South Georgia Newsletter, August 2010

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- Disclaimer: This newsletter is not produced by GSGSSI; it does not necessarily reflect their views.

Tour Ship Visits And Passenger Numbers To Fall Again

“Le Diamant” visiting last season.
“Le Diamant” visiting last season.

The number of tour ships planning to visit South Georgia in the coming summer looks set to fall for the second year in a row. Just 52 ship visits are currently listed to visit the Island on the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) scheduler. Eleven less than last season, and 18 fewer than the busiest summer of 2008/9.

The size of cruise ships visiting is also changing. Some of the ships that came regularly in the past will no longer operate in the region. Reasons for this include the economics of running smaller ships and a change in rules - banning cruise ships from carrying heavy fuel oils in Antarctic waters. The result for South Georgia is that most of the ship visits will be from medium sized vessels (70-199 passenger), with just two small ships operating, the “Polar Pioneer” (54 passengers) and “Bark Europa” (37 passengers). There are currently 8 expected visits from larger vessels (200-500 passengers).

The total number of passenger spaces available on the booked vessels is approximately 6800, not all the available places will be sold, so the actual number of visitors may be nearer 5800 at usual occupancy rates, about 12% less than the number expected last season.

This two season-long reduction in ship visits and passenger numbers was predicted. It follows the pattern of the last global recession (2001-2) when there was a similar 2-season dip, after which ship visits and tourist numbers continued the steady rise that has been the trend since cruise ship tourism started here in 1970. The 2010/11 season is due to start on October 30th with a visit from tour ship "Plancius”. With the following month, November, the busiest of the season with 14 ships due. Two ships new to South Georgia are due to visit: the 200-passenger "Le Boreal" and 90-passenger “Marina Svetaeva”.

New Post: GSGSSI Marine & Fisheries Officer

The newly created post of GSGSSI Marine and Fisheries Officer has been taken up by Judith Brown. She joins the GSGSSI team based in the Falkland Islands.

The primary role of the Marine & Fisheries Scientist (MFS) is to support the GSGSSI management of fisheries and the marine environment. Though based in the Falklands, some of the work will be conducted at sea, as an observer on commercial fishing vessels, or conducting research on fishery research vessels, and some in South Georgia working in the laboratories. The work will be varied as, amongst other things, the MFS will organise and participate in research cruises, analyse data, maintain survey databases, manage GSGSSI marine data, produce reports, assist with toothfish catch verification and source funding for marine science in support of GSGSSI objectives.

Judith trained as a Marine Biologist at Heriott-Watt University in Edinburgh and has travelled widely with her work, including Belize, Honduras, Australia and SE Asia, before spending two years as a Fishery Scientist with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) at South Georgia in 2001-03. Most recently she has been employed in the Falkland Islands as Fishery Scientist specialising in studies of toothfish. The GSGSSI Marine and Fisheries Scientist started a three-year contract on August 16th.

Judith Brown the new GSGSSI Marine and Fisheries Officer.
Judith Brown the new GSGSSI Marine and Fisheries Officer.

Fishing And Shipping News

GSGSSI invoked an Administrative Penalty of £25,000 earlier this year on a longline fishing vessel. The Administrative Penalty Notice was issued on May 16th to the operators of a licensed longline vessel fishing in GSGSSI waters. The penalty was issued for the failure to report the killing of two albatross and for the discarding of hooks, including baited hooks. Both offences were in contravention of Section 5 of the Fisheries (Conservation and Management) Ordinance 2000. The Administrative Penalty was issued by Director of Fisheries, Martin Collins, under Section 21 of the Fisheries (Conservation & Management) Ordinance 2000. The vessel operators admitted the offences. The penalty has now been paid. GSGSSI states that they take any contravention of licence conditions extremely seriously, particularly when they may lead to the killing of seabirds.

August was the last month of the toothfish fishery. Six longliners fished throughout the month, with three having already completed their quota and left the fishing grounds. Management area B was closed at midnight on August 17th when the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the area of 900 tonnes was taken up. One longliner was licensed to use the “umbrella” system in an attempt to reduce orca depredation on the fishing lines. The method causes a net bag to fall over groups of hooks when the line is retrieved, preventing the whales reaching the hooked fish. The season closed on August 31st and all the vessels returned to Stanley for catch verification.

On August 24th a vessel was inspected and licensed to fish for crabs with pots. Early catches were poor due to bad weather but improved as the weather got better at the end of the month.

Crabbing vessel waiting to be inspected and licensed. Photo Patrick Lurcock.
Crabbing vessel waiting to be inspected and licensed. Photo Patrick Lurcock.

Four further vessels made calls to Cumberland Bay either for medicals or for transshipments. Government Officer Robert Paterson joined the Fishery Patrol Vessel “Pharos SG” for a few days to gain experience of boarding and inspecting ships at sea.

Longline fishing vessels transshipping in Cumberland Bay.
Longline fishing vessels transshipping in Cumberland Bay.

Air-Sea Rescue For Sick Seaman

The Search and Rescue (SAR) Sea King helicopter, a Navy vessel and a C130 Hercules aircraft were all deployed to assist in the recovery of a sick seaman from a South Georgia licensed fishing vessel. The master of the vessel “Jacqueline” had contacted the Rescue Coordination Centre in Madrid, Spain, about the ill seaman. They in turn notified Joint Operations Centre at Mount Pleasant, Falklands; meanwhile the vessel had sailed to consult the South Georgia doctor at King Edward Point (KEP).

The vessel entered Cumberland Bay on August 16th and, after examining the patient aboard the vessel, the Doctor advised the quick evacuation of the crewman to the nearest hospital, 800 miles away in the Falkland Islands. Medicines, and training and advice in their application and the care of the patient were given to other crew members after which the vessel sailed quickly towards the Falklands. During the voyage the KEP Doctor maintained regular and frequent contact with the vessel to continue to advise on treatment for the crewman.

The range of the rescue helicopter, based at Mount Pleasant Airport in the Falklands, is limited by the amount of fuel it can carry. As the ship sailed east to close the distance, the aircrew stripped the Sea King helicopter of all non-essential fittings to lighten the load and increase its range.

“Jacqueline” was still a colossal 200 miles due east of the Falklands when the rescue aircraft launched on the 19th. The helicopter took two-hours to reach the “Jacqueline” in difficult flying conditions as there was an extremely strong headwind. As the helicopter reached the ship the C-130 Hercules aircraft was already circling above the ship in support of the mission, and Royal Navy vessel “HMS Portland” was also in position ready to assist if necessary.

As the helicopter was at the edge of its flying range, they could only plan for a short time to make the recovery. Sergeant David Livingston said they “aimed to be at the scene for no longer than 30 minutes, and had to perform a stretcher recovery of the casualty rather than the usual winching, which obviously added to the wind and sea obstacles already being faced.”

The crewman was safely brought aboard the helicopter and flown to the King Edward Memorial Hospital. Mike Summers, part-owner of the “Jacqueline” which has been operating in South Georgia since 1997, said: “This kind of incident brings home the vulnerability and danger to crew working at such distances in testing circumstances. We are hugely grateful to the SAR crew for their bravery and commitment in helping others, working sometimes on the limits of endurance.” He added that the fisherman was now comfortable but remained very ill in hospital, and that without the assistance provided by the doctor at KEP and the SAR crew the prognosis might have been very different.

Info: Penguin News

Rediscovering The Discovery

By Andrew Mackey and Nathan Cunningham, British Antarctic Survey

The 'Discovery Investigations' were a series of Southern Ocean cruises commissioned by the Royal Society over the period 1925-1951. Originally with the aim of investigating the commercial whaling industry, the investigations constituted the largest scientific sampling effort ever undertaken in the Antarctic. Data gathered was used to produce 34 volumes of the now famous 'Discovery Reports', which contributed enormously to the scientific understanding of the Southern Ocean, being the first to describe both the Antarctic Convergence and the importance of krill within the food web.

The Investigations were primarily concerned with better understanding all of the aspects of the ocean affecting the distribution of whales. Therefore research into the plankton, which supported the whales through the food chain, was of paramount importance. In total nearly four thousand stations from around the Southern Ocean were routinely sampled for their abundance of plankton species from the surface down to depths of a thousand metres.

Captain Scott's old ship, the “RRS Discovery”, was the first ship used for the 'Discovery Investigations'.
Captain Scott's old ship, the “RRS Discovery”, was the first ship used for the 'Discovery Investigations'.

Current research is becoming increasingly focused on the effects of environmental change; this makes historical data all the more valuable. By understanding ecological changes in the plankton community (highly susceptible to change) between the past and present, scientists are better able to predict outcomes in the future.

Unfortunately, most of the original ecological data and analysis collected during the Investigations is not available to the scientific community, with much of the documentation having become separated, disparate and jumbled over the past decades. This means that the truly valuable raw data, which scientists need in order to make meaningful comparisons, is out of reach.

The British Antarctic Survey has joined forces with the National Oceanography Centre (NOCS), and the Natural History Museum (NHM) to address this through the 'Discovery Project'. This project was set up to restore the true value of the data collected during the 'Discovery Investigations' by firstly bringing together all the existing documentation, and secondly making publicly available the important scientific data through an open-access Discovery Data-Portal, available to the world.

Samples taken during the 'Discovery Investigations', now held by the Natural History Museum, London. Photo BAS.
Samples taken during the 'Discovery Investigations', now held by the Natural History Museum, London. Photo BAS.

So far they have rescued (copied digitally) over 10,000 pages of hand written plankton analysis sheets and extracted the abundance data from over 3,000 pages. All of these original handwritten sheets will be available to view through the data portal, along with a Discovery Plankton database. Through the use of a search engine scientists will be able to access and visually/spatially interpret these data through an attached geobrowser, along with links to maps, graphs and the original 'Discovery Reports' themselves.

Modern research is often focused on the collection of new data through expensive fieldwork and experimentation, without fully utilising the large quantities of existing historical datasets. This mind-set often means that important historical information is ignored. Historical data sets can provide important context to current observations, enabling the analysis of longer-term trends and changes. Global climate change and ocean acidification would have meant little to the scientists and crew of the 'Discovery Investigations', but the data they collected may help us understand the impacts of such phenomena. By using modern techniques, such as multivariate analysis and Geographical Information Systems (GIS), scientists at BAS hope to bring new light on these old data, helping us determine the baseline from which to compare more modern and future data, indeed allowing us to extend our knowledge back in time.

The new Discovery Data Portal will be populated and available in a few months time.

You can access the database here.

Circumpolar Southern Ocean distribution map of Themisto guadichaudii (Amphipod) produced from extracted 'Discovery Investigation' data. Image BAS.
Circumpolar Southern Ocean distribution map of Themisto guadichaudii (Amphipod) produced from extracted 'Discovery Investigation' data. Image BAS.

Malcolm Burley

Lt Cdr Malcolm Burley RN MBE, who led the 'Combined Services Expedition' to South Georgia in 1964/65, died on August 23rd. Malcolm Keith Burley was born in 1927 and joined the Royal Navy in 1945. In 1960 he was appointed to the Antarctic guardship “HMS Protector” and during the ship's deployment successfully climbed Mt Leotard, the highest peak on Adelaide Island off the Antarctic Peninsula.

Later that year, in the company of 15 Royal Marines, he attempted to climb South Georgia's highest peak, Mt Paget. Though faced with challenging conditions on the climb, Malcolm, with three Marines, reached the mountain's lower peak, but were forced to return from there due to bad weather and lack of time.

He returned to South Georgia in 1964 to try again, this time as the leader of the 'Combined Services Expedition'. This successful expedition had several aims. They crossed the Island using the route taken by Shackleton from King Haakon Bay to Stromness - filmed for an ITV documentary; attempted climbs on several of the major peaks and were successful in climbing both Mt Paget and Mt Sugartop; and crossed the Island again using a very high pass near Mt Marikoppa, across the formidable Allardyce Range. There was also survey work in various areas of the Island, including the previously unsurveyed area around Royal Bay. Other work included charting, geological, glaciological, botanical and ornithological surveys. Burley led another successful expedition to Elephant Island in 1970. He retired from the Navy in 1973.

A memorial service will take place St. Michael's, Peasenhall, on September 1st. We hope to bring you a fuller obituary of Lt Cdr Malcolm Burley in the September edition of this newsletter.

Info: The Dictionary of Falkland Biography

The 'Combined Services Expedition' successfully climbed Mt Paget.
The 'Combined Services Expedition' successfully climbed Mt Paget.

Space Images Of Glacial Recession

Dramatic comparative photos of the Neumayer Glacier have been posted by the USA Space Agency NASA on their website. The Neumayer Glacier is known to be receding quickly, and in the two photographs, captured by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite, you can see the changes in the glacier between January in 2005 and 2009. According to the NASA website: “Prior to 1970, observations of the ice front’s position showed changes in just tens of meters, but the glacier subsequently began losing significant mass. From roughly 1970 to 2002, the Neumayer retreated by roughly 2 km (1.2 miles). As the first decade of the twenty-first century wore on, it continued losing ice. In the four years that elapsed between ALI’s observations, the glacier retreated approximately 1 km (0.6 miles).”

The glacier's fast retreat continues. Since the 2009 photograph was taken by NASA, a yacht sailing along the front of the glacier showed the front had continued to recede, and walkers in the area in the past month report a marked further recession in the past few months.

You can see the NASA comparison photos here.

Marking C A Larsen's 150th Birthday

Events were held in Norway and in South Georgia to mark the day, 150 years ago, when explorer and founder of the South Georgia whaling industry, Carl Anton Larsen, was born. On Larsen's birthday, August 7th, in his birth-town Østre Halsen in Norway, his grandson Hans-Kjell Larsen was among those that gathered for a ceremony to mark the date. At South Georgia local residents gathered in the whaler's church at Grytviken. At both events a short biography of Larsen's life, written by his grandson, was read out.

At Grytviken it was appropriate not only to be holding the event in the church that Larsen financed and had built, but also close to a bronze bust of the explorer and entrepreneur. Base Commander Ali Massey read the address, excerpts of which are below.

“Captain Carl Anton Larsen is most famous as the Pioneer of Antarctic Whaling Industry at South Georgia from 1904. His pioneering voyages to the Weddell Sea 1892-94, instigating "The Heroic Age" of Antarctic Exploration, are less well known.

Carl Anton Larsen was born in 1860 at Østre Halsen near Larvik, a small coastal village south of the Norwegian capital Oslo. In the family tradition he became a sailor and at the age of 25, was a captain in the sealing and whaling industry in the Arctic Seas.

When the industry in the North declined, two Antarctic whaling reconnaissance voyages were made in 1892-93 and 1892-94, by Captain Carl Anton Larsen aboard "Jason". These were the first voyages of international exploration to the Weddell Sea area for almost 20 years.

He organized a second expedition to the Antarctic with three vessels in 1893. "Herta" and "Castor" explored the west side of the Antarctic Peninsula whilst Captain Larsen on "Jason" continued to explore the eastern side. He discovered new land and was first to use skis in Antarctica. His most important discovery was later named the Larsen Ice Shelf.

In 1901, as part of the Scientific Expeditions Programme, he sailed south again as Captain of the "Antarctic", Swedish scientist Otto Nordenskjöld led the expedition. This was the first expedition to winter in the Antarctic Peninsula region. The expedition set up a base with a prefabricated hut at Snow Hill Island off the Antarctic Peninsula. "Antarctic" undertook a scientific program in the Weddell Sea, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, which was when Grytviken was discovered and charted. On return to Snow Hill Island the ship was crushed in the ice. The crew and scientists, in two separate groups (Hope Bay and Paulet Island) managed to survive the winter and were rescued by the "Uruguay", an Argentinian relief ship. After the Nordenskjöld-expedition reached Buenos Aires, Captain Larsen aroused interest in whaling in South Georgia and the 'Compania Argentina de Pesca' was formed. The expedition arrived in Grytviken on November 16th, 1904 with two ships, a whale-catcher and with the building structures for a shore-based whaling station. Grytviken has been occupied permanently since.

Captain Larsen's management of Grytviken lasted until 1914. As part of his commitment to the whalers' welfare, in 1912 he arranged for a priest and had the church built; it was inaugurated on Christmas Day 1913.

From 1923 Captain Larsen was active in whaling expeditions in the Ross Sea region until his death on December 8th, 1924, aboard his ship. He was buried in Sandefjord on May 15th, 1925.”

After the address in the Grytviken church, Government Officer Patrick Lurcock proposed a toast to Larsen. Glasses of aquavit were raised and the church bell rung 150 times in his memory.

The full address can be read in full here.

You can see a video made by Ali Massey about the Grytviken event here.

A century and a half since C A Larsen was born was marked  by a gathering in the church he built at Grytviken.
A century and a half since C A Larsen was born was marked by a gathering in the church he built at Grytviken.

Start Of The Invasion?

The discovery of an earwig in the Biosecurity Building has heightened fears they may one day infest the Island.
The discovery of an earwig in the Biosecurity Building has heightened fears they may one day infest the Island.

An earwig was discovered in the Biosecurity Building at KEP during the routine monthly checks of the building in August. Although it was dead, there was no way of knowing if it arrived so, and dropped out of cargo being checked or stored in the building, or if it arrived alive and subsequently died. Either way it is hopefully a sign that the building works to contain any insects or other biota arriving in cargo from outside the Island.

All cargo arriving in South Georgia has to be sealed, and regular suppliers in the Falklands, where there is a plague of earwigs, are asked to be especially vigilant. Arriving cargo is unloaded into the Biosecurity Building and opened and checked there for any biosecurity risks like soil, seeds, insects or small animals that could have got into the cargo.

The building is specially designed to contain any potential invaders. Insect traps are placed around the walls, and building is routinely sprayed with insecticide once a month.

After the discovery of the earwig the Biosecurity Building was immediately sprayed with insecticide, and the insect traps have been even more closely monitored with no sign of any more earwigs.

Bird Island News

By Joe Corner, Technical Services, British Antarctic Survey Station, Bird Island.

August has come and Bird Island is slowly starting to come back to life after a cold and icy couple of months, with temperatures slowly rising, and the snow and ice slowly departing. With only two months until the first ship arrives to bring in fresh supplies and people, activity on and around base is steadily increasing. For myself, being the sole technician on base, August has been a very productive month.

With the warm(ish) weather returning to us, I was able to get outside and continue with some much needed base maintenance, mainly spending hours bolting down the walkway. As well as the usual weekly refuelling, fire testing and filter changes, we finally managed to re-tarp our much beloved wood store, which after many years has given up the ghost.

The girls decided to have a night off base; Stacey and Claudia spent a night up at Cave Crag, and left me with a nice quiet base for a change!

A light from Cave Crag where Stacey and Claudia camped for the night.
A light from Cave Crag where Stacey and Claudia camped for the night.

Leopard seals have been pottering around both in the water and on the beaches. One seal in particular caused some excitement around head office in Cambridge as it turned up on the beach with a GLS. The GLS uses sunlight to record, over a period of time, where the animal has been. It was deployed last year so has a whole year's worth of valuable data on it. These are deployed on leopard seals, but are rarely recovered. Unfortunately we were unable to retrieve it due to a snowy sheathbill annoying the animal, sending it back in to the sea.

Main Bay frozen up.
Main Bay frozen up.

The wandering albatross chicks are still putting on plenty of weight and are looking good and fat. Their feathers are coming through rapidly, replacing the fluffy down. We also had a ‘Isabelline’ gentoo penguin turn up on landing beach. ‘Isabelline’ is a condition which affects 1 in 50,000 Penguins, where the lack a certain pigment causes them to be grey instead of black.

The sea has been freezing up on a regular basis this month, which for some reason the fur seals seem to enjoy quite a lot. They can be seen out of the office windows running around like little children and have amused us all.

A Fur Seal enjoying the sea ice.
A Fur Seal enjoying the sea ice.

With only three weeks until our first visitor, and six until the ship arrives, we will all be extremely busy. Although the winter is still far from over, I am now starting to look forward to five months down in the South Orkney Islands at Signy, and I am sure the guys left on base will have a productive and enjoyable summer.

Three minutes in the life of a gentoo penguin - A penguin eye view of what they get up to in the colony in late winter. See the sheathbills foraging amidst displaying penguins on the pebble nests, as the birds gear up for the breeding season ahead.

South Georgia Snippets

A memorial to Shetland whalers is shortly to be erected in the Shetland Islands. It will be unveiled during a reunion of former whalers in September. Many Shetland Islanders were employed as whalers and travelled to the South Atlantic to work on the shore stations in South Georgia and on the pelagic whaling fleet. The idea for the memorial was formed during plans for a Shetland whalers' reunion. Organiser, Mrs Christie, who is an ex-whaler's daughter, said: “Whaling is part of Shetland’s heritage. There were hard times but the whalers enjoyed the camaraderie.”

For Shetland Islanders whaling was an important industry at a time when there was little work at home. In the northern hemisphere autumn hundreds of men signed on with 'Salvesen’s of Edinburgh' to undertake the six-week sea journey to the South Atlantic, where most stayed for several months until the southern winter closed in. Far fewer people were needed to look after stations in winter, but some Shetlanders would remain south for a whole year or longer.

The last Shetland Whalers' reunion was in 2000. Ten years on just over 100 Shetland whalers survive, the youngest of whom are in their mid to late sixties. The next reunion will be in September. A time for the ex-whalers to gather and reminisce about the tough work, but interesting lives, they had half a century ago.

According to the Shetland Times, the whalers' memorial will be sited at Small Boat Harbour, Lerwick. Designed by Davy Cooper of Shetland Amenity Trust, the base will be made of Shetland stone topped with a black granite plaque which will feature an etched map of South Georgia, a whale-catcher and a factory ship.

There is a final post for the BBC 'Frozen Planet' albatross family we have been following the past few months. The scientists reporting from the nest now acknowledge the mother bird must have died and that the chick was not fed for long enough by both parents to have a chance to survive. For now the chick is described as “cheery” but his growth is falling further behind the other chicks. The father bird, Erik, continues to feed the chick, and will only become aware of his partners death in two years time, when he comes back to breed again and she won't be there to meet him.

At the end of the month Erik was off Cape Horn. He is expected to return to Bird Island again soon, when the plan is to remove the tracking device, as the batteries are due to run out shortly, after which it would be impossible to locate him to remove the logger.

You can read the last installment here or see the parents' tracks on the map here.

A team of nine will staff the South Georgia Museum in the coming summer, most of whom are getting ready now for their journey south to the Island. The team are: General Museum Manager Tony Hall; Handyman Hugh Marsden; Taxidermist Steve Massam; Museum Assistants Julia Hughes, Sue Edwards & Sylvia Allen; Buyer/Museum Assistant Liz Adams and Curatorial Assistant Lynsey Easton. SGHT PR & Marketing Manager Ruth Fraser will also be working with the team.

Curatorial Assistant Lynsey Easton is a recent graduate of the 'Museum and Galleries' postgraduate course at The University of St Andrews, Scotland. She will be continuing the documentation of the collection as well as developing displays and welcoming visitors to the museum.

Additions to the museum this year will include a series of audio clips from the 'Ex-Whalers Oral History Project' in which whalers will explain why they joined the whaling industry, what they did, the highlights and hardships they faced and their lives as ex whalers. Film of the interviews will be showing in the museum in future.

Curator Elsa Davidson will not come south this year, but she will continue her work as Curator of the museum part-time from Scotland, focusing on: related research projects; collections development; UK based displays; increasing loan opportunities; updating the online database; promoting the museum and Trust; and developing the 'Ex-Whalers Oral History Project'. She will also be overseeing the curatorial work at the museum remotely.

Info SG Museum website:

As spring nears, August has remained convincingly cold and wintry, but the continued lack of snow means it has been a very low snow winter overall. The periodic thaws that accompany warmer winds sweeping down from the north have eaten the white covering and exposed the old grass heads, much to the delight of the foraging ducks. Cold still nights freeze the surface water hard, making walking hazardous at times, as testified by the comical sight of sheathbills and ducks slipping and sliding on ice, just as we humans do. We can don bruise-saving boot chains to give our feet more bite, but the birds end up flapping inelegantly to keep themselves upright.

An all-girl camping trip to the Greene Peninsula did not even bother taking skis, what little snow there was was easily traipsed over when cold, the frozen surface giving good purchase to stout walking boots. Luck was with the girls who enjoyed the best stretch of weather in a long while, three solid days of cold but mostly calm and sunny weather. Lots of fat fur seals inhabit the tussac and beach at Dartmouth Point and in the low hills above the giant petrels were bagging nest sites and displaying to potential partners whilst seeing off rivals.

Giant Petrels are staking claim to nest sites.
Giant Petrels are staking claim to nest sites.

Fur seal at Dartmouth Point
Fur seal at Dartmouth Point

Bold rats were seen by two of the party. Usually difficult to capture on film due to their shy nature, one rat bucked the trend and happily dined on beach detritus whilst Paula got within feet of it to take a series of photographs that will be of great use to various agencies. Photographs of rats are often requested by those raising awareness of the destructive capacity of these rodents to nesting birds on the Island. Greene Peninsula is one of the first targets of the hugely ambitious campaign of the 'Habitat Restoration Project' to rid the Island of rodents.

Rat feeding of beach detritus. Photo Paula O'Sullivan.
Rat feeding of beach detritus. Photo Paula O'Sullivan.

The two harbour launches headed round to Stromness Bay on one of the routine long boat journey/familiarisation trips. Yacht “Wanderer III” was seen safely anchored in a kelpy corner near Husvik in company with three resident leopard seals. There have been few leopard seal sightings around KEP this winter, which is unusual, but these three have been regularly seen by Thies and Kicki from the yacht, either dozing on nearby rocks or swimming close by. Two more leopard seals were encountered in Leith Harbour, including one that swam a long way in company with the boats as they steamed down the harbour, and then swam close to boats until it was time for them to leave.

The two harbour launches anchored off Husvik.
The two harbour launches anchored off Husvik.

This curious leopard seal stayed with the boats for a long time.
This curious leopard seal stayed with the boats for a long time.

Join us on a winter boat journey on the jet boats through the ice to Stromness Bay to see Leith whaling station, leopard seals and more.

Dates for your diary:

An exhibition entitled “Endurance: Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure” is currently underway at the Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool. It will run until January 3rd 2011, and includes photographer Hurley’s rare Paget colour transparencies, owned by the State Library of New South Wales, Australia. The exhibition is open from 10am – 5pm. Admission free.

There are also regular performances of “South and south again - Tom Crean's story” throughout September and October. For more information click here to go to the the Merseyside Museum website.

And one last photo of this stunning island.

The Harker Glacier seen from Greene Peninsula.
The Harker Glacier seen from Greene Peninsula.

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