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, 3 November 2017

A New Season

Back in the UK the clocks were put back an hour.  For me this is time to migrate down to the Antarctic for the summer season, avoiding the long dark UK winters nights.  This year I am returning as usual, to Signy Island in the South Orkney Islands.  This season is significant as it will be my 10th summer season in Antarctica- an entire decade of penguins! 

We flew from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire late on Sunday night, via Cape Verde, and onwards to the Falkland Islands.  We saw little of Cape Verde except the airport building, but it seemed a pleasantly warm place with temperatures reaching 25 degrees at 7am so I expect it was going to be a warm day!  When we arrived in the Falklands we were transported by bus to the ship, the RRS James Clark Ross which was moored just outside Stanley.  Everything happened quite fast this year so there wasn't time to get much sightseeing done in town before we set sail round to Mare Harbour on the other side of the island, where we took on fuel.  Here there was time for a short walk out with my camera. 

It is spring in the Falklands:

Everything is looking quite green (for the Falklands anyway!):

The vegetation is quite sparse with some bizarre plants:


There were some birds around.  These Turkey Vultures were feeding on a dead goose. 

This is a male black-throated or white-bridled finch:

We are now at sea, heading down towards Signy.  Below you can see the ship heading away from the jetty as we left the Falklands:

The crossing has been largely uneventful, but a little bumpy which makes simple tasks somewhat tricky.  It is difficult to sleep when sliding up and down the bunk, and even eating becomes hard when you have to chase your meal around the plate and prevent it from escaping. 

This afternoon it has calmed down a bit and the journey is becoming more comfortable.  It has started to snow and the temperature last time I checked was minus 7.2 degrees centigrade.  With 25knot winds, this is starting to feel rather chilly!  Good numbers of albatrosses have been following the ship for most of the journey:

They hardly ever flap their wings, instead gliding effortlessly and gracefully along behind the ship with seemingly no effort at all.  I think they hope we are a fishing vessel that might throw them something tasty.  They are notoriously difficult to get a decent photograph of when standing on the swaying deck of the ship!  This was the best I could manage on this occasion:

We are due into Signy first thing tomorrow morning so if we are lucky we will awake to icebergs and the snowy peaks of the South Orkney Islands (or possibly dense icy fog!).  It will then take us about 3 days to get us up and running and ready for the coming season.

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