54 17'S 036 30'W. South Georgia, Southern Ocean.

Follow Matt Kenney during his deployment in South Georgia, working as a Boating Officer and Coxswain for the British Antarctic Survey.

Read Matt's posts with news, reviews and extracts from his Journals, and see photo and video posts to show you some of the work the Antarctic Survey are doing in the Southern Ocean, and also provide an insight into life on a British Antarctic research station.

Matt will also provide accounts of his work at sea and ashore on Humber Destroyer RHIBs and 11m twin jet drive Pilot vessels along side the team at the King Edward Point research facility.

Matt arrived in South Georgia on the 28th October 2010.

Monday, 27 December 2010

My Photo Galleries

Hi guys!

Just a quick note that my Picasa web gallery of photos, including ones from past blog posts can be found here.  I will put a permanent link on the homepage this week, so hopefully my photos can be found more easily.  If you like, you can add the page to your favourites.

If you are interested in any of my photographs for commercial reasons (although there is no reason why you would be!) then please email me with your enquiries.

Thanks again for all your nice emails over the christmas period, I promise more regular updates in the new year, and there will be plenty of exciting things to tell you about this year!!!

Cheers all,

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas from South Georgia!

Christmas is here, in case you had forgotten (like me) and this will be a quick post to tell everyone back home that I miss you all, and all of us here wish you all in snowy (slushy?) UK a very happy Christmas.  To all my friends at Her Majesties Coastguard, I am with you comrades... they dont know how big a mistake they are making.

Meet the crowd:
From left to right:
Bottom row: Alastair Wilson (Predator Scientist), Kieron Fraser (Government Officer), Matt Holmes (Facilities Engineer), Tommy Whitfield (Electro - Technical engineer), Dr Samantha Crimmin (guess),

Top row:  Rob Webster (Base Commander), Matt Kenney (Sea Gypsy), Ashley Perrin (Senior Boating Officer), John Ashburner (Predator Scientist), Katie Brigden (Fisheries Biologist), Ruth Fraser (SGHT), Pat Lurcock (Government Officer), Sarah Lurcock (general good egg and Post Master)

Happy Xmas and a cracking New year to all!!  Thanks for your continued interest and support.


Sunday, 12 December 2010

Mount Hodges and Orca

Yesterday, Tommy, Alistair, Lyndsay and I took a trek up to Mount Hodges.  Hodges is one of the highest summits in our permitted travel limits, and is the South-Western gatepost to the Bore Valley, which meanders to the North, eventually leading to Maiviken.
Shackleton pose at the summit of Orca!
We approached the ascent from the South, climbing to Gull Lake from the abandoned whaling station, and then climbing coarse scree adjacent to the entrance to Hodges Bowl, and winding round to the western face of Orca. Orca is a smaller mountain, located just to the South of Hodges.  It is a relatively easy ascent, although the western face is steep, and the scree is loose in places.  The summit offers not only an excellent place to stop for lunch, but a detailed view of the ascent to Hodges summit.  From Orca, it looks steep, and that's because it is.
It took us three and a half hours to summit, and the breathtaking views made up for the high winds blowing the snow cap into our eyes and our camera lenses!
The descent was forged by instinct, and we found a steep, but direct route back to sea level down the eastern face.  We even found some steep snow down a gully, which was icy and fairly compact... ideal for a bit of bare back sledding... The drop was perhaps 50 feet, and there was the odd rock to avoid but it was great fun!
Heres some pics as usual...

Hodges summit

Timer and Tripod group photo - hodges summit

Showing the petrel mountains and the Alardyce range in the background

Orca - Cumberland East bay in the background

Along the ridge to the west from Hodges.

Saturday, 11 December 2010


Monday morning will see the departure of the outgoing team.  Over the last few weeks, we have become very close; so to loose them will be hard.  On the positive side, it will relieve the base somewhat and give us some more space.  In addition, for most, particularly the ones who have wintered twice now, the time is apparently right, although emotions are irrevocably mixed.
Returning to KEP in the sunshine.
Now that all duties are being dealt with by us and the "handover" is officially complete, the outgoing wintering staff have some time to enjoy themselves a little.  Holidays away from base are a great opportunity to see a bit more of SG, and make the most of their last weeks on the island.  At the beginning of this week, they all got together to go on a camping trip to the Barff Peninsular.  The barff forms the Eastern most landmass segregating Cumberland Bay East from the ferocious Southern Ocean.  It is only accessible (bar a week or so's walk) via boat, so enter the boating officers, and their trainee crews!  It was a lovely sunny, crisp morning that we launched the Rib and cast the jet launches lines and headed for the bay.  The weather was perfect, although to the east end there was a reasonable swell signifying offshore gales out into the Ocean.  The party was dropped at Corale bay.  The beach there is good for landing the Ribs as it is fairly steep and soft, although at this time of year the north end is getting a bit "furry" (populated by Antarctic  Fur Seals - watch this space for more on these!) which makes landing potentially hazardous.  The team where ready with there bodgers just in case.  Heres some photos of the trip...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Journey South the movie!

Hi Guys.  Today I have finished producing my first movie on going south.  Its predominately an experiment with the program and to see what might work and what doesnt.

So here it is.  Its about 10 minutes long, and is just as much a playlist of some of my favorite songs, as a collection of mediocre photographs....

I hope you enjoy it....

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Operation La Boreal.....

Here are some photos from a particularly nice evening trip to Stromness in the extended limit to meet the Tourist ship LA BOREAL.  She is a French flagged vessel and it is her first time to South Georgia, therefore the Governement officers need to board her to check all is in order and to observe her crew giving passengers briefs before going ashore.  There is, as I have eluded to in earlier posts, lots of information to pass to them to not only protect South Georgia but to protect the tourists from harm as well.  Incidentally our Doctor had to carry out an XRay on a woman in her 50s last week because she had broken her arm while fleeing from an aggressive male Fur Seal.

Check out the pics.....

Friday, 3 December 2010

Home sweet home

Firstly, a big apology for not being up to date.  Its been a very eventful 2 weeks, and the station has been busy.  This has lead to impossibly slow internet, little time, and also a bout of man-flu!

I thought today I would answer a request for a bit of a virtual tour of the base, and show you how we live at KEP.  

The JCB telehandler with Luna attached
The base is currently home to BAS staff old and new (the out-going staff are here for a few more weeks) the government officers Keiron and Pat and their wives Ruth and Sarah, who are themselves gainfully employed with running the post office and working for the South Georgia Heritage trust respectively, the build team from the Falklands who are refurbishing an accommodation block at Grytviken, the Museum staff from the the Heritage trust, and one or two others.  We have also been playing host to other visitors, including tourists off the expedition ships, and visiting yachtsmen.  It is great having so many like minded people in one place, and everyone is genuinely excellent to talk to as there is a wealth of knowledge, experience and character in everybody.

Luna and Alert in the Boatshed
This does, I hope go some way to explaining why my communications have been delayed.  The internet link is very weak and the speeds are archaic, so with so many people wanting to use it, things can get very difficult.  It is a sentiment that rings true throughout King Edward Point, as without discipline and routine, things could easily get out of hand.  

My work at present is divided into coxswain duties, lots and lots of instructing to other base members and carrying out repairs and keeping up with a stringent maintenance schedule. Ashley and I have an office in the Cook Labs and we also have a working office in the corner of the boatshed (see pic) The evenings are spent in the lounge usually, and weekends see the bar get used (!) there is a dart board and things too, so it doubles as a social club.  We have had some great nights so far....

Expedition tourist ships are a feature of Summer here.
Our impact on the environment is key to the work BAS undertakes in the Antarctic regions, so recycling and waste management is an important feature.  Each item of waste is broken down into its component materials if possible, and segregated for loading on to ships periodically.  Very little of our rubbish goes to landfill.  It is also important that we recycle for other reasons.  Spare parts are easy to order via BAS HQ, however, it takes months, or in some cases a year or more for the parts to arrive.  For example, I have today finished repairing a smashed VHF aerial which was broken a long while ago.  In a UK yard, it is almost certain the aerial would be thrown away, but a few hours work and some glass fibre and she will do well on the spares shelf!

Prion in the boatshed for Jet maintenence
 We each take it in turn to manage cooking and cleaning.  We run an earlies and lates rota.  Earlies see you up at about 6am, you will start to make the daily bread,and while to dough is "proving" your off around the site doing safety checks.  The checks are looking for anything out of the ordinary, or hazardous,eg a leak, something overheating, a door or window left open (the winds in South Georgia can be extremely fierce and gust out of no where) etc.  General tidying up follows, the bread is baked in time for breakfast, then you turn your mind to dinner.  On early shift its your job to cook an evening meal.  Its up to you what you make, and it can be as extravagant or as basic as you like.  Its a challenge right now as you can be cooking for 20+ people, and everything is made from scratch.  If you want garlic bread to go with your lasagne, then you need to make it.  Theres cookbooks on every type of food of course, so never short of inspiration.  Nigella everytime!  Brownie points for original ideas, or for ticking off another country in the "conquer the culinary world" competition set up by the doc.  The obvious ones (Italy, France, India etc) have gone.  Turkmenistan and Yemen may prove harder!
Our boatshed office
The Bar!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


Round about 17:30 last night, the sun became low and warm and the mountains hove out of the low cloud and the Kelp in the cove became a rusty summer gold.  I decided it was a great evening to take the camera out on to the beach just outside Larsen House to get some shots of the local residents.  There was a small gang of King Penguins preening among a harem of Elephant Seals and pups and the odd Fur Seal too, which is standard for the area surrounding the station.  There are also lots of birds, including the Skua which you can see in the photos who came to torment the Weiners.  See below some of the results.  I hope to tell you guys a bit more about these critters soon.

.......Today was more Extended passages on the Jet Boats, so stay tuned for the blog asap.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

St Andrews Bay Boat trip

Friday bought with it Ashley and I's first boating operations into the "extended boating limit".  The EBL is an expanded area where special boating operations are required further from base.  There are afew protocols to adhere to when executing trips further afield.  The normal routine, dependent on requirements, is to take 2 jet boats with DOTTY (the 2.5m tender) for beach landings, or as was the case on Friday a jet boat and one of the Humber RHIBs which can carry out beach landings themselves.
We began at 0800, loading the requisite equipment, including a full field kit to support the personnel should we have to seek refuge due to mechanical failure, or inclement weather, and personal equipment.  The kits include emergency food rations, water, maps, compasses, medical supplies, a Primus stove, matches, goggles, gloves, spare warm clothing etc, as well as the standard equipment for all boat operations; a boat suit, gloves, and Personal Locator Beacons.  The locator devices are beacons which can be activated in the event of a man overboard and transmit a signal on 121.5Mhz.  This signal can be received by the jet boat which uses a radio direction finder and provides the coxswain with a bearing from the vessels head to the MOB.  The waters around South Georgia are currently between 1 and 3 degrees centigrade, so swift recovery is a must, despite the thermal protection provided by the boat suits.

The purpose of the trip this time was to take the invasive flora specialist Kelvin, and the Government Officer Kieran to some site located on the East Coast of SG, so we took a route North out of King Edward Cove, into Cumberland Bay, rounded Right Whale Rock and proceeded South to Ocean Harbour and Cobblers Cove.  The trip is 24nm each way, and takes the ribs about 50 minutes in good conditions to get to St Andrews, and the same to come back.  Ashley took command of PRION, the jet Boat, and I cox'd LUNA, the specced Humber Defender.  LUNA is equipped for longer journeys with an extra jockey seat for crew, and a self righting device on the A-Frame.  The weather was good, but once we rounded the cape of Barff Peninsular the swell was running up to a couple of metres, and it was hard work (although very good fun) driving the 5.5mtr through the seas, and keeping her from getting airbourne!

Once on site, the GO and Kelvin embarked onto Luna and I took them ashore.  Landing personnel on a beach is a straight forward affair, the boat is driven close to the beach, the crewman trims the engines to reduce the draft and the coxswain eases her in, and once the bow is grounded, the engines are engaged in slow ahead to keep her steady.  The guys and equipment are disembarked over the tubes forrard.  Kelp and surf are the main issues, as well as finding a section of beach which is not too populated by Fur Seals or agressive Bull elephant Seals.  Its no good putting the guys ashore safely only for them to end up between two 4 ton males fighting!!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Weeklies, Monthlies and Furries!

Hi Guys.  The weekend is finally over, and my liver survived.  We had a Bonfire on the beach (photos to follow) and Sunday, the Pharos was in and it was Roman, the Chief Officer's birthday so we were invited aboard for a barbeque.
First order of the day was base meeting.  Every Monday we all meet in the dinning room after breakfast to discuss Shipping Movements, notices, events, problems etc.  Its a good opportunity to convey information and organise your week around things.  Once the base meeting was over, Richie (the Electrical engineer) provided some fire drill training to the new winterers, then once complete, George and I were rota'd to assist the Mech with refuelling the day tanks for the Boilers, and then assist the sparkies with testing the fire alarms.  Its a straight forward process, and not a particularly exciting one.  It really is a case of monitoring the pump and lines in the fuel store during the refuel, and then standing by the panel in the Laboratory building silencing, resetting, and confirming via VHF radio that the correct alarm sounded.
The remainder of the day was spent on the jet boats.  All the boats in our fleet here undergo a great deal of planned maintenance.  Each has daily (pre-start), weekly and monthly interval checks, as well as 3 monthly, 6 monthly and yearly.  Each schedule is computerised and the computer generates work orders stating which service is required, and for which boats.  PIPIT and PRION got both there 3 monthly and weekly check ups today as they are both due.  No significant problems were found with either vessel and they were given a clean bill of health, although I am keen to loose a bit of weight to aid scrambling around in the confined engine spaces!
The afternoon was spent on DOTTY (the 2.5m tender with a 3.3hp outboard) as I assisted with a modification to the tide guage which is clamped to the seaward face of the quayside.  it was easy enough to remove, despite the bolts being corroded in the salt water.  I drove the tender round the bay after the work had completed to give the motor a good run as the tender gets very little use.
This evening after dinner, Ashley, Rob (the base commander) and I took a walk round to Sooty Bluff, the most Eastern extent within the single-person travel limits (more on these later).  Its a nice spot, and very close to base.  We took Bodgers (otherwise know as Broom sticks) to fend off any hostile fur seals.  Fur Seals are beginning to return ashore after some time breeding at sea, and they are far more aggressive than most Elephant Seals.  They seemingly prefer to lie amongst the tussock grass and leap out as you pass with an aggressive deep growl.  The bodger is designed to tickle there whiskers, which usually frightens them off.  If your cornered un-armed by a large Fur Seal then you can get a nasty bite.  Quick little critters too.
Sorry for the lack of photos this time guys, I have struggled for time to process any.  They will follow.  Signing off for tonight, but wishing you all a great Tuesday!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Cumberland Bay Boating

Me driving the Jet Launch from the wheel house (much warmer!)
Today was mostly spent at sea.  Around 1000, Ashley, George, Les, Tommy, Alastair and Myself went out into Cumberland Bay for a familiarisation exercise on PIPPIT, one of the Jet Launches.  Cumberland Bay is quite an extensive waterway, it is scattered with coves, bays, Fjords and Glacier faces, but despite its sheer beauty, it is also our new working ground and there are some beach landing sites, amongst other operating areas, which Ashley and I will be expected to use to land Scientists ashore, or travel to for other reasons.  Therefore familiarity with it is paramount, as the weather here is famously unpredictable at times, and it is very easy to be caught in heavy fog, strong Katabatic winds off the mountains and Glaciers, or even a blizzard.  Should we be caught in such conditions, we need to be able to navigate the vessel back to base using the Radar predominantly.

Mercer Bay - Absolutely stunning in real life!
Nordenskjold with a larger piece of glacier ice in the foreground.
I realised yet another 'first' today by navigating the Sea Ice around the Nordenskold Glacier in Cumberland Bay East.  Its very similar to operating the vessel in Kelp strewn areas; i.e. you reduce the vessel's speed, but keep the engines running well above idle RPMs making the vessel more responsive to imputs to the jets, allowing you to quickly stop, turn, go astern or whatever manoeuvre is required to avoid the larger brash ice or "bergy bits".  The smaller pieces of sea ice can be taken at speed, despite the off-putting resonant bumps and scrapes of ice colliding with the aluminium hull.  The stem is ice strengthened, and the boats are well suited to operating around South Georgia waters, but George and Paula (the superstar out-going boatmen) have had to make some modifications.  The cold water intakes which cool the Yanmar Diesels can get clogged if operating in slush ice, so they took a hose from the ancillary port on the jet units which now diverts high pressure water through the strainer units when required.  It is operated by a ball valve in the engine space, and has apparently eliminated the problem.

Once we returned ashore, it was time for Smoko and then the weekly scrub out.  We all split into teams and get allocated areas of the accomodation block to clean, dust and tidy...... Im now taking a break with the crew in the lounge as I write this, and shortly were off to the beach for a bonfire and a beer.... a perfect end to another great day.

Nordenskjold Glacier

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

RSS James Clark Ross

Yesterday saw the arrival of the RRS JAMES CLARK ROSS to South Georgia.  The JCR is a Scientific support and replenishment vessel owned and operated by BAS, and keeps a busy schedule running supplies to all the Antarctic Stations and running research cruises around the Southern Ocean.  A good friend of mine, Dave King, who helped me enormously with invaluable advice before my deployment,  worked on her as the Chief Officer for a number of years, so I can say to him I have finally met the old girl, and not only that but helped berth her alongside.  Very often when larger vessels come into the cove, the Boatmen of South Georgia are asked to assist by using an RHIB as a line handler.  So me and Ashley donned our dry boat suits and I drove the ALERT out into the cove to tend to her two Head Lines.  A crewman lowers the warp (with no messenger lines attached in this case) onto the bow of the RHIB which is then motored to the required anchor point on the shore and passed to the shore team who make the line fast to heavy ground tackle.

Today she was delivering her cargo of supplies for King Edward Point.  These supplies will be the bulk of the support for the station for the next year, although, the PHAROS will be available often enough for small replenishments.  We spent the day unloading tons of food, boat spares, office supplies, medical supplies, toiletries, beer, wine, spirits... You name it we now have it.  No rest today either, as all cargo needed to be removed from crates and all packaging and waste segregated and processed for recycling and the items checked against the orders and put away.
Today was fairly hard work getting everything booked in and put away, so Katie, Ashley and I took a walk up to Gull Lake after work.  Its been another wonderful day of sunshine, and the lake was very peaceful as the sun went below the mountains.  Heres some pictures of the JCR coming away last evening - mainly for Mr King :-) - She could not stay longer as she has a very tight schedule this year due to delays in a shipyard up the Tyne earlier this year.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Mount Duse.

Yesterday was a pretty active day for me.  I spent the morning walking round to Grytviken (the old abandoned Whaling station in King Edward Cove) and continued on up to Gull Lake. Gull Lake is accessed via a steep gravel track from Grytviken, and feeds our Hydro-plant (the Hydro-Electric power plant for the base) as well as providing a sanctuary for the Prions.  It was very peaceful up there on my own, but I learnt to be wary of the strong Katabatic winds which funnel down the valley from Mount Paget.  You can see the gust front hit the lake ahead for you, then an icy blast wraps you up and knocks your balance if your not careful. The walk there and back was about 10km after I detoured.
Part of the old whaling station at Grytviken
I should have spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing but we had arranged the night before for a few of us to climb Mount Duse.  I was very keen, but apprehensive, as until this point I had only scaled Portsdown Hill; and that was in a car.  Mount Duse is directly adjacent to the base, and is about 1300 feet or so, which does not make it the tallest on South Georgia, but it is very steep and the ascent is mainly Scree Rock.  Katie (fisheries scientist), Matt (electro mechanical techy), Ashley (partner in boating), Luke (fisheries scientist), Kelvin (invasive floral species controller) and myself (boatman) went up, and the more experienced climbers where great at being patient and guiding the way up through the scree strewn faces and tight, steep and rocky gullies.  The Scree can be tough, especially towards the summit, where it is loose packed and falls away underneath you as you climb.

From just below the summit
Looking South from the first plateau, with Cumberland bay and Grytviken in the foreground, and Gull Lake beyond.
My first Mountain Summit :-)

Journey South - Photo update

Hey guys, as promised, a selection of Photographs from my Journey South........
38,000ft above the Equator

Our Aircraft in Ascension Island

My Cabin on Pharos SG

Captain K Whittaker of the FPV PHAROS SG


Petrel and Albatross

Lenticular cloud forms

Fortuna Glacier

Me, Katie and our first IceBerg!

Cumberland Bay

The Boat shed.  My office for the next 13 months.

The Base, taken from the Pharos as we entered Cumberland Bay.

The previous over winterers giving us a welcome!!

Matt Kenney 2010.