It feels like I have been waiting to get here for so long, I have spent the last 3 months being told about King Edward Point and South Georgia and how amazing it is whilst driving around the country for various training courses and activities. Now I finally get to experience it for myself! Once I had attended a number of base briefings about H&S and the way that the islands are run I got to meet the current team. It’s a shame that these guys have to leave so soon as they are a great group of people.
I now have a very brief overlap period, during the busiest period of the year, where I have to dissect my predecessors brain for every little detail on my new job as Higher Predator Scientist before they depart back to snowy England.
Fortunately my role allows me to get to outdoors a lot. My Penguin and Fur Seal study areas, which I have to visit every other day during the summer are conveniently located 4 miles away across stunning scenery. So whilst I will be learning a lot I will not be stuck behind a desk whilst doing it.
Day one involved visits to both the Gentoo Penguins and also the Antarctic Fur Seals. I spent the morning counting the number penguins which had laid eggs and then the afternoon traipsing through the tussock grass to take pictures of the fur seals. I will try to write more about the science I will be completing and why I will be doing it next time, but for now, you will have to settle for pictures of my new study friends.
Currently, with me being located in the southern hemisphere, it is currently spring. On a normal year the lower altitudes of the island would be free of snow. However, the islands have experienced a particularly white winter and many of the lower passes are still covered in a couple of foot of snow, which makes for interesting walking conditions.
I am part of a small team of 8 arriving here this week. The team is made up of a fisheries biologist, higher predator biologist, two boating officers, a station commander, a doctor an electrician and a technician. Fortunately all of the team are going through the handover period and part of the boating officers training, is the familiarization with the local waters meaning there is great opportunities to get out and see Cumberland Bay. I was lucky enough to jump on board for a trip to a Neumayer Glacier. Worryingly, as with all but one of South Americas Glaciers. All of South Georgia’s glaciers are receding at a considerable speed. Rough calculations by the government suggest that this particular glacier has withdrawn as much as 300m a year. Unfortunately, the glacier had recently calved quite spectacularly meaning getting to Glacier wasn’t possible, since there was so much floating ice. But nevertheless photo opportunities were frequent and it did allow us to top up the supplies of Ice for base to make our Gin and Tonics later that evening.
Unlike many of the other Antarctic bases, we have a large amount of freedom during our free time. And the island offers an amazing range of walking, climbing, boating, and skiing opportunities, depending on the season. There are also outrageous opportunities for wildlife encounter, comparable only to the Galapagos and The Farne Islands. So just to make you feel jealous I will leave you with a picture from my bedroom window!