Monthly Archives: January 2016

South Georgia – Sparks and snowballs

December 2015

After a false start here’s the last blog post of 2015 – I accidentally hit ‘publish’ instead of ‘save draft’ a few days ago which I caught but not in time to stop the email being sent to all the subscribers. Anyway that’s in the past now, no more teasing!

December was a busy month, with the second highest boating hours I’ve seen in my time here, sorting the new boats, working though the small mountain of kit that came off the JCR and taking some time off during the festive period.

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One of Luna’s last outings was down to Moraine Fjord for some familiarisation training with the new guys. While everyone does a few days powerboat training back in the UK before their deployment we carry on that training when they get here. There are a few things you can’t be taught in the UK, like local area familiarisation and driving through ice.

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Some atmospheric conditions at the front of the Harker Glacier. This glacier hasn’t retreated hugely in recent years, it actually advanced a few decades ago, a fairly common occurrence if you watch glaciers over a few decades. My understanding is it’s when they retreat too quickly that they can’t recover.

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Emma, Rod and myself headed up Mt Duce after work one day. The upper slopes are fairly loose scree and not much fun on the way up, the same can’t be said for the way down though – its a little like running down an escalator.

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The views from the top of Mt Duse are impressive, I took my telephoto lens in the hope of catching some snow petrels, no luck there, but I did use it to get some different shots of the Nordenskjold galcier and Greene Peninsula.

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We took the opportunity to recreate a fairly famous photo from Shackleton’s era. It’s not a comfortable place to perch in high winds or if you don’t particularly like heights. A couple of Shack’s men took a photo up here about 100 years ago, I’ll head up agin with a copy of the photo and try to recreate it exactly in the coming months.

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The night before the Pharos departed, with the old wintering team, we had a BBQ and party in the boatshed, team fish science had fun doing a bit of robot dancing. James (centre) was taking in his last night on the island after arriving with me way back in November 2013!

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The departing team were given the traditional farewell with a blaze of flares and mexican wave from the remaining South Georgians.

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Ray, the kind hearted electrician, gave all his love to the departed.

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It’s his turn early in February so we’ll have to think up some equally wicked sense of humoured send off.

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I’ve never been one for showing emotions (some would have you believe that’s because I don’t have any!) and I like to think I’m in control of them. However I found this departure harder than the others, I’m not 100% sure why, maybe old age is softening me!

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The museum staff held an ‘explorers’ themed BBQ around the middle of the month. There were various interpretations but perhaps the best was the ‘man-hauling’ team of Ken, Sally (back this year for some environmental monitoring work) and Pat (Government Officer). Pat and Sally were awarded the Polar Medal last year and were presented with them in May by HRH Prince William.

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It was shortly after Simon’s (other Government Officer) birthday so a dead reindeer cake was made by Becky (Doctor) due to his involvement with the shooting of ‘the Barff three’ last year (regular readers will remember the story from last summer). If not, here’s the link – . The big news story out of SG this month is there’s one on the Busen Peninsula! Pat and Sarah spotted a lone male there while on holiday a few weeks back. There is a plan being formulated to get him, there is a push to get him in the next couple of weeks – for reasons that I’ll have to wait until next month to share…

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Simon is waiting for the green light to go and get the last (?) reindeer.

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There was a rare visit to KEP from a Weddell seal, a young one at that, she didn’t want to move out of the natural dip in the beach so getting a good shot proved tricky.

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‘It’s not a bad place to work’. For any boating that leaves Cumberland East Bay (in the background) we need to use VHF Ch01 which goes though this repeater, 450m above the bay. It stopped working at the start of the month, which meant Ray had several expeditions to change various parts, batteries, whips, connections etc. I went with him one day. It’s outside the single person travel limit, so he needs a buddy when he goes. Had we had a branch we might have well given it a bloody good thrashing and kicked it off the mountain! It looks like, after six journeys, Ray has fixed it now.

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Jamie (Photographer) and I headed up Brown Mountain one afternoon and managed to get a few shots of this blonde female fur seal in front of Petrel while passing though Grytviken.

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I haven’t spent much time on Brown Mountain, most of my time up there has been running up and over it during half marathons. Though some of the views pack a fair punch for it’s relatively small height.

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The middle of the month saw the steady build-up to Christmas. This normally starts with the decorating of the Church. Roger, who got some abuse from ‘friends’ on facebook after last months blog post (I can’t let them down now), taking great care here to decorate the lectern.

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It’s popular to send a Christmas card to other Antarctic bases leading up to Christmas. I was on duty with the camera again this year – thats why I’m normally at the end of these photos (right side this time).  The photographer usually gets people’s attention with a little effort, I didn’t have trouble this time as I was an easy target for anyone wielding a snowball. I had the idea to take a normal shot then try something different. I instructed people to throw a snowball in the general direction of the camera for the second shot, in the hope I might capture some in mid flight…

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Well… what were the odds of that!? The first snowball was a direct hit! There was no holding back the snowball fight by this point so I gave up on photography and started offloading some snowballs myself. The camera and lens are fine by the way.

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I haven’t found much time to get out with the neutral density filter yet, I did manage to capture a few shots with it one evening before dinner.

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The new RIB trailers were a little long, so Russ got out the angle grinder and we started trimming them down and getting all the excess off them. The inner child really enjoys jobs like this…sparks!!

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The boats had to be left on the water while we did this. We had a fairly unusual amount of snow fall for December while this happened.

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I’m not sure how to explain this one. Erny was sent a small package from Emma and Steph, who had departed on the Pharos a couple of weeks before. The Andrews Liver Salts can be explained by going back to this time last year when Erny asked Emma for them, only to be told there weren’t any on base and he should ‘man up’. As for the bra and knickers I can only assume there is some story I’m not fully aware of – probably the result of some winter madness.

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My last three Christmas days have been spent having a BBQ in glorious weather on South Georgia! Micky (builder) takes charge of the BBQ-ing and doesn’t disappoint.

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‘It’s better than peeling leaves off a Brussel sprout’ (Andy, electrician in the building team)

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Sharon from the museum found a unconventional seat to have a feed before the tourists arrived.

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The museum staff are on duty most Christmas days as the ships like to come in and hold a church service. The stylish L’austral pulled into King Edward Cove late afternoon, cutting short the museum staff BBQ. Her sister ship, L’boreal, was in the news last month as she suffered an engine room fire while in the Falklands. All passengers and all but a skeleton crew were evacuated to life rafts. They were put up in the Falklands until being flow home.

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We had a fairly relaxed Christmas meal that night, we did get crackers and shared our jokes. I got this classic joke and, which made me laugh more, this very un-festive and utterly morbid question.

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We had a couple of trips up to the Neumayer Glacier this month. One trip was to help Pat take a GPS position of the front of the glacier. It’s retreating at an alarming rate, regular readers will have seen pictures in previous posts. Pat hasn’t worked out yet but I think it’s retreated 100m or so in the last year. About 60 years ago the jet boat would have been under 1000ft of ice here.

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The larger chunks of ice are slowly melting in Cumberland West Bay and creating some interesting shapes as it does so.

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Jamie’s (photographer) last night was an accent of Orca peak to get some sunrise shots. Sharon joined us, just for the fun of it I think. We started at about 2:00am and were on the peak for about 3:30am.

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As the sky might suggest it was quite windy and also bloody cold. We started heading back down about 4am and I was back to base with a couple of hours to spare before work. Jamie was on board the Pharos for it’s 08:30 departure. I’m sorry to see him go but we’ve arranged to catch up in the summer. Here’s his website if you’re interested –

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New Years Eve was spent in Olaf’s, one of the old whaling station buildings, over at Grytviken. It’s mainly used as a builders store now, but it’s a good venue when there are 30 or so on the island.

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Just before the stroke of midnight we headed outside as Kelvin had set up a projector which we played a countdown clock through. There are some great facial expressions in this shot, notably Erny.

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There’s the counter on the side of the museum.

I’ve updated all my galleries in the last few weeks and added a new one: South Georgia – The night sky. Here’s the link

Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year!

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