Thursday, 29 March 2012

A busy end to the summer

What a busy end to the summer we have had, visitors coming and going, ships, weddings, parties. It’s about time for a holiday I think!


With the BAS ship JCR busy on science cruises and resupplying bases further South it was up to our Fisheries patrol ship to pick up some outgoing scientists from Bird Island at the North end of South Georgia. Having made the pickup they headed for KEP for a few days, before heading out with HMS Clyde, also visiting the island on patrol.

The three visitors were Cat and Hannah, w20120304-DSC_6700ho had been doing research for their PhD’s for the summer, and Mick who has been the Seal field assistant for just over the last two years. They had a busy few days here, out walking with us up to Glacier col to go sledging, helping me with the Fur Seal pup weighing, and a quick 3 day trip to St.Andrews bay to see the King Penguin colony.

Even in the year that I have been here I am sure that the remains of the glacier at glacier col have shrunk substantially. It definitely didn’t used to have the holes in it which it now has, anyone who doubts that our climate is changing rapidly ought to come down here so I can bang their head against a glacier! As the weather has been fairly chilly recently there were a few patches of snow around, so we got out the baking trays and did some sledging, definitely good fun!

20120304-DSC_6709Walking past where there used to be a glacier

Water pouring out of the glacier

20120304-DSC_6730 Penguin river lives up to its name!


HMS Clyde whilst on patrol down here paid us a visit. Fortunately she was able to come alongside our jetty, so no ferrying the navy back and forth so that they can have a shore visit, always a bonus! While there were so many hands around we did a beach clean at Discovery Point. Insulating foam from the wreck of the Lynn has started to be washed ashore after she broke up in storms a few weeks ago. You can see from the number of sacks that we picked up quite a lot. The navy were very helpful in using their rigid raiders to assist in this too, which meant we could clear up some spiky bits of metal too without risking puncturing the sponsons of the RIBs. The Clyde also brought in 3 bomb disposal workers too, so they were off and about destroying unexploded ordinances. We even got to help out, but that can go in another blog entry!

20120311-P1020060We have also had a birthday recently. It was the turn to celebrate of Ernie our generator mechanic. He has a wealth of Antarctic experience having worked at Rothera and Halley, and is now at the best base of the lot ;-) With a fondness for Fur Seals I made a frame for a photo of a furrie pup taken by Katie to give as a present from the base. A number of people, including the birthday boy himself commented on the similarity in appearances between our mech and the pup!

Having had extra people on base most of the summer it was time for them to head back to the Falklands and the UK. As a parting celebration we had an impressive bonfire on the beach with everyone in attendance. With the base much quieter there is a definite quiet winter feeling which is very pleasant after the busy summer!

20120316-DSC_9751Sparks fly!

Friday, 23 March 2012

South Georgia wedding

20120303-DSC_6346One of the visitors to our base this summer has been a young kiwi called Kalinka. She has been working on eradicating invasive plants, collecting genetic samples from rats, and is now part of a field team looking at mouse distribution at a couple of remote locations on South Georgia. She decided that this would be the place to get married, and so when her other half came down to join up with the mouse team they were duly married!

20120303-DSC_6354And what a busy day it was! The fisheries patrol ship docked in the morning, then there was cargo to sort, then the wedding, then in the afternoon they were off into the field!

The wedding ceremony was held up at Hope Point, just up the hill above Shackleton’s cross on a small flat area of grass. The day could not have been more beautiful, sunshine, blue skies, a few nice white clouds, the sea, snow covered mountains, and excellent company. There can’t be very many weddings where the bride, groom and guests have to dodge through growling Fur seals!

20120303-DSC_6379A casual dress code was ordered by Kalinka, and for most people working this simply meant downing tools and heading up to the ceremony, boiler suits, wellies, wooly hats, all were welcomed the same.

The service was performed by Sarah Lurcock, whom as well as being in charge of the Museum at Grytviken is also the registrar. The witnesses were Jude Brown (the government fisheries expert) and Andy Black (the government bird man).

We all watched as the happy couple said a few heartfelt words to each other, took their vows, and were pronounced husband and wife.



After the compulsory group photos everyone made their way down to the base veranda and I was left to take photos of the happy couple having volunteered my services as ‘wedding photographer’.


Waiting at the end of base was the wedding transport, the builders landrover, with a specially painted front bumper, shaving foam, hazard tape rib bans, and a trail of tin cans! Fortunately (the driver managed to conk out twice ;-) the journey was only about 200m to the veranda, where there was a lovely wedding cake, and a marvellous spread for lunch.

Even the wildlife wanted to join the celebrations, especially if there was any food left unattended!20120303-DSC_6655

Congratulations to you both.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Leopard seal feeding


The other evening there was some excitement as a Leopard seal was spotted out in the kelp. It could be seen thrashing something around, but we couldn’t quite see what it was until I zoomed in on the photos. It did in fact turn out to be a Fur Seal pup. In some ways it is rather surprising that we don’t see this more often considering the amount of feathered or furry ‘food’ that swims around here!


Because the lep is floating around in the water and doesn’t have opposable thumbs or a handy clasping foot it’s pretty tricky for it to rip off chunks of flesh to eat. The dramatic technique they have come up with is to grab hold of the end of their dinner and give it a good thrash. Bits of meat may come flying off, and the carcass is fairly well shredded. It also has a neat effect of skinning the carcass. I put a sequence together below taken at 6 frames per second which shows the thrashing quite well.

20120212 lep eating pup