The news was broken to me at Halley that I was the only person flying back to Rothera with Olly the pilot. My dreams of alternating between napping and reading my book in the back while someone else did co-pilot duties were shattered! As the plane was so light we flew direct from Halley to Rothera in just under seven hours with me still managing to get a bit of a nap and some reading done. In reality it was a fun trip feeling much more like a road trip than normal with just Olly and I chatting away and me occasionally doing a little bit of flying to give Olly a break. On the way out of Halley we flew over the RRS Ernest Shackleton doing relief on the Brunt Ice Shelf 40km from the Halley base.
By the time we got to Rothera it was grey and overcast. Flying from Halley to Rothera directly does mean that the last bit of the journey has some interesting views as the route cuts across the peninsular.
Back at Rothera Julie and I had a bit of planning and packing to do before the input to the Finlandia Foothills for our final short project of the season. It wasn’t until after Julie had flown in to establish our camp that I was shown this excerpt from the previous field party in the area in the early 80’s. Needless to say Julie and Pete were on the ground for five days waiting for the weather to improve for the rest of us to fly in.
Julie walking away from camp with the Wilson range behind. The team of six of us were in the Finlandia Foothills on Alexander island in the hope of establishing an Antarctic Special Protected Area (ASPA). An area of the foothills had shown promise via satellites and four scientists were expecting a higher than normal density of biological matter and some birds. (Basically bird poo, birds, moss and lichens). (Fossil Bluff is also on Alexander Island which at BAS is often referred to as being the same size as Wales. I recently learnt that it is also the second largest uninhabited island in the world)
Julie and the two Pete’s skiing away from camp.
What a lot of Lichen! After three hours of glacier travel on skis and foot we reached the site to realise that there was…. just a few bits of Lichen and no sign of birds, bird poo or moss. We had expected the sample collections at this site to take three to four days!
Scientists in the mist. While at the site Kevin wanted to collect a series of DNA samples making him and Richard look particularly strange wandering around in the mist. Needless to say it was quickly decided that the site was not worthy of ASPA status!
Julie and the Petes being told the planes wont arrive tomorrow.
After eleven days for Julie and just six for me we flew back late afternoon over some amazing chunks of sea ice and the RSS James Clark Ross doing relief at Rothera.
Skua survey. After a brief couple of days at Rothera it was straight back out with my tentmates from Finlandia, Kevin and Richard, to carry on a skua survey on the islands near Rothera. The flags on Kevin and Richards bags are to give the skua’s something to go for rather than your head when you’re peering into their nests.
Skua chick. While Kevin outlined survey areas and Richard counted nesting pairs I tried to count nest contents. Despite the skuas clearly showing you where their nests are by swooping you more and more aggressively the nests are surprisingly hard to spot.
Inquisitive Weddel seal. I’ve spent barely any time on the islands around Rothera so doing the Skua survey was a great excuse to wander around and get some photos on both Anchorage and Leonie Island.
Incoming! Despite being assured by Richard that the skuas were not that aggressive and would only go for the flag some of the birds were extremely persistent I did get a few good hits to my head by some of the more adventurous ones.
One more week in Antarctica before heading home to Scottish winter which appears to be shaping up nicely.