Thursday, 21 November 2013
Another day out of the office
Well I just didn't stop smiling all day on Tuesday! Andrew and I spent another glorious day on Goudier Island filming penguins. We were joined for much of the day by three chinstrap penguins and a weddell seal as well as our usual cast of gentoos and sheathbills. Our gentoos were having an easier day of it without the blizzard conditions we filmed them in on Monday. Although it was a real privilege to see them hunkered down in the snow as we struggled to film in blustery white-out conditions. At one point, we thought we may be stranded from Pelagic as wind hit 35 knots - unsurprisingly, it is hard to operate a zodiac in these conditions (and a camera as we can now testify). But we felt very lucky to be able to embrace the weather with these remarkable birds. And Tuesday was just exhilarating! Our penguins were clearly as glad to be in the sunshine as we were and were busy interacting with one another. Port Lockroy had another visit from a ship on an expedition that had been to South Georgia and we were delighted to catch up with penguinologist, Tom Hart, who has a camera trap study going on on Goudier Island. His data from this year's sea ice will be fascinating I'm sure.
Pelting down the Peltier... 20th November
Yesterday, we went for a sail down the Peltier Channel. The weather was once again glorious and we all got up at 5am to make the most of the favourable conditions. We saw a gorgeous crabeater seal hauled out on an ice flow and lots of porpoising gentoos. The ice looked almost indescribable, with shades of white ranging from the brightness you would expect from a colgate advert (other brands of extremely good toothpaste are available and will make your teeth gleam equally white) to topaz blues and pinky / purple hues. At times, ice looks even looks black, which really surprised me when I first saw it. I have been told this is the oldest ice and it certainly looks tough when you sail past it. For our next filming adventure, Andrew hauled himself (with the help of the Pelagic crew) up the stick. It took him a while to become accustomed to the height and sensation of sitting in a moving harness at height but once he had done so, we had to work really hard to persuade him to come back down after he had the shots he needed! It is great to get out and see a little bit more of the area we are in here, if only to gain perspective on the positioning and size of Port Lockroy. We returned back to our mooring spot just off Jougla Point before the weather turned. It's amazing how much sea ice blows around in a few hours as there was a touch and go moment when we thought we might struggle to get back to our position, but all was well and we relaxed once again.
We should know better than to celebrate or relax on this trip. No sooner were we moored in place and thinking about dinner then the next challenge came our way. A rather embarrassing one I'm afraid. I may have caused somewhat of a blockage in the head (boating term for loo, which is a British term for toilet). Oh the shame. This happened approximately 24 hours ago and we still don't have working facilities. It turns out there may have been an issue with the pump which I triggered and poor Dave and Bertie have spent the whole day trying to fix it. I obviously tried to sort the problem initially and helped where I could but it really was beyond my very limited capabilities in this area - I just want it to be clear that I didn't just leave a situation for someone else to deal with! Anyway, it has been a very blustery and cold day (35 knot winds and down to minus 3 degrees with snow) - not what you want when you have to expose yourself fully to the elements to do your business. Still we haven't had anything frozen to anything that it shouldn't be so I suppose we should be grateful.
Speaking of heads down, we really will be getting our heads down and resting as much as possible tonight so we can get out filming at 3am tomorrow. It is very frustrating losing days to poor weather but we couldn't leave the yacht to film in today's blizzard and it just means we are better prepared and ready to embrace a very long day tomorrow!
Finally, a catch-up with our readers...
Firstly, apologies for any mix-up with blog posts. My computer somehow did a time shift back by about twelve months which affected my blog posts. If you haven't already, please have a look through all the posts in case you have missed a more recent one! Hopefully the error has been corrected now but do feel free to comment if you spot any anomalies as I can read your comments here in Antarctica - thank you by the way if you have left a message, all are gratefully received!
On that note, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Alan Carroll who has kindly been providing the Port Lockroy team (and therefore also Pelagic and filming crew) with weather reports. These have been invaluable throughout our trip so far, particularly given the unusual and somewhat tricky conditions we have recently faced.