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, 26 February 2016

A day out

On Saturday the RRS Ernest Shackleton came to visit.  She was on her way down to Halley, and stopped off to help out with a few bits and pieces on the way.  One of my tasks this year was to visit Moe Island and Lynch Island.  These are two small islands, just off Signy, that are ASPA sites (Antarctic Specially Protected Areas).  They are designated for the pristine nature of their flora and fauna.  One is particularly noted for the abundance of grass!

Visiting the islands is normally not allowed, but every few years the condition of the islands has to be assessed and we were issued a special permit to land.  Their condition largely does not change, but the steady increase in the number of Antarctic fur seals around Signy is considered a threat to the vegetation as they spend a lot of time hauled out on land, and can cause a lot of damage.  To visit the islands we needed boats, so we boarded the Shackleton, then used their small inflatable boats to reach them.  It was great to visit some new islands- here is Signy, looking across from Moe Island.

We had a fantastic day out boating over to each island, landing, completing the survey and then boating back to the ship.  Whilst on board we circumnavigated the whole of Signy, caught up with familiar faces and had a couple of nice meals.  Most notable was the presence of things such as cucumber, tomatoes and grapes- none of which I have seen since November!  

For me, the highlight of the day however was the boat trips to get us to there.  The icebergs around Signy are incredible, and from a small boat, the icy pinnacles seem to stretch right up into the sky, in shining shades of silver, blue and grey.  Here are just a selection of the best, but they sadly still do not do justice to what it was really like.

Note the small boat for scale in these two...

I find icebergs utterly mesmerising.  To be able boat around these beautiful towering giants made this day one of the definate highlights of the season.     


Saturday, 20 February 2016

Suns, Moons and Clouds

I have got a little behind with my blog in recent weeks, so here are a few random images to keep you entertained until I get time to give a proper update!

On a sunny day at Signy, we sometimes get halos forming around the sun.  These occur when there is a thin layer of cirrus clouds in the upper atmosphere- cirrus clouds are made from tiny ice crystals, instead of raindrops, and these refract the light to form the halo.  According to the internet the correct term for it is the 22 degree halo, as apparently this is its radius of the circle- I've never actually tried to measure it!

Sometimes we get low lying layers of mist at Signy.  These occur when the air at ground level is colder that that above it, and are known as temperature inversions.  Some days it looks like a dull grey day down by the sea, but if you climb up onto the icecap you can look down upon the top of the fog bank, and the islands peaks all stand out above it, in bright sunshine.

This is the moon in Anarctica.  Yes, it is exactly the same one as at home, however, as we are at the bottom of the earth, it appears upside down.  If you look at the moon at home, then turn around and look at it upside down, through your legs, you can see how we see it here.  The stars also appear to be upside down, and we largely get a different set of constellations, although we do see a few familiar ones such as Orion (upside down), low down in the sky near the ground.  Higher in the sky we get different constellations such as the Southern Cross.

All of these however require clear skies!  In reality, all too often here it is exceedingly windy, cold and snowy.  On these days I tend not to take my camera out with me, so my pictures are always misleadingly biased towards the sunny days!