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, 30 December 2011

Photos from the journey

Evening light over the South Shetland Islands.

The "real" Antarctic at its best.

Adelie penguin (one of my study species this year).

Down the Crevasse at Rothera.

The JCR leaves clear tracks behind it through the ice-covered ocean as it continues on its way.

The journey south

Ok, here begins Stacey in Antarctica Part 2.

My journey began on the morning of 6th December, when Mum, Dad and Derren waved me off on the minibus, that came to pick us up from the BAS headquarters in Cambridge to take us to the airport (myself and about 8 others who were going to different bases around the Antarctic). Later that day, we flew to Madrid, where we waited for a connecting flight for a few hours, then continued onwards, across the Atlantic to Santiago. After another brief stop there, we flew South, to Punta Arenas. We were put up for the night in a very nice hotel there. The following day, the adventures really began. We went back to Punta airport, where we boarded the Dash7- the British Antarctic Survey aeroplane. This is quite an exciting plane- used for carrying people and cargo backwards and forwards between Punta and the Bas research station at Rothera, about half way down the Antarctic Peninsula. The plane is very small, with seats at the back, a kettle for cups of tea, and a big open space for cargo at the front. It took us 5 hours to fly south, and we arrived at Rothera on the afternoon of 8th December.

When we arrived, the JCR, the ship that was going to take us onwards, had just arrived and moored at Rothera station. It was the first ship call of the season so was bringing all the supplies and kit needed by the station for the coming summer. This required 3 days of organising, which meant we got a 3 day holiday there. Rothera is below the Antarctic circle so was having 24 hour daylight at all times. The sun remained high in the sky both day and night. Whilst there, the base members took us out riding on the skidoos, and exploring down a big blue crevasse, which was like a huge blue cave. The colours and icicles were lovely. We were also able to walk out around “the point” and have our first encounters with Adelie penguins and Weddell Seals.

When the work at Rothera was complete, the JCR set sail, heading northwards along the peninsula. This day was sunny, and the mountains, ice, clouds, blue sky and flat calm seas produced probably the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen; vast areas of white wilderness, dotted only with the small black shapes of seals and penguins, hauled out on the ice floes.

In the next few days we continued North, along the peninsula, stopping at various places along the way. First stop was the Ukrainian base at Vernadsky where we had to drop off some scientific kit, then Port Lockroy, Deception Island and Jubany. We also passed the South Shetland Islands and finally arrived at the South Orkneys. I wonder how many other people have seen both the North and South Orkney and Shetland Islands, all since April! J The journey was lovely, sometimes ploughing through thick slushy ice, and at times open water. We eventually arrived at Signy on the morning of 18th December. I’ll write that bit in another entry, so you can see some pictures of the journey first (if I can get the internet to upload them).

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The plan (and Frozen Planet)

So, for those of you who are wondering what the plan is, here it is...
I fly from the UK on 6th December, to South America, where I am then flown to the BAS research station Rothera, on the Antarctic peninsula. I get three days there, before joining one of the BAS ships, the James Clark Ross, to take me to Signy, the island in the South Orkney islands where I will be spending the summer (UK winter). Thats all for now, but there will be photos once I get going.

Oh, and make sure you are watching Frozen Planet... Much of the South Georgia stuff was filmed on Bird Island during my first summer there.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Stacey in Antarctica: Part II

Yes, its back- the new and exciting
"Stacey in Antarctica: Part II"
Watch this space as new and exciting events unfold...

In November 2011 I will once again be heading South, for 5 months. This time to Signy, an island in the South Orkney Islands, for yet more penguin adventures.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The end of the adventure...

The gentoo penguins go about their daily life as the RSS.Ernest Shackleton arrives to take me home.

Wandering albatrosses display in the sunset.
Wandering albatrosses displaying.

Some of my Wanderers.

The last few days of my time on Bird Island.

Wanderer and chick.

One of my wanderer chicks.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

The end of it all...

I suspect some of you are checking this from time to time, wondering whether I intend to update this any more. Well here it is- the long awaited final entry to the Stacey in Antarctica Blog (although i promise to put up one last batch of photo's after this).

The last couple of months flew by. We had one ship call which took away a few of our short-term summer staff and delivered us some more. I continued to do the albatross work which kept me busy monitoring the grey headed and black browed albatross chicks, and recording the hatch dates for all of the new wandering albatross chicks.

On base we fitted in some useful activities to help the winterers, including a search and rescue exercise, and an oil spill response scenario. We also made lists of everything that was present on base, to allow Ags, our summer BC to order what is needed for next year.

Two weeks before the end of the season, the Fisheries Protection Vessel, the Pharos, arrived, bringing a few new people. Of particular significance to me, was Jenn, who arrived to take over the albatross work from me for the winter, so I could go home. The final 2 weeks therefore were busy, handing over the job to her, and doing the final parts of the penguin work handover to Ruth. Once everyone was up to speed (I hope there wasn’t too much I forgot to tell them, but its all a bit rushed when what is usually a 5 month hand over period is squeezed into a 2 week slot!), I spent my final days packing up my belongings into boxes, and filling in the paperwork that is needed to accompany it on its journey home on the ship. I also found the time to help Mick attach tiny GLS tracking devices to fur seal pups.

The ship, the RSS Ernest Shackleton, was due to arrive on 25th March. On the day, we were all packed and ready, with all of our personal kit packed, and all of the waste, empty drums and unwanted kit ready to load. On the day, the ship arrived, but the sea was too rough to launch the small boats needed to transfer all of our kit, so it continued along the coast, to the base at King Edward Point, and promised to return on 27th instead. This was lovely, because as we were all packed and ready to go, we had 2 days of holidays, without having to worry about final packing or organising anything. The weather was kind to us, and on the final afternoon we turned off the generators and shut down the base, and all climbed La Roche (our highest peak) in the sunshine. It was a lovely afternoon, and a fitting end to a fantastic 29 months here, sitting in the sunshine on the very top of our little island in the Southern Oceans.

On 27th March the sea was calm enough for the Shackleton to do its work. The 4 winterers went onboard to visit the dentist, and those remaining ashore oversaw all kit being loaded onto the ship. Finally, by late afternoon, despite a few technical hitches, everything was loaded onboard, and all that was left was the final farewells to the island, and the friends and creatures I was leaving behind. They will all be missed very much, in a way that only people who have been before me could understand.

The Shackleton headed for the Falklands, with me and 3 others from Bird Island, leaving the 4 winterers to get on with their winter. We arrived in the Falklands 3 days later, and headed into Stanley, to enjoy the novelty of being able to spend money, and sit in a bar. It was surprising how quickly the novelty of having to pay for things wore off! Afterwards I stayed for 2 weeks in the Falklands, for a holiday, and to do some work with the Falklands Conservation group. Derren arrived mid way through, and we both spent a week in Ascension Island on the way home. We eventually returned to the UK on the evening of 23rd April 2011, where Mum and Dad came to pick us up.

I will put one final batch of photo’s onto here, of my last few weeks, so don’t stop reading just yet....

Monday, 7 February 2011

Mid February

It’s now early February, and I’ve got less than 2 months left here on Bird Island. Time is whizzing by at an alarming rate, and the main thing that bothers me is that I’m still not managing to find the time to take all those photographs I have been meaning to. I have no idea how I’ve managed to be here 26 months and still haven’t got half the photographs I wanted! Still, it’s good to be busy and keeps me out of trouble.

Christmas on Bird Island was fun, and despite everyone being very busy, we still found time for a few days off to celebrate Christmas in a fairly typical style with lots of good food, decorations and fun. Thank you everyone who sent me Christmas cards and presents. They are lovely to look at on Christmas morning when so far from home. New Year was good too, and the Fisheries Patrol Vessel arrived at the unsociable hour of 8am on New Year’s day to take away several of our staff. This included Joe, one of my 3 winter companions, who will be missed, and some of our visiting scientists. The ship brought us Jon, from the BAS base at King Edward Point, to act as an extra pair of hands for the field assistants, as we are currently one man down.

Those of you that check this frequently have probably noticed that I am not improving in my ability to write anything on here! J I’m sure you’re all bored of me saying that I’ve been very busy and haven’t got round to writing anything- this time I have an excuse as I have a new job. Our albatross assistant left unexpectedly at the start of December. Being the veteran here, and as I had a fair idea of what the job entailed, I took over the roll as Albatross Assistant and handed over most of the usual penguin work to my replacement Ruth a bit more rapidly than we had originally planned. This proved hard work, for both of us as I’ve had to leave Ruth to fend for herself pretty early in the season and I received no handover at all for the albatross work. But two months down the line we are still muddling through and the data is still being collected so we are coping ok.

I still get to play with the penguins from time to time, but most of my work is now monitoring the wandering, black-browed, grey-headed and light-mantled sooty albatrosses. The work is interesting and keeps me very fit as I am out and about for most of the day, nearly every day. The wandering albatrosses have just finished laying eggs and the location of every nest on the island (around 800) had to be mapped. Most of the birds have a metal leg ring with a unique number, and some of them have been nesting on the island for over 50 years. The wanderer work is a good excuse to get all over the island to places you wouldn’t usually venture to. The smaller albatrosses, the black-brows and grey-heads, have small chicks at present, which are very cute. They nest in colonies so it requires less walking to check the birds, but the colonies are spread over quite a large area, so still keeps me out and about.

As I have less than 2 months left now, I am starting to have to think about going home and facing life in the real world again! Ships visit dates seem to be changing on a regular basis at the moment so I haven’t managed to make any firm plans for arriving back in the UK as I am also thinking of travelling a bit on the way home. I should be back in the UK around the end of April/May whatever happens so will catch up with people then.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Albatrosses.

Wanderer in the evening light.

Light-mantled sooty albatross chick.

Wanderer at sunset.

Light-mantled sooty albatross with chick.

Other wildlife

Northern Giant petrel that has been eating a dead seal.

Gentoo penguins at Natural Arch.

Not so little Gentoo penguin chicks.

Skua chick.

Bottom Meadows on a sunny day.

Seals.

Fur seals on the beaches.

More fur seals.

One in 1000 pups are blonde.

The beach in front of the base in summer.

Fur seal pup that's been playing in the sea.

Christmas on Bird Island

My Christmas cake.

Christmas Dinner.

Christmas photograph... (rather random).