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Bird Island Diary — January 2010

Well, 2010 has commenced, and for the third year in a row I have been in the Antarctica to see the New Year in. New Years Eve started with all of us going up to Cave Crag, before heading over to the special study beach for a glass of warm wine in the pouring rain.

After a nice meal, a few drinks were had, then at midnight we went for a trip down to the end of the jetty to see in 2010.

January is a fairly busy month at Bird Island, with Norman and Stacey making regular trips over to landing beach to fit some ‘Time/Depth’ recorders (TDRs), and GPS devices to the Gentoo Penguins. These devices record how deep the penguins are diving and for how long, to see how deep and for how long they were underwater feeding, and the GPS to see where they were. Norman spent some late nights over at Landing beach waiting for the penguins to come in.

January is also a very busy month for the Albatross team of Claudia and Derren, with daily trips up Wanderer Ridge to see which Wandering Albatross had laid eggs. They both decided to get all the base involved in staking the Wandering Albatross nests over the whole island that have laid eggs so that the chicks can be monitored all year for survival rates. Staking involved walking around the whole island, and giving the nests with eggs a number, a marker and a GPS position. This year 696 eggs were counted, down from 836 two years ago (Wandering Albatross pairs lay every other year).

Claudia with a nest that she has just staked (Photo: Ewan Edwards)
Claudia with a nest that she has just staked (Photo: Ewan Edwards)

Richard was busy deploying various TDR’s on White Chin Petrels and GPS on Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross.

Richard and Derren looking for Sooty Albatross at Colony G (Photo: Joe Corner)
Richard and Derren looking for Sooty Albatross at Colony G (Photo: Joe Corner)

The Seal boys, Ewan and Mick and PhD student Encarna finally finished the SSB round. Every day for the last 6 weeks they have been over to the Special Study Beach twice a day to see which Fur Seals had given birth to pups, and now all the females had pupped. Another busy morning was had by all on base when we went over to Main Bay to catch and weigh 100 Pups. After a lot of running around trying to catch them, and numerous small nips we finally completed the 100, with the average weight being around 10kgs which is up from 7.5kgs last year. The pups are looking a lot better than last year which means there appears to be more Krill for their mothers to eat.

Ewan and Mick have also started to tag the SSB pups. They are given a number and a Pit tag (the same as the tags the vet puts in your dog or cat) to identify them individually.

On a calm Saturday morning, Sam took us over to the cliffs above SSB to have some Anchor and Belay training. These are necessary skills at Bird Island, because we tend to work alone round the Island and if anyone has an accident, we need to know how to deal with it when there are only 4 of us in the winter months.

Ewan and Claudia decided to take an evening stroll up La Roche. At 356m it is Bird Island’s highest peak. As they were walking up the cloud started to come in, and they were greeted with the most amazing view of the entire island and surrounding area covered in a blanket of cloud.

The view from the top of La Roche as the cloud rolls in (Photo: Ewan Edwards)
The view from the top of La Roche as the cloud rolls in (Photo: Ewan Edwards)

On January the 13th, we had a spell of fierce wind, hitting around 60 knots on top of Wanderer Ridge. This was unfortunate for the Albatross, and 50 nests were lost over night. It also spelt disaster for Wanderer Ridge Hut which after many years of service finally gave up the ghost and fell over. Now all we have to do is get all of the scrap down to base!

Wanderer Ridge Hut collapsed after a heavy breeze. La Roche, Bird Island highest peak in the background (Photo: Joe Corner)
Wanderer Ridge Hut collapsed after a heavy breeze. La Roche, Bird Island highest peak in the background (Photo: Joe Corner)

As for me, well, I had a nice steady month, with only minor problems around the base. All of our drinking water comes from the gutters, so I had to get on the roof and give them a clean out. Our main water tank also needs cleaning out on a regular basis so I have to somehow squeeze in to do it.

Me trying to get out of the water tank (Photo: Claudia Mischler)
Me trying to get out of the water tank (Photo: Claudia Mischler)

As usual I had a generator service and the general base maintenance to carry out. I also took a walk up to the top of Tonk to have a look at the VHF repeater (VHF Radio antenna).

Sam and myself having a look at the VHF Repeater on the top of Tonk (Photo: Encarna Gomez-Campos)
Sam and myself having a look at the VHF Repeater on the top of Tonk (Photo: Encarna Gomez-Campos)

Towards the end of the month Encarna, Norman and Richard left us to go home. The Fisheries Patrol Vessel from Stanley dropped by to pick them up. The Governor of the Falkland Islands, Alan Huckle, his wife, and Jane Rumble who is head of the Polar Regions Unit at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and last but not least Martin Collins, CEO of the GSGSSI. After a day of wind and rain, it was time for them all to go and leave just 8 of us here.

Richard, Encarna and Norman ready for the trip back to reality (Photo: Derren Fox)
Richard, Encarna and Norman ready for the trip back to reality (Photo: Derren Fox)

Happy New Year from all at Bird Island.

The base at Jordan Cove, taken from the top of Tonk. La Roche in the background (Photo: Joe Corner)
The base at Jordan Cove, taken from the top of Tonk. La Roche in the background (Photo: Joe Corner)

Cheers,
Joe Corner
Technical Services.