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.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Some final photographs

Interesting Icebergs.

Adelie penguins with chicks (the ground is pink from the penguin poo).

A peaceful morning and an obliging fur seal.

The coast at Cummings.

The journey home.


 Signy Base

 Me with the base behind on a lovely sunny day

 The Orwell Glacier and Waterpipe field hut.

On a trip to Cummings

Gentoo chick starting to moult its down to reveal its feathers.

Back home again.

I realise it’s been a long time since I last updated this.  Most of you must be wondering whether I’m still at Signy, or home, or even still alive!  My season seemed to get very busy, and I didn’t get as much done with my blog as I’d hoped.  So I think the easiest thing now is to put a final few photo’s on here and a last bit of writing, then call it a day for now anyway. 

The New Year was busy with work, which continued at a steady pace until the end of the season.  The rapidly growing penguin chicks had to be counted, and 250 of each species weighed before they fledged.  This required dedicated volunteers who didn’t mind ending up covered from head to toe with penguin poo.  My helpers Matt, Mick and Bruce this season did a sterling job!  It is also the season for penguin diet sampling, so I spent many days in the lab sorting penguin vomit and measuring the krill they had been eating (size/age of the krill can tell us a lot about the health of the Antarctic ecosystem).  

From the start of the year, I counted all seals around the base every second evening.  The young male fur seals in particular altered life around the island, as even in the small area behind the base they grew from 0 to 890 seals.  My walk to Gourlay to check my penguin chicks required extra care to avoid these mischievous and often grumpy beasties.  Later in the season we did a full island seal count of all species.  This was a whole base job, requiring everyone to do their own share and produced a total of over 13,000 seals (mainly fur seals and elephant seals, but a few Weddell seals and leopard seals too).  This gave people the excuse to get out and see different areas of the Island that they wouldn’t normally get to, and despite being hard work, I think looking back, most people would say they had enjoyed it!

Later in the season was indent time.  This is the time of year when everything on the base has to be counted, from tins of beans to pencils, to produce a list of what we have and therefore what needs to be ordered for next year.  It’s surprising how much stuff a small research station has when you start trying to count it all!  

I left Signy on 18th March on the James Clark Ross.  Because Signy is a summer-only base, this involved several days of winterising the base before the ship arrived.  This meant all the heating and water systems and the generators had to be closed down properly, to ensure they will survive the winter and will be in a fit state to start up again next year.  Mick, our tech services man was very busy in the last few days making sure all this happened properly and in the right order. 

The journey home was a bit bumpy but fairly uneventful.  It took about 3 days to reach the Falklands.  We had a couple of days there, which included a nice day out walking in the hills with Paul and Bruce, and a meal out in the Malvinas Hotel one evening.  We then flew back to the UK, stopping overnight in Ascension Island.

Upon return to the UK, I had to work fast... I had 3 weeks from landing in the UK, to starting my new job for the summer.  In that time I needed to unpack, repack, find a car and visit various people.  But, it all fitted, and I am now happily settled in my new job as warden for Hermaness National Nature Reserve in Shetland. In less than a month, I travelled from 60degrees South, to 60 degrees North.  I am now the most Northerly female resident in the UK, living at almost exactly the same latitude in the Northern Hemisphere, as Signy was in the South! 

I’ll sign off here, and leave you with a few final Signy photographs.