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.

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.