a spare part that was required before we could sail. This gave us 3 days to explore. (Photo's will follow but the ships internet cannot cope with them so they will have to wait until i reach land). We had days out walking and exploring the area. The Falklands seem to be a mixture between Iceland and Shetland- vey wild and windy with few trees. Lots of rocky areas and beautiful white sandy beaches. Many areas however were out of bounds due to being uncleared minefields from the Flaklands conflict. Stanley itself is a small but colourful place with brightly roofed buildings, and all shops and services you might need. The islands themselves only have about 3000 people. The islands had lots of new and exciting wildlife (again, photos will follow later), including turkey vultures, giant petrels, night herons and some smaller birds like long-tailed meadowlarks and rufous-chested dotterel.

The JCR finally set sail around lunchtime on Friday 14th November. Almost immediately once out of sight of land, the albatrosses started appearing, following the boat. Black browed albatrosses appeared first, and also many cape pigeons and a few Wilsons petrels, these were soon followed by wandering albatrosses. Grey headed albatrosses only appeared the following day. This is day 3 at sea now and the weather has calmed down dramatically compared to the first 2 days which were pretty bumpy. We are due to arrive at the BAS base at Signy (South Orkney Islands) tomorrow, where the base will be opened up for the summer, and many of the ships passengers will get off. It is planned to spend 3 days at Signy, before heading for South Georgia and Bird Island, where i will be getting off. We crossed the Polar front this morning, which although had not obvious visual change, was apparently marked by a large drop in sea temperature. It was snowing when i woke up this morning and the air temperature is currently at 2 degrees, dropping day by day. The first icebergs are due to be spotted any time now.

Think thats all- i'm now heading up on deck to see if there's any ice about yet.