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, 11 December 2016


Time at Signy seems to pass very rapidly.  Already we have been here a month, and in that time things have changed enormously.  The photo's on my previous blog, show the state of things shortly after we first arrived.  Now three weeks later, everything has moved on.  The Adelies complete their entire breeding cycle in only 4 months, arriving mid October, and leaving Signy around Mid February.  It is a race against time for them to rear their young and get them to sea early enough in the year so they have a chance of surviving the winter.

When hatching time approaches, the second parent returns to the nest.  The colonies suddenly start to look much more busy. 

The adelie chicks started hatching about a week ago, and on my visit to Gourlay yesterday, approximately one third of the eggs have now hatched.  You can see this one is just starting to hatch.  It will probably be a couple of days yet before the chick fully emerges from the egg.

Once hatched, they continue to be guarded by one parent or the other.  Without this protection they are very vulnerable and perfect snack size for a hungry skua.  The other parent will spend the day at sea catching krill or fish, and return in the evening to swap shifts with the guarding parent. 

This Adelie has two chicks.  In a good season, where food is plentiful, both chicks are likely to survive, but if food supplies are scarce, only the biggest will successfully fledge.

In other news, on Tuesday one of the BAS ships, the RRS Ernest Shackleton is coming to visit.  They will take away our generator mechanic Doug, and bring in a new scientist.  The weather is forecast to be kind to us, so we may be able to get on board to see a change of faces, and some fresh salad!  The Shackleton then continues southwards, down to Halley.

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