Sorry to those who have been eagerly awaiting my update- I've been rushed off my feet ever since I arrived here! I finally arrived on Bird Island on 23rd November as originally planned. Here's what happened on the way:
We started to see icebergs the day we arrived at Signy (Monday 17th November). Signy is another research base run British Antarctic Survey. Signy is located on the South Orkney Islands and is the furthest South I shall get on my trip to Bird Island. Signy is only open in the summer, so upon arrival on Monday morning, no one was quite sure what to expect, as it had been left unattended since last autumn. The base was fine and many of us were sent ashore to help dig snow from around the buildings and help transport kit and provisions into the base. The mechanics were busy getting the generators up and running to provide heating and fresh water to the base. At the end of the first day, everyone returned to the ship for the night. The following day, more digging and sorting kit saw the completion of the work on Signy. There was even enough time for a short trip in the cargo tender (the small boat, used to transfer kit/provisions between the JCR and the base) out to visit the breeding Chinstrap and Adelie penguin colony further along the coast. Leopard seals were patrolling the sea around the base of the colony, for any stray penguins that ventured into the sea. Blizzard conditions and leopard seals meant we couldn't land at the colony, but we go some fantastic close views from the boat. In the evening, we left Signy, and the 8 scientists/technical services staff who were staying for the summer. We then set sail North towards South Georgia, passing huge icebergs on the way for much of the evening. Signy was stunning- it looked like the true Antarctic; surrounded by massive icebergs, with its penguins, snowstorms and glaciers, and rocky peaks reaching up to the grey clouds above.
The next 2 days were spent on board the ship heading for South Georgia. Conditions varied but the sea was relatively calm for most of the time. Whales were sighted on a number of occasions, but none well enough to identify the species. The lovely white snow petrels that had been numerous around Signy faded away and were replaced by albatrosses the closer we got to South Georgia.