Saturday, 6 November 2010

Heading South

I'm now down on South Georgia, and what a trip to get here! Fly to the Falklands via Ascension, then several days on the South Georgia Fisheries Patrol ship Pharos. And since I arrived I havn't stopped. Induction, work, relief, more work.... so appologies for not being in touch!

Wandering Albatross
Several days of sailing gave plenty of opportunity for sea watching and taking photos of the birds. Plenty of action was to be had from the back of the ship, Giant Petrels, Black-browed, Wandering, Royal, Grey headed and Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses, Wilson's Petrels, Black-bellied Storm Petrels, Prions, Shearwaters, Diving Petrels, and one morning some Snow Petrels appeared too which was a real treat.

Snow Petrel
Meals on board were brilliant, a cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner. With little to do we killed time sea watching, playing scrabble, and taking photos. The weather was really pleasant, even s the ship rolled around quite a bit.

South Georgia appeared a day ahead of schedule due to the fine weather, the mountains are incredible, it's almost like the himalayas have been half drowned. Watching the officers taking bearings and comparing them on the chart I noticed Cape Wilson, and thought it was an appropriate point for a photo!

Infront of Cape Wilson
KEP from the Pharos
Approaching KEP we were welcomed by the base staff all in fancy dress and doing mexican waves! It felt slightly surreal to be here finally, but incredibly exciting.

The view from the base
The view from the base is pretty spectacular, the above photo is the view from my bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen, lab and office, what more could you ask for! The weather for the first week has been amazing, clear blue skies and light winds made the first week very pleasant. There wasn't much time to settle in though. Work started in ernest straight away. Every other day I have to walk over to Maiviken, check the beaches for seal pups and females, and then walk home, a round trip of about 15km. The terrain is not the easiest either, scree, snow, rocks, and some boggy section.

Maiviken Sealers Cave
The old sealers cave at Maiviken is an interesting sight to see, the entrance of the cave is boarded up and has a door, inside is a wooden platform for sleeping on.

JCR coming in for relief
Just to make life easy, on my day off between Maiviken trips the JCR came in to re-supply the base. Because of the excellent weather it did the Bird Island re-supply first, then came to us. Everyone on base had their jobs, packing boxes into the stores, driving the forklift etc. I was working on the jetty, unhitching stuff from the crane, loading boxes and crates into the trailer, and finally loading up stuff to go back to the UK or Falklands for recycling. It was lots of hard work, but great to see all our food and gear coming in. We were so efficient that the JCR left again the same day. The following day was spent sorting out all the drinks in the bond, and then heading over to Maiviken on the usual seal beach rounds. I certainly was worn out and aching!

Looking back from Dead Mans Pass on my walk to work
The walk to Maiviken is pretty incredible in good weather. Up behind Grytviken, following the valley up, past the water supply dam, and up to Deadmans Pass. From here you get a stunning view, and it's a nice place for a rest too. The main downside of the walk is that once a week I have to study 10 Fur Seal poo's. This basically means sticking them through a sieve and collecting the krill hard parts for measuring, and looking for otoliths (fish ear bones which can be used to identify fish species).

Overlooking Penguin River
It hasn't all been work since I arrived. I have now had 2 days off! The first I went with some of the others to Penguin river. It was a lovely walk along the beach, and yes there were Penguins in the river, King Penguins in fact. On the walk back we visited the artillery gun and shed, and the crashed helicopeter too.

Todays day off has been brilliant. I was asked if I wanted to go out on the Harbour Launch, as the new boating officers would be taking them out to get familiarised with the local area. When I have some time I'll put up some photos from the trip!


  1. What a super looking place, & great photos too. To have snow petrels around the ship is so lucky & then the skill of the photographer to catch a superb photo, well done!
    Settling in & getting very fit; is it a harder walk than to the northern end of Hermaness?

    I'm already looking forward to the next installment!

  2. Lovely to hear from you Ali and to see some gorgeous photos. Am very jelous, you now live & work in one of the most stunning places on earth. All I can see out of my window is traffic driving past a hedge & the odd red kite!!

  3. How ya doin Ali ? Weather looks a bit better down there than here on Unst at the moment ! Seems like you're having a good time - hope you don't have to work too hard !!!!!!!!!!!!!! My kids have asked for a postcard to Baltasound School - any chance ?

    Cheers for now