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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

Saturday, 3 November 2007

2.11.2007 - King Edward Point

Arrival at KEP

Ewan and Burjor in dentistry mode

Scale and polish, ma'am?

At 0800hrs this morning we pulled alongside at a bitterly cold and snowy King Edward Point, on the island of South Georgia. KEP is the newest of the British Antarctic Survey's scientific bases which is primarily involved in fisheries research on behalf of the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. Situated in a sheltered cove in Cumberland Bay, King Edward Point and its near neighbour, the abandoned whaling station at Grytviken, often benefits from a pleasant microclimate, which sometimes results in the cove being bathed in calm sunshine whilst the rest of South Georgia is buffeted by strong winds, or lies smothered in low cloud or fog.

Not so today. We awoke to find three inches of snow on the deck, and the inhabitants of KEP had emerged from the warmth of the base to greet us clad in full arctic gear. The plan for the day was to unload the cargo transported on the RRS James Clark Ross from the UK, including food and the beer order, for the following year. Many of the team went to work on this, but my task was to put into use one of the many skills picked up in training that I hoped I would never need to use - I was to assist the dentist on his post-winter checkup of all base personnel!

When visiting the dentist (not an enjoyable experience for many people), the last thing that you want is to be introduced to someone describing themselves as a seal fieldworker, to then find out that this person would be carrying out some of the treatment. The ship's dentist was always on hand to supervise his assistants, but much of the work was carried out by myself and the doctor from KEP, Rachel, who although one of the medical profession had only as much dentistry experience as me!

After seeing to all the patients, it was time get out and enjoy the afternoon. After the persistent snow and wind of the morning, South Georgia had become a beautiful winter paradise. A couple of us took a walk around the cove, sticking from the snow-free beaches as much as possible, but sometimes having to turn inland to avoid large harems of elephant seals, and fur seals staking out territories in the tussock grass. The sun is strong at this time of the year, especially with the depleted ozone in this region, so copious sunscreen was applied. The deep fresh snow made walking arduous, but the weather was glorious and we made the most of the time we had to explore the area.

On our return, once the sun had disappeared behind the mountains and the snow had started to firm up as the temperature dropped, we enjoyed a somewhat surreal barbecue: with both those from the ship and KEP residents together, all dressed in as many layers as one could wear and with the chorus of elephant seals on the beach by the base providing the soundtrack, until it was too cold to remain outside any longer!

1 comment:

Klymko said...

Someone let you work on their teeth? Brave soul. :-P

- Christine