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Bird Island is all clean!

Date: Sunday the 5th February 2006
Position @ 1200 Local (GMT-3): Hound Bay South Georgia 5323.01 S / 3614.51 W
Next destination: Ocean Harbour
ETA: 5th February 2006
Distance to go: 12 Miles
Total distance sailed from UK : N/A
Current weather: Few clouds fine and clear
Wind: N/W 1/2
Sea State: Calm
Barometric pressure: 1001.1
Air temperature: +8.3C
Sea temperature: +3.4C

Click on www.sailwx.info for our latest position


Last Sunday the Ernest Shackleton departed the Bird Island area as the weather was unfavorable to carry on with the clean up and it was decided to head to the far end of the Island to Cooper Bay to uplift a BAS field party who have been in the area collecting rock samples for the ongoing Geological studies around South Georgia. We arrived in Cooper Bay on Monday morning and the conditions were good enough to launch the RIBs to uplift the field party and all the equipment. By the afternoon, Mike Curtis, Ash Morton , Kirk Watson and Iain Staniland along with about 2 tons of rock samples were safely aboard the Ernest Shackleton.

Ernest Shackleton in Cooper Bay South Georgia.
Ernest Shackleton in Cooper Bay South Georgia.

Cooper Bay beach with all the field equipment ready to be transported back to the ship.
Cooper Bay beach with all the field equipment ready to be transported back to the ship.

Fur Seal at Cooper Bay
Fur Seal at Cooper Bay


Cooper Bay Geology.

Background: South Georgia is a fragment of continental crust that originated from a position between the tips of South America and Antarctic Peninsula when they formed part of a continuous landmass that existed 50 million years ago. As this landmass separated and the ocean floor of the Scotia Sea formed, South Georgia became transported to its present day position along the Scotia Arc. Attempts to model the palaeogeographic evolution (the evolving distribution of ancient landmasses and oceanic seaways) of the Scotia Sea during this period suggest that the slow movement of South Georgia was accompanied by the development of narrow, shallow seaways before eventual isolation of the continental fragment by deep ocean. The timing of the development of seaways of varying depths and the present of absence of emergent landmasses is crucial for evolutionary studies of sub-Antarctic marine and terrestrial biota with the Scotia Sea region.
Current research: Geological studies conducted in and around Cooper Bay, and other select areas of South Georgia aim to provide a detailed understanding of the tectonic history of the Island, in particular, dating the tectonic events that have shaped the geology of the island using a range of radiometric methods. In addition, samples were collected to determine the timing of tectonic uplift to establish how long the current mountainous landscape has been present. The results of this research will be used to test and constrain palaeogeographic models of Scotia Sea development. In addition, analysis of specific minerals that have grown during periods of tectonic deformation will help to determine if the island has always had a sub-aerial expression or whether it has spent periods submerged beneath the waves. The result will provide critical information for constraining biological habitat availability.

- Mike Curtis


On Tuesday the ship arrived at Moltke Harbour to remove an old abandoned hut and a reindeer enclosure which took most of the day to complete due to the distance between the hut and the beach as everything had to be broken down into small enough pieces to be man handled down to the boats for transportation back to the ship.

Rod Downie surveying the abandoned hut at Moltke Harbour for removal.
Rod Downie surveying the abandoned hut at Moltke Harbour for removal.

Al Geach of Morrisons removing posts that used to form a Reindeer Enclosure
Al Geach of Morrisons removing posts that used to form a Reindeer Enclosure

The beach at Moltke Harbour with the rubbish sacks filled ready for removal
The beach at Moltke Harbour with the rubbish sacks filled ready for removal

Rod Downie takes a last look at the view through the hut window.
Rod Downie takes a last look at the view through the hut window.

By early evening everything was removed from Moltke Harbour and the ship then set off back towards Bird Island as the conditions were expected to improve in that area so we could carry on with the removal of the Demolition Debris. The Ernest Shackleton arrived just off Bird Island early Wednesday morning in good weather so the clean up swung in to action once again, By Friday lunch time the clean up was complete and all the equipment was loaded aboard the ship and Bird Island beach was returned to the Seals once again.

Demolition waste on Bird Island beach before the removal.
Demolition waste on Bird Island beach before the removal.

View of Bird Island Base and the now cleared Freshwater Beach.
View of Bird Island Base and the now cleared Freshwater Beach.

Loading the JCB back on to the ship just offshore at Bird Island.
Loading the JCB back on to the ship just offshore at Bird Island.

The Bird Island clean up was now finished so the cargo tender was the last thing to be loaded on to the Ernest Shackleton.
The Bird Island clean up was now finished so the cargo tender was the last thing to be loaded on to the Ernest Shackleton.

On Friday afternoon we made the short transit around to Schlieper Bay 12 miles from Bird Island to start the removal of another hut and a scaffold walkway that was used on the Seal Study beach . So by mid afternoon a team was assembled and sent ashore to start demolishing the hut and collect the Scaffold, By early evening a good portion was removed and transported back to the ship

Schlieper Bay Hut ( known as the Sealers Arms) with the Ernest Shackleton in the bay.
Schlieper Bay Hut ( known as the Sealers Arms) with the Ernest Shackleton in the bay.

Dave Pettis of Morrisons cutting up the scaffold walkway.
Dave Pettis of Morrisons cutting up the scaffold walkway.

Myles Lee of Morrisons collecting the pieces of scaffold.
Myles Lee of Morrisons collecting the pieces of scaffold.

On Saturday morning the ship went back to Schlieper Bay but overnight the conditions deteriorated and it was decided to leave the remains and call back later next week to complete the removal of the hut as it was too dangerous to launch the boats at that time, The Ernest Shackleton them headed around the other side of South Georgia and by early afternoon arrived just offshore from the abandoned Husvik Whaling Station to remove a few disused items that have been left there in the past by BAS.

The abandoned Whaling Station Husvik, South Georgia.
The abandoned Whaling Station Husvik, South Georgia.

A bull Fur Seal at Husvik.
A bull Fur Seal at Husvik.

A curious Fur Seal pup chewing the RIBs rope.
A curious Fur Seal pup chewing the RIBs rope.

Myles Lee of Morrisons breaking up the remains of a cage that was probably used as a Reindeer enclosure.
Myles Lee of Morrisons breaking up the remains of a cage that was probably used as a Reindeer enclosure.

Old food boxes and snow shoes for removal from Husvik..
Old food boxes and snow shoes for removal from Husvik..

In the meantime at all the locations the Ernest Shackleton has visited over the last 2 weeks Pete Convey has been busy. Quietly collecting soil samples and as promised a couple of weeks ago he has written the following article for the web page.

BIOPEARL core science project fieldwork, South Georgia January-February 2006
Pete Convey.

My participation in this cruise as a BAS core scientist was possible as a "piggyback" operation, using the opportunity provided by the EID "hut cleanup" programme on the island to visit and collect from a range of locations on South Georgia. This is a particularly valuable opportunity as our core programmes do not normally have access to these sites, or even to South Georgia, and such an opportunity is unlikely to come up again for many years. My availability to take advantage of the opportunity arose through my primary core programme target for this season being deferred by two seasons.

The planning assumptions around what I could achieve in this season were defined by the overall field period being short (3 weeks Stanley to Stanley), and time at any one location being limited in most cases to a few hours to a day maximum. Such short landings provide opportunity for rapid terrestrial biological sampling and survey work, with material returned to ship for assessment, extraction and preservation. In season planning, I identified several targets that could be achieved in parallel during such short and single opportunity landings; failure to achieve any one target or at any specific site would not negate the others, or destroy the overall value of the season. All of the separate targets effectively enhance the material available to the BAS core science programme BIOFLAME, and in most cases directly to its component project BIOPEARL, one of whose aims is to better understand past and present biogeographical distributions in and around Antarctica. Specimens obtained will be archived within the Biological Sciences Division specimen collections and herbarium, thereby contributing in future to our LTMS resource. My main aims during this season include:

a) collection of specific invertebrates that are targets for molecular phylogeny and biogeography studies in BIOPEARL (specific springtails, mites and dipterans)

b) search for specific alien invertebrates and plants already known to be established in areas of South Georgia (including close to or at some of the EID target sites) to improve knowledge of their dispersal/distribution extent and current status (assessment of colonisation patterns, including those of aliens, is a separate strand of BIOPEARL)

c) biological survey targeted at less well known invertebrate groups from the sub-Antarctic (nematodes, tardigrades; by return of frozen substrata to UK for future processing), and also at more familiar arthropod groups, as distributions are poorly known away from our main centres at Husvik and KEP (contributing to the biogeographical work of BIOPEARL)

d) specific invertebrate community surveys, requiring replicated sampling within and outside surviving reindeer exclosures and/or enclosed cages at Husvik and Moltke Harbour, as a test of consequences of prolonged reindeer influence. This would be parallel to recent botanical studies under the auspices of the South Georgia Government, but otherwise this work has not been done since shortly after the exclosures were established, and is potentially one of the longer term studies available (contributes to the colonisation/community strand of BIOPEARL).

e) Given opportunity to make appropriate collections from comparative habitats, a comparison between the Bird Island terrestrial invertebrate fauna (as a baseline description of non-rat-infested and introduced plant free South Georgian habitats), and those of impacted sites (most if not all of the remainder of the target sites)

f) as part of the logistic pick up of Mike Curtis' field party during this period on completion of his BIOPEARL geological work at Cooper Bay, additional samples will be obtained from a further site. This field party's work forms part of the link between geological and biological history that is a key element of BIOPEARL.

g) if specific invertebrates are present in numbers at any of the sites (particularly a chironomid midge and two species of beetle) it may be possible to collect sufficient to return to UK as live cultures. These would then be used to contribute to improving coverage available to ecophysiological work in BIOREACH, as well as providing further material for BIOPEARL phylogeographic studies. Likewise, I will be attempting to find several specific lichens and liverworts for colleagues in BAS and elsewhere.

- Pete Convey

At the time of writing we are in the Hound Bay area uplifting another Field Party which we will cover next week on the web page, forthcoming events include the return to Schileper Bay to finish off the hut removal , a short visit to KEP again and transit to the Falkland Islands.

Thanks to Mike and Pete for writing articles for the web page and last but not least a big Hello to all our friends and families at home.

Dave Bailey.