South Georgia Newsletter, May 2012

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

Reindeer Eradication Report

Norwegian Report On The Feasibility Of Herding And Corralling To Eradicate Reindeer

By Bob Burton

The South Georgia Government has released the report of a reconnaissance trip by two Norwegians: Henrik Eira, a Sámi (Lapp) reindeer herder; and Carl Erik Kilander, of the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate. During the trip the Norwegians, who were accompanied for much of the time by GSGSSI CEO Martin Collins, were investigating the practicalities of eliminating reindeer from the Island.

Reindeer were introduced to South Georgia by Carl Anton and Lauritz Larsen a century ago as a food supply for the whalers. The deer adapted well to their new habitat and flourished. In a study of the reindeer made in the late 1950s, Nigel Bonner regarded this as an 'excellent example of a successful introduction' and observed that 'overgrazing problems…do not seem to exist' except for the elimination of burnet. However, a more detailed study by Nigel Leader-Williams in the 1970s revealed that there had, in fact, been extensive overgrazing, leading to modification of the vegetation and erosion. This, in turn, had affected the invertebrate fauna and the nesting birds.

Since then, the future of the South Georgia reindeer has been debated. The population is interesting scientifically because the two herds (estimated as numbering 2000-2500 in the Barff herd and 1000 in the Busen herd) descended from fewer than a score of deer introduced from Norway, and they have adapted to eating tussac grass rather than lichens. The animals are something of a tourist attraction, especially when wandering through a king penguin colony. Nevertheless, they are aliens and have had a serious impact on the island flora and fauna. The Environmental Management Plan for South Georgia, published in 2000, recommended their removal. Since then, consultations have revealed a broad consensus.

Henrik I. Eira from the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (SNO) in tussac grass in an area ungrazed by reindeer – Maiviken, Thatcher Peninsula.
Henrik I. Eira from the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (SNO) in tussac grass in an area ungrazed by reindeer – Maiviken, Thatcher Peninsula.

Heavily grazed tussac stools after years of overgrazing, Sörling Beach, Barff Peninsula
Heavily grazed tussac stools after years of overgrazing, Sörling Beach, Barff Peninsula

The need to eliminate reindeer came to a head with the plan to eliminate rats. Reindeer would affect this by eating the poisoned bait intended for the rats, which would also cause undue suffering to the deer. It is therefore necessary to remove the reindeer before the rats. The Norwegian report gives ample reason for getting rid of the reindeer, with photos showing extreme damage to the vegetation. It also shows how exclusion cages that prevent grazing allow the vegetation inside to recover quickly.

The plan is to use traditional Sámi methods of herding and corralling reindeer, with shooting by experienced marksmen of deer that are inaccessible. This system will enable compliance with strict animal welfare regulations. It will also allow the hygienic butchering of carcasses for human consumption.

Martin Collins has said that every opportunity will be taken to collect samples for scientific study, such as gathering more information on the 'genetic bottleneck' caused by the introduction of so few animals.

Removal of the Busen herd is planned for this austral summer, with the Barff herd in the following year. This timetable will allow the rat elimination programme to proceed as planned.

The pdf of the report “Report from reconnaissance January 1st - 31st 2012 regarding eradication of reindeer on South Georgia” was posted on this website in May and can be downloaded here [.pdf, 4MB].

Exclosure of vegetation sample ungrazed by reindeer, Sörling Beach, Barff Peninsula.
Exclosure of vegetation sample ungrazed by reindeer, Sörling Beach, Barff Peninsula.

IAATO 2012 Meeting – GSGSSI Address To Operators

Tourism numbers increased a little in the 2011/12 season following annual decreases since 2008. Fifty-one vessels bought 5,860 passengers during the season, though numbers of visiting yachts were significantly lower - just 7 compared to 18 visits the season before.

In an address to IAATO Members running tourist operations to South Georgia , GSGSSI Executive Officer Richard McKee covered matters arising last season and outlined important information for the coming season. This included advising members that in future, visit applicants will have to pay 50% of projected visitor fees in advance of a ship's visit to the island. Speaking at the annual meeting of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) in Providence, USA, this month, he explained the move was to protect GSGSSI against outstanding debts. Unpaid invoices have accrued in the past eight years and “now amount to a significant loss of Revenue for GSGSSI.”

Though there were no compliance issues last season, there were a number of other incidents that occurred during the tourist season, including the tragic death of a tourist undertaking one of the extended walks. This fatal accident is currently being investigated by the Falklands Islands Coroner in Stanley and the inquest is due to reconvene later this year. Notwithstanding the progress of the Coroner’s investigation, Richard McKee told IAATO that GSGSSI will be reviewing their visitor management requirements and guidance to operators.

There was good news for larger vessels who might want to visit the Island in future. Vessels carrying more than 500 passengers have not been allowed to land at South Georgia for a few years due various issues, including the limited incidence response capability on South Georgia. The incident response capability ashore at KEP has since been “significantly improved”, Richard McKee said. GSGSSI is still reviewing the situation but it is likely that a limited number of landings at Grytviken may be allowed in future by vessels carrying up to 850 passengers, subject to further improvements to the KEP major incident response capability. This issue will be discussed at the Stakeholders Meeting in the UK in September.

With two major eradication projects being undertaken in early 2013, to eradicate rats and reindeer from some areas of the Island, tour operators were warned that there will be closures of some landing sites for short periods, though with 43 approved landing sites on the Island there should be plenty of alternatives available. Although the SGHT Habitat Restoration helicopters will be operating from Grytviken again in March, it will still be possible for visitors to access the museum, cemetery and church, but access to some areas of the whaling station may be reduced if the helicopters are active. IAATO were told that in other areas where the Habitat Restoration is underway, “some disruption to ship’s schedules will be inevitable for a few visiting vessels”, but Government “…hopes and trusts that visitors will recognize the importance of these projects in the context of the highly significant contribution they are making to the future ecology of the Island, and through so doing, visitors will be contributing in their own way to the success of these projects.”

Tourists may expect to experience a tasty treat as a result of the reindeer eradication. GSGSSI is determined to utilise as much of the meat from reindeer carcasses as is practical and IAATO ships may well want to stock up on this delicious organic meat. IAATO members were told meat from the deer will be sold on a first come first served basis.

You can read the whole of Richard McKee’s (9 page) address to IAATO here.

Fishing And Shipping News

Photo Jo Cox.
Photo Jo Cox.

The toothfish fishery is in high season with all six longline vessels that secured licences for the 2012 season now operating. The last two vessels to join the fishery were “Antarctic Bay”, inspected and licensed on May 3rd, and “Viking Bay” which arrived for pre-licensing inspection in Cumberland East Bay (CEB) on May 13th. For all the vessels catches have been good to steady throughout the month.

In all there were six harbour visits to CEB by various longliners in May as vessels called in to drop off observers, collect spares, use the emergency medical services provided for them as part of their licence fees, or to make repairs in sheltered waters.

The Diamond Jubilee - New Stamp Issue

Four stamps and a souvenir sheet celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II were released on May 28th.

As well as being the longest lived and second longest reigning Monarch in British history next to Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth II has become the most widely travelled Head of State in World history.

The four stamps depict images of Her Majesty taken during each of her very special Anniversary years. The 60p stamp shows Queen Elizabeth II making her first Christmas Day broadcast to her people in the United Kingdom and throughout the world at Sandringham House, Norfolk, on December 25th 1952.

The 60p stamp shows the Queen in the Year of Accession, 1952.
The 60p stamp shows the Queen in the Year of Accession, 1952.

The 70p stamps shows Queen Elizabeth II during a walkabout in New Plymouth, New Zealand on February 25th 1977.

The 70p stamps shows the Queen during her Silver Jubilee. 1977.
The 70p stamps shows the Queen during her Silver Jubilee. 1977.

The 95p stamp shows the Queen visiting Exeter, UK, on May 1st 2002.

The Queen photographed during her Golden Jubilee, 2002
The Queen photographed during her Golden Jubilee, 2002

The £1.15 stamp shows Queen Elizabeth II smiling as she is arrives for a visit to Kings Lynn Town Hall in Norfolk, UK, on the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne. Six decades after the death of her father King George VI on February 6th 1952, which made the young princess a queen overnight, the monarch said in a message to her subjects that she wanted to "dedicate myself anew to your service".

The £1.15 stamp represents this, the Diamond Jubilee year, 2012.
The £1.15 stamp represents this, the Diamond Jubilee year, 2012.

The accompanying £3 souvenir sheet shows a black and white photograph of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II arriving at the British Museum, London, on November 27th 1957, to attend a reception commemorating the gift to the museum by King George II of his Royal Library. A contemporary photograph in the surround shows Queen Elizabeth II visiting the Irish National Stud, one of Ireland's top horse breeding centres, near Dublin, during her historic State Visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011.

South Georgia stamps can be bought from

New Environment Officer Visits The Island

A new Environment Officer, Dr Jennifer Lee, has recently been appointed by GSGSSI. One of her first duties was to travel to the Island on a familiarisation visit.

Jennifer has diverse interests in terrestrial ecology spanning invasion biology, species distribution modelling at micro and macro scales, community ecology, biogeomorphology, molecular ecology and invertebrate physiology. She has a passion for the conservation of polar regions and has worked throughout the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic.

Prior to joining GSGSSI, Jennifer was based at the Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, where she completed her PhD, which concerned the quantification of species’ movements in the Antarctic region and the consequences thereof. A particular emphasis of this work was to provide evidence-based policy advice to National Antarctic Programmes.

Upon completion of her PhD she took up a post-doctoral fellowship in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), where she used phylogeographic techniques to test the major hypotheses proposed for the existence of refugia for arthropods in Antarctica. This work has implications for understanding the region’s evolutionary history and for the development of intra-regional biosecurity measures.

Jennifer arrived on the Island at the end of May accompanied by South Georgia scientist Andy Black. During the trip they intend setting up some post-baiting monitoring in the Habitat Restoration Programme Phase 1 area, and will carry out surveys in the reindeer infested areas prior to the GSGSSI Reindeer Eradication Project which is due to start in early 2013.

Outside of work Jennifer enjoys activities which allow her to experience the great outdoors and is a keen cyclist, runner and wildlife photographer. She has also been involved in a number of voluntary organisations including the UK Mountain Rescue and the South African based Volunteer Wildfire Services.

Scarily Big Numbers To Fight Rats

Habitat Restoration “Phase 2 numbers are frightening!” says Project Director Professor Tony Martin in the latest edition of the South Georgia Heritage Trust’s (SGHT) Habitat Restoration Project newsletter ‘Project News’ which was published in early May.

The baiting of the huge Phase 2 area will take place over two years. “In Year One alone we will be putting ashore 750 helicopter loads of gear and supplies, and using 500 drums of aviation fuel and 200,000 kilos of bait to clear rodents from 58,000 hectares (145,000 acres) of South Georgia. The 2013 operation will cover four times more land than any rodent eradication previously attempted. The cost is expected to be £3.2m or just short of $5m U.S. This scale of conservation work is not for the faint-hearted!” Tony Martin writes.

You can catch up with all the latest news by downloading the Habitat Restoration newsletter on the SGHT site here.

Fearnley-Whittingstall Applauds GSGSSI Marine Protection Efforts

By Dr Judith Brown, GSGSSI Marine Fisheries Scientist

Following on from the GSGSSI announcement of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) around South Georgia in February this year, the Government held a two day workshop in April bringing together scientists from different fields to discuss the current MPA and potential for further protection. The meeting was opened with an address from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, speaking on behalf of ‘Hugh's Fish Fight’ and applauding the efforts made by GSGSSI to protect the marine environment.

There were over 30 delegates from various organisations including: the GSGSSI; BAS; JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee); Oxford University; and the Laboratory of Oceanography of Villefranche (LOV) France. Each delegate brought their expertise forward to discuss measures for protection of the pelagic and benthic marine environments. The workshop group came up with some very positive ideas and currently all available data, including predator foraging areas, vulnerable benthic hotspots and fishing effort, are being brought together and an outline of proposed changes will be circulated to stakeholders later in the year for comment.

Discovery Investigation Website

“RRS Discovery II”
“RRS Discovery II”

A new website ‘Discovery Investigations’, featuring the photographs taken on the Discovery Investigations, has been launched by ‘The Centre for Remote Environments’, University of Dundee, UK.

The Discovery Investigations were a series of British funded, scientific studies taking place in and around the Antarctic Southern Ocean. Undertaken between 1925 and 1951, the investigations were periodically conducted on board three research vessels: “R.R.S. Discovery”, “R.R.S. William Scoresby” and “RRS. Discovery II”. The studies were also conducted on land at the marine biological station Discovery House, at King Edward Point (KEP). After the near devastation of Arctic whale stocks due to severe over-fishing during the latter half of the 19th century, the Discovery Investigations were established by the British Government with the principal aim of researching data towards a more effective management of the remaining stocks in the Antarctic region. These investigations would include a study of the whales themselves (their migration, feeding patterns, breeding frequency, nursing and rearing periods) a study of the plankton that forms their diet, and research into the physical and biological nature of the oceans they inhabit.

The website is a searchable archive of over 1800 photographs taken during the Investigations and covers a broad range of subjects including science, wildlife, landscapes, people and ships. The new website offers a visual insight to a unique age of British led scientific exploration. The photographs are archived at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK.

The photography and imagery contained in the new website should be of considerable value to any researchers with an interest in South Georgia and Antarctica.

Down South by Chris Parry - Book Review

By Pat Lurcock

Chris Parry was the Flight Observer of the Wessex III helicopter, known as 'Humphrey', on the destroyer “HMS Antrim”. Just as the vessel was completing an exercise off Gibraltar, in late March 1982, she was called southwards as part of the task force sent to recover the Falkland Islands and South Georgia following the Argentine invasion at the beginning of April. The vessel and ‘Humphrey’ were involved in some of the essential major events of the campaign, both in South Georgia and the Falklands.

A history graduate, Parry appreciated the importance of first-hand accounts of historic events, and of recording them as soon as possible before too many distortions in recollection set in. His discipline in keeping a diary, and the decision to publish it in an almost unaltered format, makes for a compelling narrative that draws the reader along day by day as the events unfold. Interestingly, he believes that the daily recording of the events was a cathartic exercise that helped him avoid the psychological trauma that can affect those involved in long and intense situations. As well as the expected major events, we gain an insight into the lesser events that made up the day-to-day life on board, which flesh out the story and bring it to life.

On the journey south we join in the preparations for battle, the complex logistics that are constantly changing as plans develop. The routine exercises in fire fighting and damage control gain urgency when the protagonists know that the routines may soon be needed for real. On arrival at South Georgia, the SAS insertion onto the Fortuna Glacier in appalling conditions, and their rescue the next day in worse blizzard conditions that caused the two accompanying helicopters to crash, make compelling reading. Landing an overloaded helicopter (8 passengers on top of the normal crew of four) on a moving ship and then going back for a further 12 men was an amazing feat. All credit goes to Parry then for the amount of detail in his write-up at the end of what must have been a very long and exhausting day. He does not go overboard with flowery prose, which makes the narrative all the more impressive.

Parry came up with the idea to search for the Argentine submarine “ARA Santa Fe” by thinking through what it would most likely be doing. He persuaded his superiors this was feasible and sure enough ‘Humphrey’ locates and depth-charges the submarine, disabling it for the duration of the war. This success allowed ships to operate closer to South Georgia and retake the Island in relative safety.

Later, when the ship was operating around the Falklands, ‘Humphrey’ played a major part again, landing the first of the SBS prior to the main landing at San Carlos.

In late May, after Argentine air raids over San Carlos Water damaged the ship, including an unexploded bomb on board, the ship withdrew to South Georgia to make repairs. ‘Humphrey’ too was damaged. The descriptions of the immediate reactions of those on the scene during an airraid when a crewman was badly injured make us realise how big a deal an event is that might only warrant half a sentence on the evening news. There is a lot more behind “… and one man injured” than one normally considers.

Back in South Georgia “HMS Antrim” acted as a guard for troop ships and repair-ship operations in the shelter of Cumberland Bay.

Running through the book are a number of threads in addition to the main action: his relationship with family at home, and the problems caused by the lack of easy communication; the life on board ship with the various supply issues such as the lack of fresh food. We witness the excitement at the arrival of fresh onions, juxtaposed by the excitement of depth-charging an enemy submarine. There is humour too: a pipe “Nine-o-clockers: Tonight's delight salmon and caviar” announcing the evening snack, followed shortly after by “correction to my last – pilchards”; and a wry observation that on the day that they were nearly destroyed by a bomb that had been made in England, they were fed corned beef that had been made in Argentina.

At the end of June, once it is over, at least for “HMS Antrim”, the journey back and a return to the north, home, and normality is documented with an interesting sprinkling of analysis as the author has time to mull over lessons learnt from the campaign.

There is plenty here for every reader: the military aspects of the battles; the details of life on board a navy vessel at war; the excitement of battle and the incredulity at how badly the Argentines treated their own. It all adds up to bring a depth of understanding to the maritime events of 1982 and nicely complements other books that describe the more shore-based military aspects of the campaign.

‘Down South’ by Chris Parry is published in hardback, has 327 pages, 59 photographs, a useful glossary of military jargon and a brief chronology of the Falklands War.

ISBN: 978-0-670-92145-4

Note: ‘Humphrey’ was retired directly after the Falkland War and was given to the Fleet Air Arm Museum. Normally in the reserve collection and not on display, the helicopter will form part of the 'Falklands 30' exhibition, which opens on June 30th with a conference chaired by Chris Parry.

Bird Island Diary

By Jenny James, BAS Research Station at Bird Island.

I cannot believe it’s been over a month since the four of us were stood at the end of the jetty waving goodbye as the “JCR” sailed away for the last time until November. May has raced by, but what a month! It began with the all-island wandering albatross chick census to assess how many of the remaining chicks had failed during April. Covering the entire island with only four people is quite a challenge compared to during the summer months when there are twice as many willing volunteers. In early May we also counted the grey-headed, black-browed and light-mantled sooty albatross chicks.

Wandering albatross adult and chick.
Wandering albatross adult and chick.

During daily trips to the bird colonies I have witnessed the grey-headed and black-browed chicks gradually lose their downy fluff, begin to practice using their wings and eventually fledge. The southern giant petrel chicks, with their striking dark plumage and pale pink beaks, also fledged this month. The ‘geep’ chicks’ nests were dotted throughout the tussac across the flatter sections of the island and their absence is very noticeable when walking around. Over the past 6 years some of the giant petrel chicks have been given tiny tracking devices which are attached to their legs. Normally the birds are away six years before returning to the island to breed, so hopefully we will be able to retrieve the first devices from returning birds this coming summer and solve the mystery of where they spend those first 6 years of life.

Top, black-browed albatross chicks learning how to use their wings. Middle, a down covered grey-headed albatross chick. Bottom, a southern giant petrel chick.
Top, black-browed albatross chicks learning how to use their wings. Middle, a down covered grey-headed albatross chick. Bottom, a southern giant petrel chick.

Nearly all the fur seals have now departed and the beaches seem remarkably quiet. Although elephant seals have started turning up, using the island as a motel to haul out and rest for a while between hunting trips. Even more exciting was our first leopard seal sighting of the winter. Every day Jon walks along the coast from the Special Study Beach to Evermann Bay on the ‘Lep round’. No surprises then that the first sighting of the year took place right outside base, where Maurice (a regular visitor to BI) killed and devoured a penguin, awarding us spectacular view from the living room window.

Resting elephant seal and the fattest fur seal I’ve ever seen. Photos Jenny James.
Resting elephant seal and the fattest fur seal I’ve ever seen. Photos Jenny James.

Before leaving the UK to come to BI, I remember people asking me, “What will you do in the winter, won’t you get bored?”. Well I certainly haven’t been bored so far! In addition to the regular long-term monitoring we do here, all of us have also been hard at work making our mid-winter presents. We each make only one present for another member of the team, chosen via a secret-santa type draw. With there being only four of us, it took more than a few attempts before we all managed to draw a name that wasn’t our own. Keeping the present a secret on such a small base is also a challenge, particularly with only one workshop.

Rather embarrassingly, in order to try and keep our fitness up through the winter months, we have all started doing a daily fitness DVD. I’m not talking Davina McCall’s fitness video here, this is more like military conditioning on DVD. We all thought we were pretty fit after spending our days climbing hills and battling tussac, but it turns out we were wrong. So it has become routine for us all to gather at 6pm and put ourselves through an hour of ‘Shaun T and his Insanity work out’ - highly recommended if you enjoy pain!

The Cobbler's Nephew: And His Viking Ancestors – New Book

A paperback book of whaling and other reminiscences written by Arthur Dinsdale was due to be launched at the Heritage Gallery, Cargo Fleet Offices, in Middlesbrough on May 22nd. The book covers Arthur’s varied life from early childhood in Hartlepool in the 1920’s onto a seafaring lifestyle. He worked on herring drifters before becoming apprenticed as an engineer in the docks in the war years building Royal Navy ships, and later working on Salveson whale catchers. In 1947 and 1949 Arthur needed enough money to be able to afford to marry his “sweetheart”, so he went whaling in the South Atlantic on the catcher “Sondra”. Later, in the 1950’s, he worked on oil tankers.

Arthur’s writing is described as “conversational, at times humorous, and communicative style”. The book is published by Wynott Direct Publishers, costs £12.95, has 288 pages and 26 photographs, and can be ordered from Amazon and other booksellers.

ISBN: 978-0-9572454-0-2

On The Hunting Grounds – New Whaling Photographs Website

The collection of whaling photographs from the "modern whaling era”, on the new website is growing daily. The photos, captured by those who took part in the industry, are being sent in by ex-whalers or their surviving relatives and friends.

Webmaster Geir Røsset was inspired to create the site after working on a book about the whaling stations of South Georgia and researching his grandfather’s role in the industry. “There are undoubtedly a great many photographs in photo albums around the world which can be of interest to the public.” Geir says. “Those who took part are becoming fewer, and more and more of this material will get lost or become unavailable. The photos can be of interest to coming generations who might want to learn more about this era.” He envisages the På Feltet website being a supplement to the vast photo archives of museums around the world, which he says are often unavailable to the general public. “It is not this site’s intention to take sides, as it were, in the whaling debate.” Geir points out, “Its area of interest is solely of a historical photographic nature.”

Asked what the name "På Feltet" means, “It translates to ‘on the hunting grounds’ or ‘on the field’, which was the Norwegian whalers' nickname for the Southern Ocean”, Geir explained. The website is available in a number of languages including English and Norwegian.

A photograph of Leith Harbour in March 1950 taken by Salveson employee Alan Stewart Greig, shared on the På Feltet website by his his son Al Greig
A photograph of Leith Harbour in March 1950 taken by Salveson employee Alan Stewart Greig, shared on the På Feltet website by his his son Al Greig

South Georgia Snippets

Rat Monitoring: Monitoring for rats in the Habitat Restoration ‘Phase ‘1 baited areas, and surveying of rat population in some un-baited areas local to Cumberland Bay, continued this month. Rat traps and wax chew tags have been deployed in the areas, with re-baiting of traps and recording of any evidence of rats. There is still no evidence of any rats in the baited areas.

Boats were used to take field workers out to move rat traps in the Corral Bay area. Photo Alastair Wilson.
Boats were used to take field workers out to move rat traps in the Corral Bay area. Photo Alastair Wilson.

Henderson Island Rat Failure: Sadly the news is not so good from Henderson Island, one of the Pitcairn group of islands in the South Pacific, that was baited a few months ago with the aim to eradicate the island's Polynesian Rats. On May 8th ACAP released a statement confirming that in late March a live rat had been seen on Henderson Island which is a World Heritage Site and part of the United Kingdom's Overseas Territory of Pitcairn. The man who saw the rat, J Michael Fay, said in his blog: “It was an extremely weird feeling because I knew that I had just made a very important observation, but it was the last observation in the world I wanted to make.”

You can see what ACAP said here.

Heavy Smoker: Another amazing satellite photo from NASA shows the smoke plume from Zavodovski Island in the South Sandwich Islands. The photo, taken on April 27th, shows volcanic smoke rising from the appropriately named Mount Asphyxia volcano. The plume is seen snaking into upper-level winds where it takes a turn to the northwest. The other islands exhibit swirling cloud vortices on their lee sides, created by their disturbance of prevailing winds.

Smoke from Mount Asphyxia over Zavodovski Island. Image NASA.
Smoke from Mount Asphyxia over Zavodovski Island. Image NASA.

‘In the Footsteps of Legends’: Polar explorer David Hempleman-Adams is to lead a group of wounded servicemen across Antarctica to the South Pole in November 2012. The expedition, called ‘In the Footsteps of Legends’, is currently in the planning stages and will raise funds for the SGHT and ‘Walking with the Wounded’ charities. A dedicated website will be set up as part of the fundraising activities and the party will visit South Georgia when they have completed the 200 mile polar trek.

Oiling the Works: The oil booms and absorbent mats were deployed in KE Cove and on the jetty as part of regular training to deal with oil spills. Ice and snow though, not oil, made for slippery conditions during the practice in which scrubbers were brandished, holding tanks erected and oil containment booms inflated.

Oil spill exercise at KEP. Photos Alastair Wilson.
Oil spill exercise at KEP. Photos Alastair Wilson.

Midwinter Approaches: The sun has once again abandoned KEP but the locals have hardly noticed as they are all so busy making preparations for the biggest celebration of the year. The shortest day of winter falls on June 21st and by then all must have the MWP's ready, and all know how high the standard of these hand crafted presents usually are….no pressure then!”

Biologist Ali has a bit more time for such activities in winter as he no longer has to make the long daily trek out to the seal and penguin colonies at Maiviken as he does throughout summer. What are they all making? We will have to wait until next month to find out but Ali gave us some clues, reporting that: “Katie has been using the thicknesser/planer on bits of wood, James has been cutting up wood and sticking it back together again, so in effect is just creating lots of sawdust!! Matt Boat has been beavering away in the metal shop and chippy shop for quite a while and there is all sorts of banging coming from Andy in the electrical shop, Jo has been working away and wants a picture frame making lesson, Keiron is making jigs on the router table, whilst Ernie keeps on looking for bits of strong wood suitable for a chair leg but not for a chair leg! And how is Ali himself getting on?...“I'm doing my best to leave my MWP as late as possible, but really think I should get started”.

Photo Alastair Wilson.
Photo Alastair Wilson.

Wintry At Last: As usual the early winter has been a disappointment for snow. Occasional snowfalls were made the most of but soon disappeared, but by later May some heavier snow falls saw locals rushing for their skis once again before rain or warmer temperatures ruined the fun once again.

The snow makes the Island beautiful in a different way, so when not on skis cameras have been deployed to super effect. Talented photographer Alastair Wilson captured a beautiful moonrise over the Barff Peninsula, and made a short time-lapse film ‘Moonrise on fire’.

Moonrise on Fire. By Alastair Wilson

Alastair has been working on some interactive tools for his photographs. Want to get up close and personal with a penguin from a crowd? Try the easy navigation round the penguins at St Andrews here , or prefer a spin around the Nordenskjold Glacier? Get up close, or just gaze about, here. captured by Alastair Wilson.

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