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, 23 December 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone back home.  I hope you all have a very happy Christmas and New Year.

(Left to right: Matt, Stef, Norman, Mark, Yoga, Bruce and Myself.)  All modelling the latest Signy summer fashion...

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Signy 2013/14 Season

I’ve told a number of people that I will try harder this season to keep up with my blog, so here goes...  I spent a pleasant summer looking after Noss National Nature Reserve in Shetland, which involved living on a small island, driving powerboats, monitoring seabirds and being nice to visitors, before returning to Signy in the autumn.  We left the UK on 10th November, and flew down to the Falklands (via Ascension Island), where we boarded the RRS James Clark Ross, to take us to Signy.

The JCR at KEP.

We spent a couple of days exploring in the Falklands before setting sail.  This season we are going in via South Georgia, which is always nice as we get to see Bird Island and King Edward Point (KEP) again.  It took us 3 days to get to the base at KEP on South Georgia.  The seas and weather were kind to us and we all enjoyed a comfortable passage.  The ship was quite full (there were four of us in my cabin) as there were staff going to all three bases (KEP, Bird Island and Signy), plus the oceanographers who will remain on the ship for a scientific cruise once all the bases have been restocked and everyone else has got off. 

The church at Grytviken, South Georgia.

The rare sight of Bird Island in the sunshine.

We spent approx 3 days at both KEP and Bird Island, dropping off the new staff, and resupplying the bases with all the supplies they will need for the coming summer and winter - this involved working both on the ship (to get all the boxes onto the island) and on the bases (receiving and unpacking all the boxes that have come off the ship).  It is good fun but hard work.  It was lovely to be back on Bird Island and I was particularly pleased to be allowed off base, to act as escort for people needing to check the condition of the field huts, ropes and footpaths, in various locations, giving me an excuse to visit many of my old haunts around the island.  At KEP we had time to explore the old whaling station at Grytviken and have a wander out to Penguin River, which is a picturesque floodplain in the neighbouring valley, and backed by gorgeous snowy peaked mountains.  KEP put on a big BBQ for us on our final evening, then we set sail for Signy.


Penguin River, South Georgia.

After 3 more days at sea, and small amounts of scientific cruise work, we arrived at Signy.  Signy is a summer only base, so has not been visited since we left in April.  As a result we have no idea what condition we will find the base in upon arrival.  At this time of year Signy is usually just at the edge of the sea ice, which retreats as the summer goes on, so we do not know if the bay will be locked into the ice or in open water.   This year, a strong earthquake was recorded only about 60miles from Signy, only a couple of weeks before our arrival.  Despite all this, we arrived to find Signy pretty much as we had left it, and set about the 3 day task of reopening the base and settling in.  With the help of people from the ship we soon had the pathways clear of snow, the generators running, the food stores restocked and the boilers working.  There was even time to give people a chance to see the penguins at Gourlay on the third day.  The ship finally departed on the fourth day, leaving us to finish unpacking boxes and make a start on our work.