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King Edward Point Diary — September 2002

The latest newsletter ever!!

King Edward Point Diary

Well I think the best way to start this newsletter is with an apology for its lateness!! I believe I have managed to get the award for most overdue newsletter from KEP since BAS's return in March 2001. Anyway enough about that, what you really want to know is what has been going on at KEP in the month of September.

September is the quietest month in the year here at King Edward Point. By this time the toothfish longlining season has finished and all the toothfish fishing ships have left. This just leaves a handful of krill fishing vessels and their supporting refrigerated cargo ships (reefers) in South Georgia waters. All these ships started leaving at around the end of the month, we don't then have any commercial fishing vessels around until the icefish season starts later in the year.

Trans-shipping in the bay - Click to enlarge
The krill boat Niitaka Maru & reefer Sagami trans-shipping in the bay
Click to enlarge

This month has really been an amazing one for the wildlife returning. At the start of the month we saw a number of leopard seals hauling out in front of base for bit of a snooze. We successfully tagged one of these seals after Bird Island sent us some tags and equipment to do it. The Marine Officer here at KEP, Richard tagged the first one and in true Bird Island fashion the seal was named Breeze after one of Richard's dogs back home.

Everyone has at some point in the month taken a trip or trips to Tortula cove at Maiviken (about an hour and a half's ski away from base) to bivvy out on the beach for the night. Tortula cove has the closest breeding penguin colony to us. It is a gentoo colony and with spring and summer approaching the penguins are getting ready to build nests and breed. This time of year sees the penguins coming ashore in far greater numbers all at the same time. We would leave base late in the afternoon and arrive at Tortula in time to see the penguins coming ashore for the night. It is absolutely amazing you can just sit right on the waters edge and watch the gentoos raft up in a big group out in the bay before heading in on the surf and walking right past you on there way to their nest site. By about 7.00pm it would be getting dark and so time to zip up the bivvy bag and get some sleep before waking at dawn to a procession of gentoos all heading out to sea, in all a truly brilliant experience.

Gentoo penguins coming ashore - Click to enlarge
Gentoo penguins coming ashore at Tortula cove
Click to enlarge

Still with wildlife the elephant seals have returned in force to the island again to pup and then breed. On the 23rd of the month the first pups were born across the bay at Horsehead. For a few days before, regular trips were made to try and see the first pup.

Elephant seal pup at Horsehead - Click to enlarge
An elephant seal pup at Horsehead
Click to enlarge

Other than the wildlife the snow has been disappearing one minute and then appearing the next. Just when we have thought that is it for the season it snows again. This has been excellent for some top skiing and snowboarding days; we are hoping the snow will last until Christmas!! Towards the end of the month everyone got into cleaning mode as the whole base prepared for the arrival of RRS James Clark Ross at the start of October. The science team scrubbed the labs, workshops were tidied and everything put into place to make room for fresh supplies that will be arriving on board the ship.

On the 27th instead of having a normal "smoko" (morning tea break) we supported the Macmilian cancer fund in their "world's biggest coffee morning". This is where they ask people to donate the cost of their morning coffee to the charity. We did this and actually had smoko outside for a change. Lots of cakes and biscuits were baked and briefly displayed on the picnic table before being rapidly consumed, mmmmmm!!!

Morning smoko on the beach - Click to enlarge
Everyone enjoying 'morning smoko' on the beach in front of base
Click to enlarge

All that it remains for me to do is to say big hellos to everyone back home and look forward to seeing you all soon (ish!)

Bye for now,
Steve