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.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Bird Island

The cargo tender was launched with the first load of cargo and set off out of sight around the headland, for the Bird Island base, which is in a little cove on the South side of the island. The rest of us packed up and got ready to leave the ship. The cargo tender returned after an hour or so, reporting that conditions at the jetty were good enough to unload the rest of the cargo. We all got into the tender, along with another load of cargo and headed into Bird Island.

We were greeted on the jetty by the current islanders (5, plus some of the BBC film crew who were working on a documentary and living at the base). Introductions were made, over bacon sandwiches (due to the 2 hour time difference between ships time and Bird Island time-meaning it was still only breakfast time for the people who had got off the ship). The day was spent unloading cargo, then the ship left to do some science work for a few days, and we were left on our new island. Fabrice, (the current Penguin/Giant Petrel assistant, who I will be working with and then taking over from at the end of the season) took me out for a quick walk up the hill to see Big Mac- one of my Macaroni penguin colonies. This is our biggest colony and contains around 40,000 pairs of nesting Macaroni's. The evening was spent getting to know each other and sorting out boxes.

The next day (24th Nov) was the anniversary of 50 years of science at Bird Island, so we had an entertaining evening watching videos of work done many years ago, whilst dressed up in the type of clothes worn 50 years ago. The seal work here involves marking pups with blonde hair dye for identification. Annually, the Bird Island staff also enjoy this, and by the end of the evening, all present on base were blonde.

The next few days were spent doing field work (I'll write about my job later), then the JCR returned from its science cruise for a second day of unloading cargo. Much time was spent rolling barrels of fuel from the cargo tender to the base, and rolling empty drums back. In the afternoon, the sun shone and lots of the crew and passengers from the JCR went out for a walk, up through the meadows where the wandering albatrosses are displaying, to the macaroni and grey headed albatross colonies. The beautiful weather and views dispelled the myth that it is always foggy or wet on Bird Island, and everyone left happy. In the evening, the JCR and its passengers left us, not due to return until after Christmas. It is great to finally have arrived!

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