Monthly Archives: January 2019

Signy Huts

Despite Signy island being quite small (six kilometres by three) we do have a collection of small huts we can use for over-nights, science work or just stopping in for a cup of tea.  These help us not have to carry too much stuff as they all have bunks with sleeping bags and a basic stock of food and fuel.
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Foca hut at sunset.  Foca is on the west coast of the island and has the most overnights stays throughout the year.  The West coast of the island has a lot of Southern Giant Petrel nests along with Gentoo Penguins and Blue Eyed Shags at the Northern Tip.931A0786

Tom, Tim and Fabrizio waiting for the kettle to boil inside Foca.

931A5363Blue Eyed Shags with chicks at North Point.

931A3378Tim checking his notes in Foca hut.  This is the nicest hut by far with four bunks behind tim in a separate area.  As of this season it even has a deck!
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Mike snowshoeing down to Cummings hut.  Cummings is in the South West of the island and surrounded by an area that is pretty difficult to get to by Skidoo with lots of steep hanging coires and “big” ridges.  There are some Chinstrap colonies that we visit South of Cummings and we do periodic litter surveys in various bays on this coast.931A9611Cummings Hut under a leaden sky.  Cummings cove feels very remote and the hut is lovely on the outside but very basic on the inside.  Sadly it will probably be replaced by a tin shed in the next couple of years.

Kettle on in Cummings hut

Iain waiting for his cup of tea.  Theres so little space in the hut its better to wait outside.

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Tom and Iain inside Waterpipe hut.  Waterpipe is the closest to base and can clearly be seen across the bay.  Despite being so close to get there you either have to cross the shallows at low tide or go the long way round via the ice cap making really useful should you get y0ur timings or the weather forecast wrong.

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Iain and Tom working on the roof of Waterpipe hut.  The base can just be seen in the top right of the photo.

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Iain and Tom walking out of the shallows on the way back from Waterpipe hut with the icecap above them.  You can see a group of Fur seals on the left side of the photo – there are hundreds of them on the coast of the island just now making some days fairly terrifying!

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Polar bear?  Nope – its a blonde Fur seal.  About one in five hundred are blonde this one was the most relaxed I’ve seen and wasnt bothered by Tim and I at all.

931A9691 The Gourlay huts.  The Gourlay peninsular is a couple of kilometres away and somewhere we visit every second day at least.  The hut on the left is a standard hut with a couple of bunks and the one of the right is the work hut.  Its a welcome relief most days to have somewhere out of the wind to work or have a cup of tea.931A0181

Tim and Fabrizio in the work hut.

931A5421Snow Petrel Chick in his nest.  This is on the way out of base where you can hear him chirping away, or spitting if you get too close!

Posted in ali rose, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Signy, Signy Research Station Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Dirty Penguin

Its all very well taking photos of beautiful landscapes with blue skies and wonderful black and white penguins with fluffy chicks but this doesn’t really show the reality of living on a tiny island with thousands of birds and animals.  The paths out of base are in reality a litter of sharp rocks interspersed with moss banks and patches of old snow.  On the rare cold, dry days the air is crisp and the ground hard though more often you’re squelching through penguin guano in the sleat with the smell of the colony getting stronger as you approach.  So with that in mind heres a collection of the less lovely side of getting to live with these animals day in and day out.931A3802 Fairly standard look for a Chinstrap penguin.  Probably off to wonder aimlessly around or steal rocks from another birds nest931A3843Adelie chicks are not lovely and fluffy – usually they are rather bedraggled looking and covered in each others poo.
931A3868-2The best mullet I’ve seen in a while.  Many of the Adelie chicks are getting close to fledging.
931A3869 Chinstrap penguin creating Art.931A3901-2 Land of life and death.  Two skuas pulling apart a chinstrap chick.931A3996 Tim and a Skua eyeing each other up.  It can be hard to spot the Skua nests but you know when you’re getting close as they start to dive on you.931A4020

Skua nest with chick.  Skuas are fairly brutal in their persecution of the penguins but they remain one of my favourite birds reminding me a lot of the Ravens you see in the mountains.

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Lovely day to be a penguin.  We walk down to the Gourlay peninsular every two days to count the Adelie and Chinstrap chicks and eggs.  Some days are nicer than others!

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Lovely day to to be a BAS employee.  As well as counting the eggs and chicks every two days, Tim and I diet sample six penguins every four to five days.  The pinky orange stream flowing down the slope is penguin guano from the few thousand birds in the colony above us as we wait for some volunteers to come ashore to diet sample.

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Prawns tonight anyone? We aren’t meant to share anything about the diet sampling – its not a particularly pleasant process but currently the only way to record how penguins diets are changing as the world changes around them.  The penguins mainly eat Krill – this is a sample from one bird.

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Antarctic Tern on a blue sky day.  Along with the Skuas these are another of my favourite birds though they are really hard to photograph especially when its cloudy.  Along with these super fast fliers are the Prions and the Wilsons Storm Petrels which all love zipping around base in the evening.  Hopefully more photos of these soon.

Posted in Adelie Penguin, alastair rose, ali rose, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, Signy, Signy Research Station, Skua Survey Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Christmas and Hogmanay

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Signy Research Station.  While the BBC has already covered “Christmas at the end of the world” I thought I would share some photos from the festive period.  Not much really changes on BAS bases at this time of year, its the middle of summer here and the middle of our work season.  We do get Christmas day and Boxing day off as well as New Years day but all this really means is we have to fit what we normally do into a shorter week.931A3593

Finally some brief spells of good weather in the middle of our summer.

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Despite it being Christmas Tim and I still need to go down to the Gourlay peninsular every two days and count the penguins.  This photo was taken for the BBC to show our Christmas spirit.P1080057-2

“Family” Christmas Dinner.  Not really any different to Christmas dinner in a lot of homes in the UK.931A2597

The locals sleeping off Christmas dinner.

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Despite it being mid summer we did manage a  Christmas sledging adventure on the icecap.

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Skidoo accessed sledging – way better than walking up the hill yourself!

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Straight after Boxing day Tim, Matt and I headed to the west coast of the island for two days to count the Southern Giant Petrels.  Despite being massive these birds are very skittish and are currently in decline.  We needed to count how many of the birds where on eggs in their colonies.  The colonies are spread over the whole of the west coast so it was great to explore some of the more remote parts of the island.  The actual survey was quite depressing as at times we were passing through colonies with thirty nesting pairs with not a single egg.  The circled areas are colony sites.

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Trying to get close enough to see if the birds have eggs without disturbing them is pretty difficult.  The white or “spirit” bird is on some eggs but the rest are getting ready to fly.931A3281

We also went back up to North point to recount the Gentoo chicks.  We had previously counted them but slightly too early as not many had hatched.  They are probably my favourite of the penguin chicks931A3318

Part of the reason we had counted at the wrong time before was because some of the gentoos had laid much earlier than others.  Some of the chicks are massive already!

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We also had some unexpected visitors just after Christmas.  Some Norwegian krill fishermen came to say hello.  Unfortunately as we’re a Research Station they arent actually allowed to visit the base unannounced so this is Matt seeing them off. We did manage to chat to them for a wee while and allow them to photograph the elephant seals.

931A2605 Snow petrel nesting not far from base.  Despite all the focus on Penguins there are some other amazing birds on Signy.931A3408Elephant seals wrestling.  Elephant seals are a bit gross on land but its great watching them carry on in the bay outside the front door.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, Penguin, Signy, Signy Research Station, South Orkney Islands, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |