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Bird Island Diary — November 2011

Over the last couple of months, it has been a period of transition at Bird Island as we have transitioned from the Overwintering team to the full Summer team. In September, Andy Wood and Jaume Forcada and Jennifer James arrived on the FPV Pharos. Jennifer James was taking over the responsibility for the albatrosses from Jennifer Lawson. Andy came along to help Jennifer in the transition and to carry on some of his own research into burrowing petrels. Jaume came to continue his studies into the Leopard Seals, and to reinforce Mick in advance of the arrival of the rest of the Seal Team.

In October the rest of the team arrived on the JCR. This included the Allan Thomson, the new Summer BC, Jon Ashburner, who will be taking over from Mick with responsibility for the the fur seals, Robert Lord, the new Technician, who was taking over from Paul and Catharine Horswill, from St Andrew University, who is studying Macaroni Penguins for her Phd.

'JCR' off Bird Island. (Photo: Andy Wood)
'JCR' off Bird Island. (Photo: Andy Wood)

The Relief was a very busy time for us all. We had the standard cargo for Bird Island to unload and 180 drums of diesel fuel for the generator. In addition, we had a Bobcat (Excavator), a 10 foot container (with some of the materials for the installation of the Bulk Fuel facility), all the pipework for the Bulk Fuel facility and all the scaffolding to the repair the Special Study Beach (SSB) for the fur seals, which were badly damaged in recent storm.

The Relief was supposed to take place over three days, however, Bird Island weather came into play, and we managed only to unload the general cargo and the drums of diesel fuel in the first two days. As light was fading, and in heavy rain, and with sea conditions becoming marginal, we managed to offload the Bobcat and the 10 foot container across the beach and some of the scaffolding. It was an epic day, which most of those involved will remember for some time, and which demonstrated the true BAS spirit of rising to a challenge and overcoming adversity.

As the weather prognosis was not suitable for the next week or so, the JCR went to KEP and completed a science cruise before returning. This time the weather was perfect, and we managed to offload all the rest of the scaffolding and the pipework, and move some of the former to a purpose-built frame in Landing Bay, which is closer to the SSB. This will minimise the preparatory movement of scaffolding before the contractors begin in April to complete the SSB abd the jetty. The Deck Engineer on the JCR could recall only two such beautiful days in about 20 years of reliefs in Bird Island! As the BAS personnel onboard the JCR had been really busy with the science cruise, they very much appreciated some down-time between the tender loads to relax in the sun and an opportunity to visit the albatrosses in the meadows. Jennifer Lawson and Paul Craske returned once more for a final valedictory visit. Jennifer very kindly volunteered to conduct tours in the albatross meadows and Paul found himself changing over an injector pump on the generator with Robert. It was a beautiful day to leave and a superb last memory of their time here. There was much sadness at their departure, but we all wish them very well for whatever the future brings may bring for them.

Since then, the new members have completed their induction training of the base and got to know Bird Island and the wildlife, particularly the fur seals! The Bird Island team has expanded to nine, and people have got to know one another. As always, the biological seasonal variations of the albatross, penguins and fur seals have dominated our lives here. There have been opportunities for us all to get out and about to count penguins and albatrosses and to watch the build up of the annual fur seal arrival on Bird Island. In addition, there have been numerous social occasions, including a Spanish Night, Andy’s Birthday and a St Andrew’s Night, which included a Burns Supper and some Highland Dress. The arrival of the first seal pup born in the SSB is always a time of celebration. All new pups on the SSB are marked with blond dye and it was an opportunity for us to get into the spirit of the event by participating as with the “blonding” as well!

Bird Island blondes. (Photo: Mick Mackey)
Bird Island blondes. (Photo: Mick Mackey)