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Posts Tagged ‘British Antarctic Survey’

For the last few days we have been in the South Orkney Islands dropping off people and supplies. We dropped off a scientist and field assistant at Cape Geddes on Laurie Island, with only a rarely used dilapidated hut for shelter. The two of them are spending six weeks camping with penguins, then moving on to Powell Island.
 Sea ice around the shoreline made dropping them and their supplies off challenging, with growlers closing in around the humbers.
Then we had a day to wait in Signy as some of the ships engineers were sent ashore to fix a generator. We went on a walk over a glacier to see some Chinstrap and Adelie Penguin colonies, complete with chicks!


Now we are heading for South Georgia where we will drop a few bird botherers off at Bird Island, before heading back to Stanley in the Falklands.

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We left Rothera very almost on schedule – half a day late, giving time for a few last walks up to the monument before departing. Lots of the base staff came to wave us off in perfect sunshine. The trip back around Adelaide Island gave some spectacular views of the snowy cliffs.
The next stop was meant to be Vernadsky. The POL science team needed to drop of some tide gauges from the Ukrainian base. A few cruise ships had been in the area so we thought getting in would be ok. The shortest route was via the French Passage, this was covered with sea ice and with only a narrow channel of surveyed ocean we had to make a U-turn and try to get in another way. The cruise ships take the Le Mayer channel , to get to this route took us right past Port Lockroy. It would have been rude to go so close by without popping in to say hi!
Port Lockroy was initially a British army base used to spy on German submarines during world war two. Later it was used by BAS; then fell into disrepair. When the Antarctic Treaty was made BAS had to dismantle the base entirely or renovate it – they turned it into a heritage site visited by 14000 tourists a year. The base is only open during the summer months; they do limited science – penguin counting and meteorological observations. The only way to the base is little boats – so we were ferried across to look in the museum and see the Gentoo penguin colony close-up. The ride back on the little boat was my highlight; the wind had picked up a bit so we got soaked by waves. I was very grateful for my x4 ‘fat’ suit keeping me snug.

After the fun of the morning I really needed to get on with some work, but we quickly got to Le Mayer channel. Although it was foggy we could see the snowy cliffs either side appearing to go on forever into the clouds. As we came out of the channel we saw the National Geographic Explorer cruise ship waiting to go back up.
 
As we got to Vernadsky it was clear getting anyone to shore was going to be a challenge – ice flows continued right to the shore. After going round in circles for a while the captain parked up as close to shore as he could get – 32 m off the rocky edge. The crew had a challenge – how to get a full bin-bags of expensive scientific instruments to shore. Attempt one involved throwing a rock attached to a line, this barely reached half way. Next attempt – a giant elastic band catapault, this only reached a few metres! Then one of the motormen came up to the foredeck with a fishing line – after a few ‘practices’ he got the end of it to shore. After a few minutes we could see a ski-doo coming down the slope. I’m not sure the Ukrainians were expecting to have to pull a few hundred metres of rope on shore as the bin-bags were split up into lighter loads, a goodwill gift of a few bottles from the bond  might have helped compensate!

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