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, 23 January 2009

Penguins.

Macaroni penguin at Big Mac

Macaroni chicks at Big Mac

King Penguins in Freshwater Bay

Gentoo with chicks at Natural Arch

Big Mac... 80,000 penguins

Happy 2009!

Happy 2009- thanks to everyone for all the Christmas and New Year greetings. I'm slowing getting through my huge back-log of emails and will eventually get round to replying to all of them!

Christmas was lovely- it seems a long time ago now! We started with flasks of mulled wine and mince pies at the seal study beach on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day everyone still had a few hours of work to do but we had more mince pies with the penguins and took photo's of Fabrice in the middle of the 80,000 penguins at Big Mac dressed in his Father Christmas costume. We then all climbed up the communication tower to the platform at the top, for yet more mince pies and gin. We ate Reindeer for Christmas dinner (obtained for us from the herd on South Georgia, delivered by the BBC when they were filming at the start of the season). The meal was a long and large event with several starters and puddings as well as the reindeer. It was very nice and very Christmassy. Boxing day was a quiet affair, with many of us going back to work.

For New Year, we all went up to Cave Crag for drinks and nibbles in the cave, so that I could keep up my annual tradition of going caving for new year. The Cave Crag cave isn't exactly large, but it served the purpose! We again cooked a huge meal, and released some out of date flares that needed using up, at midnight to see the New Year in. Another great day with only minimal work done, which made a nice change from our usual hectic schedules.

Since then, time seems to keep flying by. The season is moving on- the beaches are now littered with rapidly growing angry fur seal pups but are practically empty compared to when we first arrived as all the adult males and many of the females have left. The smaller species of albatross have chicks and the wandering albatrosses are incubating eggs. My penguin chicks are getting rapidly bigger as are my northern giant petrels. My southern giant petrels have been hatching for the last couple of weeks. My work for the last few weeks has involved lots of penguin chick counts and nest monitoring, taking diet samples from the Gentoo penguins, and taking blood samples and monitoring nests of the giant petrels. Also helping out with the seal pup weighing and marking out nests of wandering albatrosses and various bits of data analysis and identifying fish and krill found in the diet samples. It's been busy but varied and fun, with some late nights and early mornings and some stunning weather.

One night, us 4 winterers walked out to Farewell point, on the West side of the island and camped out for the night. It made a lovely change to get out for the night. We had a couple of ships in around Christmas, one bringing in 3 Japanese scientists who are with us until March. Jaume left on the same ship, so we currently have 10 on base. The ships also brought us post, and lovely fresh vegetables, including things like lettuce and bananas and other luxury items. Later, we had a visit from a small sailing boat for a couple of days. This was a group of botanists and entomologists from Kew Gardens- it made a nice change to have new people around for a few days.

Dinner is ready so I'll stop there. I'll get some more pictures on here soon- I promise!