About Me

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Bird Island, South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands
I work as a Zoological Field Assistant, and am the 2009 Winter Base Commander, at Bird Island Research Station, one of the British Antarctic Survey's five research bases in Antarctica. The main remit of my job is seal fieldwork as part of BAS' Long Term Monitoring and Survey programme. Science has been carried out on Bird Island since 1958. I work with Antarctic fur seals and leopard seals, as well as assisting with the seabird fieldwork programme. Contact me on: ewanedwards at gmail dot com

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

31.10.2007 - At sea

We continue our passage towards South Georgia. The air (and sea) temperature is noticeably cooler now that we are south of the Antarctic convergence/polar front. As of 21.30hrs local time we are around 30 NM to the west of Shag Rocks, the westernmost limit of the British overseas territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (see Wikipedia for more information). At 05.00hrs tomorrow we are recovering a buoy that has been recording whale vocalisations for several months near to Shag Rocks, as it is one of the places you are most likely to spot cetaceans (whales and dolphins) on this voyage, so at this point I plan to be awake for that...!
The plan (weather dependent) is to visit King Edward Point on Friday, stay overnight and arrive at Bird Island on Sunday. It will be nice to see some of the rest of South Georgia and to go for a walk around KEP. Grytviken whaling station (near to KEP) is the site of the grave of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Anglo-Irish explorer most famous for the Endurance expedition, who died at South Georgia in 1922.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

30.10.2007 - At sea

We departed Stanley at 1900hrs on Monday October 29th, on a beautiful calm evening. Once clear of the islands there was a rolling oceanic swell, but the conditions were very pleasant. A few ginger beers later (ginger is good for seasickness) and it was bedtime.

The morning of Tuesday October 30th was again beautiful - wall to wall warm sunshine and a light breeze from the starboard quarter. We have beautiful wandering and black-browed albatroses, giant petrels and cape pigeons/cape petrels/pintados wheeling around behind the ship, but no whale sightings as yet.

Monday, 29 October 2007

29.10.2007 - Last day in Stanley, FI

After a relaxing few days in the Falkland Islands, and seeing the sights of Stanley in particular, RRS James Clark Ross is due to sail this evening at 1900hrs, heading firstly for King Edward Point/Grytviken on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia. This marks the end of an interesting visit to the Falklands, during which we have truly experienced the proverbial 'four seasons in a day', having seen everything from wall-to-wall sunshine to horizontal hail, sleet and snow. One is ill-advised to leave the ship to walk to Stanley (about a mile) without full wet weather gear, because even if the weather is fine upon leaving, doubtless it will rain before long. The sight and sound of Land Rovers and of hailstones the size of large garden peas rattling off the tin roofs of Stanley will endure in my mind as memories of 'civilisation' in the Falklands, as we depart for the isolation of South Georgia and Bird Island, my home for the next thirty months.

Time in Stanley has been spent walking, visiting the tourist sights in and around the town, chatting to the natives and enjoying the local hostelries, such as The Globe and The Victory Inn. I found time to catch up with Darren Christie, an old friend from school who works in Stanley for the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands on invasive species and biosecurity measures, and with Issac Forster, one of my predecessors on Bird Island.

But now the time has come to leave, as the engineers have arrived from the UK to solve the issues with the ships engine management system, and all should be in order by this evening. It is expected that passage to South Georgia will take in the region of 72 hours, assuming reasonable weather (reasonable, considering we are traversing one of the roughest oceans on Earth) and no further changes to itinerary.The weather forecasts on the bridge indicate we may be in for a lumpy ride!

Above are a few images from our time in the Falklands, and some of the other Fids which whom I have been travelling.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

26.10.2007 - Falkland Islands

I arrived in Stanley with about 25 other southbound BAS personnel (known as Fids, after the original name for BAS - Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey) on Wednesday afternoon. The flight was long and pleasantly uneventful in a clapped-out DC-10, punctuated by about an hour and a half in the warm rain at Ascension Island - just enough time to have a coffee and get a passport stamp! The approach to RAF Mount Pleasant was stunning - a lovely clear day greeted us in the Falkland Islands, with a cracking view across all the islands as we came in to land. RRS James Clark Ross (the BAS ship upon which I would be transported to Bird Island) had arrived in Stanley the night before, so we were straight on to the ship rather than a night or two in the Upland Goose Hotel. From the berth at FIPASS (Falkland Interim Port and Storage System) it was a 25-minute walk into the centre of Port Stanley. On Thursday morning a number of us took a walk into town, and got soaked by the torrential rain that started just after leaving the ship with full confidence that it was going to stay dry...

We are going to be here in Stanley until probably Monday, whilst we wait on the arrival of an engineer to arrive to carry out some maintenance on the ship. Which means, we've got plenty time to see the sights. Yesterday a group of us visited Volunteer Point, a two-hour ride on a Land Rover (mostly offroad) to see the king penguins, and Thursday afternoon we walked out to Gypsy Cove to see the Magellanic penguins and other nesting birds, near to the beautiful but (believed to be) heavily mined beach, a sad remnant of the conflict here 25 years ago.

Although some of the Fids returning South for the nth time aren't too excited at the prospect of yet another few days in Stanley, for us first-timers it is nice to have some time off, a short holiday before getting stuck in to our assorted jobs either on the ship or on base. Assuming we depart on Monday, from then on its fairly weather dependent - we may go straight to Bird Island if they get a weather window, or carry out a planned science cruise first, before attempting to get ashore at BI, or possibly (and the most favourable option for me) go to King Edward Point on South Georgia first, before going back up to Bird Island, allowing us to see a bit more of the area than just the wee rock upon which I'll reside for 29ish months!

Life on the ship thus far is fun - the crew are friendly and the food is good and there'll be plenty things to do or not to do, whether I decide to take it as a holiday and just watch from the deck for birds and whales, or help out with the science cruise.

26.10.2007 - Welcome!

Welcome to my blog, which I hope to update regularly with photographs and stories of my time on Bird Island, South Georgia, in the South Atlantic.

The address of this blog, Arctocephalus, refers to the scientific name (genus) of the Antarctic fur seal, the animals with which I will be closely working whilst on Bird Island. Although I will doubtless be involved with fieldwork concerning the other species, the majority of my work will be with fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella).

Bird Island is situated some 800 miles to the east of the Falkland Islands, part of the South Georgia archipelago. It is a wildlife haven, with around 60,000 breeding fur seals, as well as numerous macaroni penguins and several albatross species.

I work for the British Antarctic Survey (based in Cambridge, UK) as a Zoological Field Assistant.