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, 18 March 2018

March

It is now March.  For us, March is the end of the season and time to start thinking about going home.  My chinstrap chicks have all fledged.  Unlike the Adelies, who travel south to moult, the chinstrap adults will stay at Signy to moult.  Many of them will stand with their partners on their nest site while they do this. 


Some of them look very scruffy as their new feathers grow and push out the old ones.  Sometimes the ground is littered with so many feathers it looks like it has been snowing.  It takes a suprisingly short time for the entire set of feathers to be replaced (only 2 weeks).  I always feel that this is the equivalent of going out and buying a brand new waterproof coat for the winter months. 


The fur seals also moult at Signy.  They also look scruffy, often looking like they need a good hoovering!

The elephant seal fur seems to peel off in layers rather than individual hairs falling out.  They always look very smart once they have moulted.  This youngster looked particularly nice. 


It always seems a shame to me that they grow into something like this!

My fieldwork is now complete.  Instead jobs now include things like giving my field huts at Gourlay a new coat of wood preserver (although this year we only had enough to do the hut on the right).

I've also just finished the job of washing my nest marker bricks.  This year the sun shone and it was a pleasant task.

Now they are all stacked in the hut ready for next season. 


The weather has improved slightly in recent weeks, becoming colder and clearer.   One evening we even had a sort-of sunset...


... followed by a dark night with millions of stars.  This is only the second night I've seen stars this year, due to a combination of it being summer and therefore light, and then being largely overcast.  It now gets dark quite early, giving us more opportunities to see the stars.

With very little snow left after a mild season, some areas of Signy look nothing like the Antarctic!  Some of the thawed lakes look particularly nice, with the water a deep greeny blue colour from the glacial sediments that drain into them. 



With 10 days to go now before the ship comes to pick us up, we turn to packing cargo and samples and starting to close down the station for the winter.    

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