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.

Friday, 18 September 2009

End of winter/start of spring...

The rest of August remained pretty cold and snowy. We had some gorgeous clear days and had a few excursions out, including climbing up to the top of La Roche, our highest peak and going camping in the little cave on the hill behind base. One night, José, Derren and Ewan went to sleep in the field hut at Little Mac, so I had a nice night of peace and quiet on the base by myself. During the daytime, we continued to work on our annual reports and other tasks but all made the most of the winter being our least busy time. Evenings were spent playing bridge and other board games, watching movies and random TV box sets, and one night, a darts match against Halley (one of the other BAS bases on the Antarctic continent), via webcam. As the evenings got longer, we played cricket on the beach and had a BBQ and bonfire in the snow, where we were joined by a Gentoo penguin that came and sat by the fire for most of the evening.

The start of September seemed to bring the end of winter as birds started returning to the island that had been absent for the winter. The skuas have started returning and the Grey-headed albatrosses have just started to appear. By mid September, the South Georgia pipits were singing loudly, advertising their territories. It makes a nice change to hear songbirds, when nearly everything else on the island are seabirds. The nights are noticeably longer- its not fully dark until after 8pm now which is lovely. The temperature is hovering just above freezing, which means all the snow and iced up streams are starting to melt. Its not too late for more winter conditions though- this might just be a short-term warm patch, with more cold periods and snow to follow- we shall have to wait and see.

The 10th of September was the start of my summer field season. Although the penguins aren’t thinking about breeding yet, the giant petrels are, so my summer work begins. Since this date, I have been out daily to check all the nests in the study area for eggs. The first egg was laid on 13th, which in my mind means the start of spring! Today I have 6. By the end of the season I shall have 500-600! I will now check nests daily until all birds in the study area have eggs, then will continue to monitor them until the chicks finally fledge at the end of the season.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Seals of Bird Island

A young elephant seal- around most of the year. Very small numbers breed in summer.

A young male fur seal- around all year. Thousands breed on the island in summer.

Leopard seal- our winter visitor. Comes to eat my penguins on cold snowy days.

Another leopard seal.

And another leopard seal.