Sunday 28 November 2010

Catch up - part 2

So here are a few more photos, so that I am almost up to date!! It's really hard work trying to find the time to keep my blog updated, and even to just e-mail home! I've been busy writing my Christmas cards too, the last postal ship leaves at the weekend, so they have to be done by then. The ship will be back in mid December to bring stuff in for Christmas too :-)

The old Predator Ecologist did the weekend trip to Maiviken on his own (we are taking it in turns at weekends), so I made use of the free time to climb a couple of mountains instead. Great fun, the bonus of doing long walks every other day is that I'm already pretty fit.

View from Orca. Bore Valley up to the left is my walk to work, Grytviken is in the middle, and Gull Lake is on the right. 

Our senior boating officer Ashley was keen to recreate Frank Hurleys photo at the top of Mt Duse, so I took up my camera and tripod. We had a postcard of the original photo with us so that we could get the right pinacle to sit on, and get everything lined up. I'll have to put the original in for comparison at some point. It was a bit of a precarious place for Ashley and Rob to perch, but it was worth it. The views were stunning too, and it was such a still day we were able to sit around and really soak it in and enjoy the views.
Rob and Ashley recreating the Frank Hurley photograph at the top of Mt Duse looking down to Grytviken

A 360 degree photo from the top of Mt Duse, KEP is centre image

A beautiful evening of star trails, with the mountains lit up by moonlight
Having done a few photos of star trails I wanted to incorporate some of the local wildlife. Elephant seals are a bit dull and slug like at night, and it's not such a great idea to get close to Fur Seals, so King Penguins were the obvious choice. They have good 'Ahhh' factor too! I'm not sure which of the two I like best, but I'm pretty pleased with them both.

More star trails, with penguins that moved around a lot

Playing with more star trails and the flash (1 frame for penguins, and about 1hr of frames for the trails)

King on the beach outside the kitchen

Sunday 14 November 2010

Time for a catch up - part 1!

An interesting King Penguin appeared at the base. I think it's partially leucistic, and it caused quite a bit of interest. It had extra yellow on the head, lots of white feathers on it's back, and pink feet with black spots.

Extra yellow on the head

Spotty feet!

Speckled back
Everyone on base takes it in turn with the early and late shifts. Earlies start at 6am and require you to make the days bread, unload the dishwasher, make up the powdered milk, and then go around base checking that all is as it should be. Below is the result of my bread making, pretty pleased!

My loaves of bread

One of the other tasks of being on earlies is to cook the evening meal. With everyone on base it's quite a big task. Fortunately for me a few people had gone out onto a cruise ship for the evening, easing my task somewhat. I decided to go for good old fish and chips, making a nice beer batter for the pollock, Jon, who I'm on earlies and lates with created a nice polenta batter, for those that couldn't have the normal stuff. It all went down very well, and everyone had clean plates.

Looking South from KEP

After my day on earlies comes a night of lates. This means staying up late, making sure everyone gets to bed safely, emptying the bins, switching on the dishwasher, and doing the rounds of all the buildings to make sure windows are closed and nothing is leaking etc. Having been invited onto the expedition ship Polar Star for the evening Jon and I split the building checks and did everything in good time. It was a stunning clear night, so I stayed up and took some star trail photos across the bay. It really was a stunning night, and I'm quite pleased with the results. The night sky is simply incredible when you are away from light pollution.

The milky way

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!