Saturday, 7 December 2013
The snow is starting to melt here on Goudier Island, which is proving somewhat hazardous for walking around the island - particularly when carrying a lot of camera kit. It is very easy to step onto what looks like (and until now has been) firm snow, only for your foot to go down and find yourself up to waist (no exaggeration), struggling to regain firm footing. Every hole created must be filled in immediately to prevent accidentally trapping a penguin (we are being meticulous about this so thankfully we haven't come across a penguin in a hole yet). I have spent some time today creating a highway system to get to and from some main filming locations to make things easier with the camera. Unfortunately, even this is not a guaranteed safe passage as the conditions change on an hourly basis. Yesterday I discovered the snow I was filming upon near the boat shed was subsiding considerably, never a good thing when you are concentrating down the lens of a camera! In due course, I will dig out a safe rock platform from which to base myself. Despite generally warmer temperatures and sunny days, the wind is still playing havoc and blowing ice in and out of the bay. It looks beautiful and I will be sorry when we no longer have its company, although I think ships will be grateful as they keep having to alter their visiting plans at the last minute - we never quite know when someone is going to turn up or not be able to get in!
Antarctica's answer to the pigeon
I have mixed feelings about sheathbills. On the one hand, they are pretty astounding birds. As far as I am aware, they are the only birds this far south without webbed feet. They migrate in the winter to South America but spend summer breeding here, feeding on guano and penguin eggs. However, their own droppings are totally toxic - bright orangey yellow in colour and very difficult to remove from anything. They take any opportunity presented to them to get inside buildings, seemingly just to defecate, and will peck and try to steal anything left outside (even when you are standing right next to it) - including camera bags and kit! But I love the fact they bob just like pigeons and are immensely curious creatures, constantly looking in through our windows and even pecking on them as if for attention! They often hop around on one foot, leaving many visitors believing we have individuals here at Port Lockroy with only one leg despite our best attempts to explain otherwise. They are only roughly the size of a pigeon but you would think we had an invasion of people on our hands when you hear them on the roof of the Nissen Hut and Bransfield House, running up and down. Still, they keep us on our toes (much like everything else down here) and provide a source of entertainment (and cleaning work).