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.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Home Time

I will finish my blog this season with a couple of pictures of Weddell seals that never quite fitted into any of my other posts.  Weddell seals always seem to look content and I think have to be pretty close to the top of my favourite Antarctic creature list.  Not only do they look cute, but they also don't make much noise, nor do they smell, nor do they bite! 

We spent the last week getting everything packed up and ready to leave.  On Sunday 19th March, the RRS Ernest Shackleton appeared, ready to take us home.

Closing down the station was done at a more leisurely pace than usual this year as there were surveyors onboard who wanted to take various site measurements in preparation for a planned new research station to be constructed in a couple of years time.  The ship hung around while the surveyors surveyed and we closed the station over a four day period.  It can be done in a day and a half if needed, so a lot of sitting around waiting occurred! 

Eventually everyone was ready to leave and we set sail.  Our first engagement once onboard was a rendez vous with the other BAS ship, the RRS James Clark Ross, to transfer a member of the ships crew. 

The JCR is the ship that brought us down in November.  It would have made a nice photograph of them both together, but as we were on one of the ships this was not possible.  The closest I got was this one of the JCR from my cabin porthole on the Shackleton! 

It then took us three days to sail back to the Falklands, where we moored just off Stanley.  Stanley is where the majority of the Falkland Islanders live and is a colourful little place stretching along the seafront.

We had three days in the Falklands, before flying back to the UK.  For the summer I will be once again working at Foxglove Covert Local Nature Reserve in Yorkshire, which has a blog of its own.  If you have enjoyed this blog, it is worth checking back again in November to see if I will be returning for another season.  

Monday, 10 April 2017

Pictures

I am now back in the UK and thought I'd conclude my blog for the season with a couple of pictures.  However, having looked through my pictures from the last couple of weeks, I seem to have far too many nice ones, so it looks like there will be two final blog posts instead of one.  Here is the first.  

The final two weeks at Signy gave us some lovely weather.  Each day had new interesting clouds and patterns...

Each morning had a sunrise...

Each evening the sky turned pink as the sun set...

Clear skies left behind a starry night.  It is only at the very end of the season when the nights really start to draw in that we get to see the stars.  And then, only when its clear, which is pretty unusual!  Below you can see Orion.  I like Orion as it is the only constellation that I have spotted that I recognise both in the Northern and the Southern Hemisphere (although there must be more than this one).  At Signy, Orion is always low in the sky, and laying on his back.  You can see the three main stars of his belt in the picture below, but then you have to turn him upside down to see what is normally seen in the UK.

In the picture below, towards the centre right you can spot (not very clearly I know) an upside down kite shape.  This is the Southern Cross.  It can be used with the pair of brighter stars below and to the right of it to work out which direction is South.

Occasionally at Signy it snows what I consider to be "proper" snowflakes.  The kind you draw as a child but never really see.  It seems to be true, that they are all unique in shape.  It would also appear to be true that they are very hard to photograph, so please excuse the quality of these images.  The patterns seemed to show better in black and white.