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.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Mid December

Well, according to my diary it is nearly 4 weeks since we caught our first glimpse of Signy this season.  I can't believe where the time has gone.  The team at Signy has now settled in well and it really feels like home. 

Signy Base, with Coronation Island behind.

Everyone has been very busy- the tech team have been installing a new seal fence (to prevent the elephant seals taking over the base), getting our 3 new freezers up and running, and getting to grips with various new bits of machinery.  Next on the list for them is the installation of a brand new fire alarm system throughout the entire base.  Our field assistant has been checking out the icecap routes for crevasses to ensure it is safe for us to cross, training us all up in our snow and field skills and helping me and the other scientists with their work.  Jen and Gareth, our two scientists have been busy in the field measuring the intensity of light reflected from penguin poo as part of a project to try and identify/count penguins remotely using satellite photographs.

Adelie penguin colony, patiently waiting for their eggs to hatch.

I have been busy visiting my penguin nests to see how they are doing.  The Adelies are hatching fast and about three quarters of them now have chicks.  The chicks are gorgeous little balls of grey fluff when they first hatch, but this doesn't last long and they soon cover themselves in penguin poo and aren't half as endearing.  The chinstrap penguins are busy laying eggs.  I have spent a lot of time counting penguin eggs and chicks, and in addition have done a number of other tasks-removing and replacing temperature loggers that have been placed around the island over the winter, taking penguin blood samples, collecting shellfish samples, doing beach debris surveys and retrieving tracking devices from penguins.

The weather has been quite cold, and on a calm day the sea sometimes begins to freeze over.  This is great for pretty photographs, but makes it pretty chilly if you are outside working for long periods of time.

Pancake ice starting to form between the brash ice in the bay on a chilly morning.

Aside from work we have a nice social life on base.  We take it in turns to cook the evening meal which we all eat together.  On Saturday nights the chef of the day produces a special 3-course dinner then we have an evening of games (darts, cards, dominoes etc).  We have also started playing Bridge each week (usually on a Friday night).  Sunday and Wednesday nights are movie nights, and whoever is on cook for the day gets to choose what we watch.  As it is now almost mid summer it stays light til late in the evening, and some nights we are treated to a very nice sunset.

Sunset and the moon over Coronation Island.

I hope everyone back home is enjoying the countdown to Christmas.  Here we have managed to avoid the Christmas shopping rush, but we will be thinking about getting the trimmings up in the next week or so.  last week I made Christmas cakes, which are now sitting on the shelf maturing, ready for Christmas Day. 

Thats all for now.

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