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, 24 November 2017

Settled in

With the ship gone, it was time to settle in and start work.  Within a few days of it leaving, the rest of the boxes were all unpacked and the research station was fully up and running.  Everyone settled into their various roles and routines. 

My first job was to head across to Gourlay to my penguin colonies there.  This is where I do the majority of my monitoring work.  It is about an hours walk from the research station.  The Adelie penguins were here long before we were, and are already settled on eggs.  These should start hatching any day now.  For such a noisy bird, the colonies are suprisingly quiet at this stage. 

There are a lot of Adelies at Gourlay...

It is important to try and work out what stage in the breeding season they are at, so I can conduct the rest of the seasons counts at the correct stages through the breeding season to enable them to be consistant over the years and therefore contribute to the longterm datasets.  Their arrival times can vary by several weeks depending on a range of factors such as the amount of sea ice and the condition of the birds themselves.  Once the eggs start to hatch, we will be able to determine when the eggs were laid.    

Away from Gourlay, we had a day trip to Northpoint, which is (as expected) the northern most point of the island. This is where the gentoos nest.  They were also settled on their eggs.

The Blue-eyed shags also nest at Northpoint.  They have spent a lot of time neatly constructing nests and are just starting to lay eggs now.  Being able to fly, they have the advantage of a wider choice of nesting materials and often build with seaweed.  Their nests look much softer and more comfortable than those of the penguins!

There weren't many chinstraps around when we first arrived as they breed later in the season.  The first males were just arriving, to defend their nest sites from rival males and start building a nice pile of pebbles, ready to impress their partners who arrive a few days later.

We have quite a lot of sea ice at present which looks particularly nice on a sunny day.

The sea ice constantly changes.  As the wind direction and tides change, the sea ice moves around so every day is different.  These penguins were in the bay at Foca Cove, which was full of sea ice when we visited. 

Here is Claudia for scale...

We have been quite lucky with the weather so far, enjoying some beautiful sunny days and some lovely snow.

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