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23 Feb - Stromness and Bird Island

RRS James Clark Ross Diary

Noon Position: 51° 47.1 S, 57° 41.1 W)
Distance Travelled since Grimsby: 22068.3 Nautical Miles
Air temperature @ Noon today: 11.3°C
Sea temperature @ Noon today : 10.0°C
Weather: Good, NW, 6, 1003.7 mb


Sunny Stromness

Sometimes things happen that are completely unexpected and can be considered a real bonus. This week we were lucky enough to have two bonus days. Firstly after much debate we finally found some time to calibrate our EK60 echosounder and ensure it is as accurate as possible. To do this we need to be in shallow water without moving for around 10 hours. The sea also has to be of normal salinity. This may sound obvious but in the bays around the coast of South Georgia there are so many glaciers flowing into the sea that they dilute the sea with fresh water. Fortunately for many onboard one suitable bay with no glaciers is that of Stromness. Lying on the north coast of South Georgia, Stromness was a station used by the whaling industry as a repair base for the whaling fleet. Stromness is sandwiched between Leith and Husvik, two more whaling stations.

Some of those not involved in the calibration were lucky enough to get ashore and stretch their legs for a few hours. The old base was fascinating but we headed up the valley to try and spot some reindeer on the way to Shackleton's waterfall. Shackleton arrived in Stromness after his odyssey following the sinking of Endurance and had tumbled exhausted down the valley and waterfalls before arriving famously at the managers house in the whaling station. The weather was almost warm as we tried to imagine the end of his epic voyage and even tumbled down a few snow slopes ourselves. Below are some images of day.

Stromness - Click to enlarge Fur seals - Click to enlarge Old propellers - Click to enlarge

Above: (L-R) View of Stromness, fur seals and some old propellers left behind as relics of the whaling days. Click the images to enlarge them.

Panorama shot of Stromness - Click to enlarge
Stromness panorama
Click to enlarge


Bird Island

The next day the JCR popped in for an early morning call to Bird Island. By 0530 a small group of 6 people who had to go ashore were in the work boat heading for the base. Having completed our tasks early we headed for the obligatory peek at some albatross nesting sights. The JCR is followed by a variety of albatross who majestically circle the ship whilst we are at sea and it is always good to get closer to these giant birds when they are on land. The wandering albatross are the largest birds on the island and are so unafaid that they let you get very close to the nest without disturbing them.

Wandering Albatross - Click to enlarge Wandering Albatross chicks - Click to enlarge Wandering albatross chick - Click to enlarge

On the opposite side of the island to the base is the 'Big Mac' penguin colony. This is home to 35,000 macaroni penguins and to visit this place is an assault of all of your senses and certainly adds to Bird Islands famous aroma! The two million fur seals that inhabit the island also contribute and certainly make walking through the knee deep tussac grass that little bit more exciting!

Bird Island research station - Click to enlarge 'Big Mac' penguin colony - Click to enlarge

Above: Left: Bird Island research station, with fur seals in the foreground and the JCR in the background. Right: 'Big Mac' macaroni penguin colony. Click the images to enlarge them.

Well, the JR82 biosciences cruise is finally coming to the end as we head back to Stanley. Everyone is looking forward to getting back to the metropolis after 7 weeks at sea (especially one very excited doctor! -Ed) and getting feet firmly back on terra firma.


Thankyou this week: to the lads at Bird Island for their tour guide duties!

Coming up next week: The bright lights of Stanley


Alex Ramsden
Ships Doctor