Monthly Archives: May 2015

South Georgia – Icecaps, beacons and hungry chicks

May 2015.

Right, where did we leave it last month… oh yeah a picture of a frozen King Edward Cove. Well the freeze continued for a week or so and then summer showed us it had something left in the tank.

South Georgia, Antarctica, May 2015 -1

Emma and I managed five days away on the Barff Peninsula at the start of May. There are a few peaks that have eluded me in my time here, so this was a chance to knock one or two of them off. I took this one late afternoon just above Sandebungten (base is in the middle of the shot on the other side of the water – not that you can see it here)

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Thats Sandebungten bay below, the Greene Peninsula dead ahead and the Nordenskjold glacier to the left of the shot.

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One of the bigger rivers in our travel area comes through Sandebungten. The river is fed from the Siezlasko icecap higher up on the peninsular, so the water is just a tad cold!

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A doo, doo doo, a daa da daa… no I’m not sure what that’s meant to mean either but it seems to fit the picture and possibly whats going on in Emma’s head. In all honesty I have no idea what Emma is up to here. I think she’s playing up to the camera now.

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We decided to take the costal route back to Coral Bay. The coast is a little tricky, some timing, quick feet and agility are needed at times to dash over sections the swell floods. Emma was found wanting here.

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I took the decision to keep my boots on when crossing, Emma decided to take them off and do it barefoot. There are pros and cons to each method. My one runs the risk of damp feet for a long time if you get it wrong but a quick crossing, Emma’s method guarantees wet feet initially and a slow crossing but greater odds of keeping your boots dry.

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Nearing the top of the Seizlasko icecap here, crampons on at this stage as the snow has all but gone.

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Looking back over the upper part of the icecap, with the sun going down behind. Took this from one of the peaks that create a horseshoe shape barrier around the icecap. You can just see our tent above the ‘t’ & ‘h’ in Matthew in the bottom righthand corner.

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Regular readers will recognise the wreck in the bay below. That’s Ocean harbour and the wreck of the Bayard.

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Looking back to the first peak we did from Black Peak (807M), the third highest peak in our travel limits. I’d wanted to do Black Peak shortly after arriving at KEP. James and I had turned back from a more adventurous attempt early summer last year so I was happy to finally get it done.

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I set the camera up for a time-lapse just before I curled up into my sleeping bag. I stood outside the tent for a few moments to get this shot before I disappeared. Ice axes make bomb proof guy-line pegs in hard snow. 750m above sea level on the top of the icecap – not a bad place to spend the night.

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This shot was taken about midnight. The moon had risen behind the camera and made it look relatively bright. You can tell how cold it was by the frost build-up on the tent. I think it must have been below -10 most of the night. It would be about this time my walking boots were beginning to freeze solid, the choice to keep them on when crossing the river was catching up with me now.

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Given we were in our sleeping bags by 7pm the night before, we’d had enough of the tent (and the cold) by the next morning so we packed up and were on the move by 8am. The sun has just managed to find a gap behind Snorre Peak – the second highest and by far the best defended peak in our travel area. Dickie and I managed the highest peak, Fusileer, back in October. I’m not sure I’ll have the chance to have an assault on Snorre before I leave.

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Twenty minutes or so after leaving we were off the icecap and on our way down to Reindeer Valley to cross the river again. My boots had just about thawed out at this point. Sugartop providing the background to an ice-littered Cumberland East Bay here.

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The lake in Reindeer Valley with Mt Paget in the background, this is one of the most beautiful parts of South georgia I’ve been to.

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We were back at the Coral hut by midday and treated ourselves to bacon and egg rolls with some proper coffee from the french press we’d brought with us. We were then treated to a fairly stunning sunset – we don’t see them from KEP as we have Mt Duse and Hodges keeping us well hidden from sunsets.

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Here’s a wide angle shot of the same sunset with the 14mm lens. Coral Bay down in the bottom right of the shot, not sure I like the idea of leaving this island! Shot of the month I think!

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Leather walking boots last longer and the waterproofing is more reliable than synthetic boots but they don’t dry as quickly! The ’tilly’ lanterns kick out a fair amount of heat and help them dry but this was a loosing battle.

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The old post office hut at Sorling is past its best. I believe it was taken from KEP or Grytviken about 50 years ago and put here as a field hut.

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Friday the 8th of May was VE Day and we were selected as a venue to light a beacon in remembrance. The Queen started it back in the UK as all venues light their beacons at the same time. Adam and Ray built a fairly impressive beacon that the youngest base member (James) had to light.

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Petrel over at Grytivken is a popular shot for photographers, I’m fortunate that I can get there at night for shots like this. The green and red on the hull is light pollution from the navigation lights in the bay for ships. The moon is just on its way up behind Petrel here. This photo was taken about midnight, one of just over 1,000 I took for a time-lapse.

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Here we are about 6am with the moon now high in the sky with some clouds moving in. I like the lens flare caused by the moon.

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Other Antarctic bases say we live in the ‘banana belt’ because it’s so warm… ha! This is some brash ice mixed with pancake ice in Moraine Fjord. Ray is doing a great job of working the boat through it without hitting the big stuff.

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The king chicks at Penguin River are doing well, bigger and fatter each time I see them. The one on the right obviously thinks I’m accusing him of something: ‘It wasn’t me… it was him’.

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Ian, James, Steph and myself were on our way to Osmic, one of my missing peaks, when we stopped by to see them. Penguin River in the background was a particularly brutal crossing, it felt much colder than the Reindeer Valley one earlier in the month.

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Curiosity gets the better of this chick, a beach pebble is far too tempting.

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You would think this pose meant he/she had eaten enough!

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Hungry little fella? I think so! Apparently there are only three chicks left now, one has diassapeared in the last week. The ones who are left still have six months or so before they fully fledge, and winter really is coming.

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This was just after the river crossing, given we were all down to our undies I don’t have any pictures of the actual crossing. I’m not sure why James has a wet patch on his crotch but I’m sure that’s to do with the river crossing…

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After the river it’s the long crossing of a rare flat area, nearly 3k of flat ground makes up Hestesletten – apparently the military looked at putting in a runway here pre-2000. The hill on the right, with the peak in the clouds, is Osmic and our target for the day.

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Ian looks out over the Hamberg lakes, Sugartop is hidden behind the clouds, which are also hiding the hanging Hamberg glacier. The lines crossing the lakes are terminal moraines: deposits of soil pushed forward by advancing glaciers.

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The four heroes on top of Osmic, the clouds had kindly lifted by this point.

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We then went for the ‘Antarctic Hero’ pose (point in a random direction to try and make yourself look good). I had to set the camera on a ten second delay and run round. I got it a bit wrong and stumbled from the top narrowly avoiding death… well not really but I have to keep up the Antarctic Hero persona if I can.

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Ian stops for a drink on the way down, Mt Duse cutting an impressive figure in the background.

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The beach at the front of Hestesletten gets the full brunt of any swell that comes though Cumberland Bay. This was a calm day but even then there were some decent waves coming in. You can just make out base on the right side.

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There are still some elephant seal young’uns amongst the tussock grass on the other side of King Edward Cove. Looking very teenager-ish  (snotty nosed).

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We had some outrageous lenticular clouds towards the end of the month. There was one night where they were particularly impressive.

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Emma had asked me to set up a first aid scenario for her, mainly so the others could see the way a doctor would go about it. So with a bit of help (via e-mail) from the doctors on the other bases I came up with a scenario that would allow Emma to do her stuff. The story was Ian had fallen off a ladder and wasn’t too well…

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After a quick initial assessment Ian was log rolled into the stretcher and then put into the JCB ‘bucket’ to be transported up to the surgery.

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Another more investigative assessment was done when he arrived in the surgery. This revealed some bruising to the ribcage and thigh. His injuries were a broken femur and a tension pneumothorax which were treated by putting the leg into traction and decompressing the chest. Some great make-up and acting from Ian helped make it a worthwhile exercise. I wonder how many people are going to google ‘tension pneumothorax’ now!?

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Now things are quieter on base we have started to do weekly talks in the bar, I did one on my time in Greenland at the start of the month and Ray did one on an archaeological dig that has been going on in his home village for years. He started with this slide to throw people off, he has a slightly wicked sense of humour. Over the years they have found hundreds of skeletons from about 800-900AD, which makes them from the Anglo-Saxon era. He was, quite impressively, on the board of directors for a term. Our very own Indiana Jones!

South Georgia, Antarctica

I celebrated my 33rd birthday at the end of May, Emma (the doctor tends to be in charge of birthday cakes) made me a brilliant coffee cake and a marzipan jet boat. The detail on the jet boat is impressive – not sure about the cracks in the hull though! I had to get a boat into the post somewhere!

South Georgia, Antarctica, RYA magazine front cover

Adam is the feature article in the Royal Yacht Association magazine summer edition, which came out a week or two ago. A couple of my photos made it into the article and this one on the front cover. I joked about a different photo being worthy of the front cover of the magazine a few months back – it made it into the magazine and was nearly the front cover! Don’t think you can buy the magazine on the shelves as it’s members only but it goes to all members, clubs, training centres etc so if you know any RYA members they should have a copy.

That’s it for another month folks, Midwinter is approaching, the sun doesn’t hit base anymore and I’ve started to make my present for Midwinter’s day. If you are new to the blog you might be wondering what Midwinter is all about. It’s a big day for all Antarctic bases as it marks the turn of the tide, as far as daylight is concerned, when the long dark nights start to shorten. We all drew names out of a hat towards the end of April, you then have to make that person a present to give them on the day.

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