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King Edward Point Diary — February 2009

February has been a wonderful month at King Edward Point. It’s a great time to get out and about, up a peak, fossick on a beach or sit and watch the wildlife. While the numbers of elephant seals and penguins around the base are tapering off it is a time of change for other animals too. The King Penguins are emerging from their moult in their new, opulent, regal attire while the Gentoos are just starting their own moulting.

Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross near KEP
Light-Mantled Sooty Albatross near KEP
Gentoo Penguin at Rookery Bay
Gentoo Penguin at Rookery Bay

The fur seals have quietened down after the stressful breeding season and the thousands of pups are delightful to watch as they start to play in the water. The remaining Elephant seals are still moulting in their smelly mud wallows and many bird species chicks are now fledging.

King Edward Point Scenery
King Edward Point Scenery

Unfortunately it is not a good year for several species, possibly due to the lack of krill this year. The Sooty Albatross chicks have all but disappeared, the Gentoo chicks at Maiviken have failed and the Macaroni Penguin chick numbers are dwindling. But these cycles come and go.

Macaroni Penguin- Rookery Bay
Macaroni Penguin- Rookery Bay
Fur Seal in the tussock at Rookery Bay
Fur Seal in the tussock at Rookery Bay

The scientists have had a busy month and the rest of the base staff have had a chance to get out and help in the field. Some of the projects this month include:

  • Fur seal pup sexing and weighing at Maiviken
  • Giant Petrel surveys on the Greene Peninsula
  • Macaroni penguin chick surveys and weighing at Rookery Bay
  • Fish and coral sampling trawls from a commercial Ice fish trawler
  • Fish stomach content dissection and analysis
  • Otolith extraction and preparation for analysis
  • Fur seal poo sifting (everyone’s favourite)
  • Plant and insect surveys

Weighing Macaroni Penguin chicks at Rookery Bay
Weighing Macaroni Penguin chicks at Rookery Bay
We had a visit from some other BAS scientists, Mark Belchier and Martin Collins and some colleagues who went out on the trawler ‘Sil’ with our own fisheries scientist, Luke Kenny, for their annual sampling trawls.

We are still getting a lot of cruise ships in which is keeping the Post Office very busy. Some of the BAS staff often assist with the Post Office on board. It usually includes a good lunch! Other ships that have called in recently include the ‘James Clark Ross’, the ‘Agulhas’ a South African research vessel who took some Chinstrap Penguin blood samples away for us, the research vessel ‘James Cook’ (coincidentally on Possession Day — the day that Lieutenant James Cook took possession of the island for England) and the yacht ‘Seal’ with the botanists and entomologists.

Our Base Commander, Tom Marshall, took us all out for some field training on the edge of the Nordenskjold Glacier, something we all really enjoyed although some got much better weather than others for their three days camping. Other training is ongoing in boats, first aid and scientific work.

Some of us had a trip to the old whaling station of Husvik in the jet boats. We took the government officer and building inspector around to look at some modification to the old manager’s villa. We had a beautiful day for it. There were literally thousands of fur seal pups on the beach. A team of scientists from the Sea Mammal Research Unit were staying in the villa while carrying out their elephant seal tagging project. We had a quick run ashore at Husvik then ran around to Stromness and Leith in the boats.

This month we also have a construction team in from the Falklands. They are staying in Larsen House while constructing the new biosecurity building down near the jetty. They also play a very mean game of darts. Andy Webb, the BAS facilities manager is here for a month getting to know what’s here and what needs doing, and a photographer and assistant stayed for a week while taking photographs at Grytviken for the Scott Polar Research Institute and the South Georgia Heritage Trust.

Most importantly, this month’s cuisine has maintained the usual extremely high standard although has featured an unusually high proportion of sausages due to a freezer malfunction. Please send us ideas for other exciting things to do with sausages!

Fantastic Lenticular Sunset from KEP
Fantastic Lenticular Sunset from KEP