Category Archives: Penguin

Second Call of the Shack

The last couple of weeks have mainly been defined by change.  While the season has generally been poor weather wise (even by South Orkney standards) it definitely feels like the weather is slowly moving back towards winter.  This along with the penguins chicks starting to leave and the Fur seals heading off as well has made the island feel even more wild.  In amongst the normal routine of diet sampling penguins, counting chicks and trying to refurbish the base we also had our second call from the Ernest Shackleton.  The second call is time for us to get some fresh food, a resupply or beer, some post and to use the Shackletons small boats to do some jobs that we wouldn’t manage normally.931A5485 Not the Ernest Shackleton.  This factory ship has been lurking around all season.  Part of the long term study of penguins we are involved with may well stop krill fishing in Antarctic and put an end to these krill factories.931A5488 Looking down on the North Point colonies on a rare sunny day.  Guano is pink so you can easily spot the colonies.

Deserted Adelie colonies at Gourlay931A9196

The same Adelie colony at the start of the season.

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Ernest Shackleton off Foca Cove.  With the small boats from the Shackleton we managed to pull lots of the left over building materials out of the huts on the west side of the island and resupply them with fresh drinking water.

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The other thing that happens at Second call is the Shackleton takes all our rubbish.  The ton bags on the pier being loaded onto the cargo tender are the landfill, paper and plastic recycling from seven guys for just over two months.  This does not include all the glass, metal and food waste.  If you think packaging is bad in UK supermarkets, Antarctica is another level!

Ernest Shackleton dwarfed by bergs as it drops us off at another of the huts.

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Sea ice building up in the bays around the island

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Chilled out Fur seal.  Most Fur seals are not chilled out.  The ones that visit us on Signy are all the young males who have failed to build a harem further north so they tend to be young and angry.  When they are chilled out I love their inquisitive faces.

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Snow petrel chicks getting even fluffier

The other big change ahead of us is coming home.  We were meant to have another month here but in fact the ship will be back for us a week on Friday.  The last few days have been a bit of scramble as we all work out how to fit the most work into the last few days on the island.

Also posted in Adelie Penguin, alastair rose, ali rose, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Ernest Shackleton, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Signy, Signy Research Station, South Orkney Islands 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.

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