Thursday, 23 December 2010

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas to all! Here are a few pics from the last couple of weeks...

Gentoo penguin colony - if you look closely you can see their chicks nestling at the feet of some of those on nests.

Seal specialist Alastair looking down upon the bays and beaches of Maiviken with the entrance to Cumberland Bay behind.

Looking back towards the 2 Petrels & Mt. Hodges from Mt Narval during the day a group of us completed the infamous 7 Peaks Challenge in one breezy but gloriously sunny day a couple of weeks back...

Descending Number 6 - a deceptive number given that you have to descend to sea level and walk several kilometres to begin on the 7th and final peak - Mt. Duse...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Last Few Weeks...

Blooming heck... time is currently moving faster than me, for the pictures below are taken up to (a number) of weeks ago! I am very aware that the photos are mostly of hills and some are even of me with other people in pretty places - and that readers may want some more meat on those bones. But right now I need to catch up. The boating trip that provided the pic below was for the dual purposes of training on the harbour launches and to take our plant expert and Government officer round to Stromness Bay to inspect the area around Husvik - one of 3 major whaling stations that used to operate in the fingers of the bay. Stromness (seen here behind me) is falling to pieces now sadly, and we are not allowed to approach it closer than 200 metres on account of the danger of inhaling airborne asbestos. But it was a pleasure to get to see it from the boats on such a beautifully clear calm day. This station is most famous back home as being the place where Shackleton's epic journey to self-salvation ended when him and his 2 companions arrived nearly dead at the Manager's Villa.

If you know where to look (and now I do!) you can see the last ridge crossing and descent made by the 3 toward the station where they heard the morning wake-up horn and knew they were going to keep their lives. It's actually a pretty powerful thing to think about when at the spot - perhaps the greatest story of human vs. world survival stories, made real by the immediacy and severity of the distance and nature of the nature involved.


Friday, 19 November 2010

Last Weekend

Last Saturday, I went up the hill right behind the base with Alastair and Ashley; a beautiful day again - we tried to remake one of the most famous images of Shackleton which was taken right at the spot where they are standing above... The results are pretty excellent - Alastair took the shot, and i'll get a copy from him and post it with a link to the original.

From the top of Mt. Duse, with the base and King Edward Cove in the back and belowground. The lake on the right is good to run around, apart from the left hand side which is boggy and covered in plants with little spiky balls on them which attach to your socks and are reluctant to let go (burnet)... By the way, its not all walking, running, jumping, smiling and eating over here - there is plenty of working, thinking, organising, scientific endeavouring, boating, mooring, un-mooring, loading, unloading, shifting, looking, remembering, enjoying, noticing, writing, cooking, cleaning, representing, communicating and a little bit of blogging happening too. More on all that in the near future.

Walking back from a ceilidh practice in the Grytviken Norwegian church, the cove nicely reflected the hills and clouds in its glassy surface. Boatman George plays fiddle, seal and penguin friend Jon plays bodhran and we will be playing for entertainment and dancing next Friday evening. The acoustics in the church are very nice, echoey and full with a good solid wooden floor - ideal for dancing on we hope. I'll attempt to record some of the sounds of that ceilidh and post here.

Readers who followed the blog from my 27 months in the Antarctic will be gladdened as I have been to see genuinely GREEN things here in the Sub-Antarctic islands. Lots of them - mosses and grasses, lichens and seaweeds. The place is teeming with plant and animal life which is a welcome change from the almost total barreness of the continent of Antarctica. And flowing water! Water in it's liquid and most drinkable form! Plenty of that too, as the snows of the upper slopes continues to melt fast in the tropical heat - we've hit 12 degrees celcius in recent days...

Well, thats all for now - I have this week been lucky enough to be involved in a long boating trip round to Stromness bay to take the Government Officer for a work trip, and also a plant expert to do some work around the abandoned whaling station of Husvik, whilst we did some boat training and I drove round Stromness and Leith whaling stations which are now sadly falling apart and can't be approached closer than 200m by order of the South Georgia Government. Pictures from that to follow soon, and some general base and work related posts eventually.

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, 13 November 2010

To King Edward Point - Music

My first piece of music since arriving on South Georgian soil is here:

(right click, then save as...)

It is made using a combination of various sounds recorded along the route to South Georgia from Kingussie in Scotland, including birds singing in the back garden of my parents house, sounds of the creaking of the ship on the sail over from the Falklands, and some sounds recorded on bonfire night by the base here at KEP - not necessarily in the order of the journey, though... The rest of the sounds are made electronically using synthesizers and played using a mini-keyboard, and the whole thing is mixed in Logic Pro 8. Imagined as the start to an eventual whole album of music inspired by the island. Comments welcome... Rob

p.s. i wil be changing a bit the sound of the electric piano as i have just listened on a a few different sets of speakers and found that it sounds a bit too harshly "attacky" in places...

Tempo Fugit

Hello again - time flies and here i am already more than a week past the last post... plenty has happened, a lot of it quite difficult to explain unless you know the setup here. Ive been doing quite a bit of running - the place is ideal for it; so much space and certain really good routes that you're able to run by yourself if the weather is good and you take a radio. So fitness is back on the agenda. I had my first bit of training on the jetboats which form the main part of our boating capability, along with 2 rigid inflatable boats (RIBs). They are amazingly agile in the water, so much so that you can move sideways as well as forward and back, and can steer the boat with out using the "steering wheel" / helm. Very interesting. It is in the interest of the base for as many people as possible to be competent or even skilled in the use of these boats as they are a main part of our search and rescue capability if something bad was to happen. Which it won't, but it's nice to know we have such quality resources. Pictures of such things will no doubt appear soonish...

Anyway for now here are a couple of photos: of the view over to Grytviken:

Above, almost the same view last night and this morning - as you can see beautifully calm, just stunning! The pic below i took last night when a few of us were invited on board the small cruis ship the "Polar Star" for a barbecue, which was pretty impressive. The fruit carving skills of the chefs on there are unrivalled...

There was a coolish shelf on the end of the barbecue which was a perfect place to rest my camera for a bit of interesting photography after the food had departed onto plates and into stomachs... An exposure of about 4 seconds.

More soon! Rob

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


This post is just a quick note to say that I have neglected emailing in the last week as the time has just flown away from me and it's been pretty interesting. But I will be getting back onto emailing properly pretty soon, and will hopefully catch up on my correspondence in the next few days!

I am very well though... Thanks for reading, rob

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

First Walk Around King Edward Cove

For this post I think it might be wise to be less verbose and let the pictures speak for themselves. Taken after a couple of days on the base, and after having taken in a huge amount of new information, it was great to get out for a walk around the cove which took us through the crumbling histories and buildings of Grytviken, past the hydropower project which provides most of our electricity, and out to the far side of the cove. The scope for walking and exploring here is far greater than at Rothera due to the lower technicality of the terrain - we don't go on glaciated and therefore crevassed ground here at all. Solid ground, and snow on top of solid ground! The local travel area is extensive and marvelously contoured...
At Penguin River - a small colony of King Penguins, in the final stages of moulting and becoming what we normally think of as them off the biscuits... Far more interesting in real life than a crunchy chocolate sandwich.

Looking back down towards Penguin River - the beach shown, and all the way towards the bottom left-hand corner of the shot and round the bay, is currently home to elephant seals and pups. The noises made by these seals are particularly amusing - I have been doing a little bit of wildlife recording as time has allowed and will be posting the sounds of the place as I go along... This is if the internet will allow me - it is very slow and makes uploading any media like photos or sounds very difficult. But it is possible, so I will persevere.
One of the group, our seal and bird specialist Alastair Wilson, takes some photos of the bay and hills beyond. Not long after this point we arrive at a gun placement and a crashed helicopter. More on that in future posts... Rob
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The Approach to South Georgia

Here am I, up on deck early to get a first glimpse of my new island home! A beautiful day meant we were able to judge our progress by constant reference to the coastline and the maps on the ship's bridge as we coasted along the northwestern coastline towards the entrance to Cumberland Bay. The mountains reach nearly to 3000m at the maximum which occurs just behind our station.

Here, the ship approaches the entrance to Cumberland Bay - once inside the mouth of the bay, it splits into two - the one named East, we enter. That named West becomes separated by part of our local travel area in which we'll be able to walk and ski when conditions and work allow.

Getting close! The sea colour and the weather were incredibly beautiful.
Our welcome into the base! It's not that clear from this picture but we were welcomed in fancy dress as is customary... a strange sight it was to see our mooring lines secured by a clown, a hunchback and several characters of dubious gender. The base commander's beard stayed in place for a good hour before she removed it to get down to some more serious business...

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Saturday, 30 October 2010

South Again...

Hello! Welcome again to readers of my previous blogs on various subjects and from various locales:

I now present a new diary from a new locale. My latest job has once again taken me to the Southern Hemisphere to an isolated island covered with mountains and glaciers. The differences this time are many, and they will become clear.

I shall be writing for the next 14 months from King Edward Point, by the abandoned whaling station of Grytviken, the erstwhile core of the Southern Ocean whale fishery of the first half of the 20th century. It is also famously the site of the death of Ernest Shackleton, who died a few hundred yard from where I sit, and to whom a memorial is dedicated at the far side of the cove.

The place is beautiful and remote. It's also full of nature, being far less extreme in climate terms than the Antarctic Peninsula, and is home to endemic species and to the most southerly known songbird, the South Georgia pipit. This I hope to record!

Anyway, below is a short summary of my route to the Falkland Islands and onwards to South Georgia.
A couple of hours stopover in Ascension Island, not far from the equator. A strange lunaresque landscape, though hot. Little moisture is to be found, except on the summit of Green Mountain, where lush forest supposedly flourishes fed by moisture condensed out of the air as the warm sea air is forced upwards by the island.

Above, the classic shot from Port Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands upon which the war was focussed during the 1982 conflict. The frame-like structure in front of the cathedral is a whalebone arch - the bones are blue whale jaw bones and clearly demonstrate the immense scale of these giant creatures. Blue whales were slaughtered in their thousands around South Georgia.
Preparing to sail from Stanley to King Edward Point - this took us the best part of 5 days of pretty pleasant going. Plenty of birds including wandering albatross could be seen from the rear of the ship.
Enjoying the sunny weather, which has incredibly continued until this day (the 3rd of November)! Thanks for reading.... RobPosted by Picasa