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.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Go Orange for Indies 2011!

Saturday morning we all got tangoed for the Lifeboat I used to crew for.  Below is a copy of the accompanying press release which hopefully will make it to the press associations over the next week or so.


BAS South Georgia show support for UK Lifeboat Charities
Friday 18th February was the second annual “Go Orange for Indies” charity event to raise awareness for the 60 or so 'independent' Lifeboats around the UK. These Lifeboat Services provide a critical augmentation to the UK's Maritime Search and Rescue capability. The crews are unpaid, and receive no expenses for their dedication to the safety of lives at sea. Many of these lifeboats operate on call 24 hours a day 365 days per year and respond to hundreds of emergency calls each year. Despite this, all of these independent services also have to raise their own funds, and often the crews themselves take the initiative to procure precious donations to keep the lifeboats maintained and the crews properly trained and equipped. These services receive no funding or operational support from the RNLI.
Matt Kenney, a Boating Officer and Coxswain for the British Antarctic Survey in South Georgia was a volunteer crew member aboard Hamble Lifeboat prior to taking up his post with BAS.  The Hamble Lifeboat, an independent service based on the south coast of England, is one of the busiest lifeboat services in the UK, responding to hundreds of distress calls each year, and saving many hundreds of lives since its foundation in 1968. Despite his current deployment 8500 miles away from the lifeboat station, Matt still feels part of this close knit community, and to show his support for the Go Orange event persuaded his colleagues at the Scientific Research Station at King Edward Point on South Georgia Island in the Southern Ocean to join him in ‘Going Orange for Indies’. The accompanying photograph was taken by Matt and shows the team dressed in orange to show their support. The photo was staged on the Wharf at the Research Station and features one of the stations highly equipped Humber Ribs which provides Search and Rescue capability as well as a host of other operation support roles to the South Georgia Science Program.
Speaking of the event Matt commented: “It was a great privilege to serve with the Hamble Lifeboat, and the service is still very important to me, so for my colleagues here at BAS to join me in showing support for the Independent Lifeboats was truly fantastic. We all had great fun dressing up and we all had lots of laughs in the process. The prize for the ‘most orange effort’ went to Andy Webb, BAS Engineer for his use of a survival bag as a cape, and Ashley Perrin for her generous use of orange hair dye. I hope our contribution will help raise awareness of the often overlooked independent lifeboat services.”
Rob Webster, the Base Commander added; “We were extremely glad as a base to add our support to the Orange campaign and do our little bit to support the vital work of independent lifeboat crews around the UK. Having Matt on station with the expertise he has brought from his time as part of the Hamble Lifeboat is invaluable to our search and rescue capability, which in turn is so important to life and work on a remote research station. To know that there are crews of dedicated and unpaid staff around the UK committed to the safety of seafarers at any time of night or day is a genuinely inspiring example and I hope they continue to gather support and the financial and political assistance necessary to make it possible”. 

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Summer Holiday to the Barff Peninsular

Despite the idyllic location, life on base can become a bit tiresome sometimes, and the same as any employee, the staff here (myself included) are entitled to holiday.  Holidays here are slightly different to those you might take from work in the UK or elsewhere however, because there are restrictions on where you can go (although the choice is rather superb) and you must still keep in regular contact with the base during your time away.  This is because the terrain here in South Georgia, although undoubtedly graceful and impressive, is also at times extremely hazardous.  South Georgia is Mountainous and Glaciated with painfully steep Scree inclines, unsteady rocky cols and deep thick tussock plains interlaced with bogs and seal wallows.  Extreme weather conditions occur regularly and with lightning rapidity, changing a sunny, calm morning into a gale of thick fog and katabatic winds reaching 100mph on occasions.  Snow can fall on any day of the year, and the trend is generally precipitous, meaning rain can fall in vast quantities too.
In contrast to this slightly unrepresentative, dismal view of the South Georgia summer time, Sam (the base Doctor) Ali (the seal scientist) and myself spent 4 glorious, sun blessed days camping on the Barff Peninsular to spend some time with the Macaroni Penguin colony at Rookery Bay, and explore the scantily trodden hills and valleys of the Barff.
We began our mini adventure soon after a trip to the Greene Peninsular to restock the rat boxes (see the blog) when the Ribs dropped us ashore at Corale Bay.  Corale is a spectacular natural cove which provides an abundant habitat for the Fur Seals with rich tussock, a fine shale beach and a fresh water stream with a plunge pool footing a beautiful waterfall, where the pups can frolick and hone their swimming skills.  There is also a survival hut at Corale.  The survival huts are placed strategically to provide emergency shelter and provisions to campers.  Most date back to the 1970s, and many were placed in situ during the military occupations of the 70s and 80s.  A visitors book at corale hut provides a fascinating and entertaining account of the many people who have used its facilities over the last 4 decades.  Our entry remained in keeping with the general trend of humerous prose, giving warning of the steepness of "bastard hill" and the propensity of the tussock badgers to bite unsuspecting ankles....
The hike from Corale bay to Rookery is about 6KM, but is arduous with steep inclines.  It would be easy if it wernt for the back packs which hold all the requisit equipment. In my case, this gear resulted in a pack weight of 29KGs.  This includes bivvy bags, cooking utensils, pots pans, clothing, waterproofs, stoves, fuel, a book, camera, lenses, tripod, pack of cards, and the list goes on.  We found the best way to traverse the route was to follow the reindeer tracks.  The reindeer are nomadic herd animals and have spend decades roaming the hills since they were introduced by Whalers in the early 20th century.  When you walk in their footsteps it becomes clear that not only do they know where to go, but they definately know the easiest way of getting there.  Following their tracks up steep scree will provide you with a zig zagged pathway which avoids the steepest parts and the most uneven terrain.
We made the trek in a little under 4 hours and set up camp by a small cave on the main route for the Gentoo Penguins travelling back and forth between the beach and the hilltop colony.  Those guys provide endless entertainment as they chase each other down the steep hill, sometimes falling over themselves and tumbling, wings a-flap down the grassy slope.
The Macaroni colony was a 40 minute walk from camp and is an impressive (and pungently scented) sight with perhaps 1000 macs' living amongst the tussock and on vast rock platforms on the shore.  It was a fabulous opportunity to sit amongst them and take some action shots as they launch and recover from comparatively huge breaking seas.  We sat and watched group after group make their approach to the treacherous rock faces, struggling to stay on target in the foaming swells.  Once their feet hit the rock its a desperate rush to run and hop clear of the tempestuous ocean behind them.  Some are unlucky and get side swiped by the next breaking sea, and are sent tumbling helplessly back into the ocean to try again.  Once they do make it clear of the surf line, its business as usual and they go about preening and generally doing what penguins do (which isnt alot).
Here are some photographs of the trip.  See the full album at http://picasaweb.google.com/mailmemek
Survival Hut at Corale

A Gentoo Penguin

A Mac' takes a desperate leap to clear the ocean...

Its an impressive sight watching these guys landing ashore

Rookery Bay

This took us ages.....

A spectacularly still evening on our last night away.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Sub Zero?

Hi Guys,
Just a very quick photo post to answer the questions I have been getting about the temperature here in SG.  It has been commented that a lot of my photos show glorious sunshine, and some are surprised that there is not more snow and ice.  Well, South Georgia is in the middle of Summer at present and has been since I have been here.  The weather is good a lot of the time, and temperatures can be sustained around 15 deg c when its sunny. It isnt, however, what you might call "temperate" and it can snow on any day of the year here.  Below are some photos of some not so sunny weather...... Brass Balls and Monkeys spring to mind....

The Rat Pack

As mentioned briefly in previous posts, the South Georgia Heritage trust with the full support of the SG Government are about to undertake an unprecedented attempt to further restore the natural habitat of South Georgia by attempting to eradicate the large Rat population on the island.  
Its believed the Rats cannot traverse the local Glaciers
Looking aft at the Harker Glacier.
The Rats were introduced by Sealing and Whaling ships during South Georgia's historic past as a place of industry, and have remained ever since.  The rats are very damaging to the native species of the island, in particular the now very rare South Georgia Pipit, and the eradication of the Rats would be a massive achievement.  The South Georgia Heritage Trust have put together a very skilled team to undertake the propagation of pellets from helicopters and to monitor the impact and success of the project.  As part of the effort, the rats are being caught in smaller numbers currently to have their DNA analysed to build a clear picture of the migration and colonisation of the rats.  It is believed the rats cannot traverse the Glaciers and therefore there should be no DNA link between landmasses bordered by ice.  The current study will confirm this it is believed.  This is where KEP's marine team come into play.  Ashley and I have been kept very busy running boats to the Greene Penninsular and Maiviken where rat boxes (expertly engineered by Ashley) have been placed, to check for rats.  When rats are caught they are brought back to the Lab for sampling.  It is a challenge, headed by Kieron, the governement officer, to place the boxes effectively and bait them correctly.  So far Peanut Butter and Oats seems to attract them, and areas of thick Tussock Grass near rocky areas seem to be the most populous areas.  
Heres some photos of the ops to the Morraine Fjord (for the Greeene) and round to Maiviken.  I felt these photos were perhaps better than a dead rat........
The results of the study will be posted through the appropriate channels shortly, but in the mean time for more information check out the SGHT website - http://www.sght.org/projects.htm

Friday, 11 February 2011

The South Georgia Half Marathon 2011

Yesterday I competed in the 2011 South Georgia Half Marathon.  The route, which is aproximately 13 miles is somewhat different to most marathons as it includes over 1,500 feet of ascent, up and over one mountain, through bogs, across rivers, down very steep scree rock faces and once around a fuel farm!
The event is organised as a bit of fun, and also to help raise money for the South Georgia Heritage Trust who are currently raising the money required to complete South Georgia's Rat Eradication project which aims to eradicate the vermin which cause so much damage to the native wildlife species.  I will write more on this project in the next couple of weeks when the team and helicopters start arriving.  More information on SGHT can be found on their website.
Katie (the Marine Biologist), Kicki (one of our resident world cruising yachtswomen) and myself completed the rigorous course in the walking category in a semi-respectable 4:50:48 and now have a few aches and pains to show for it.  I will post some photos tomorrow once the photographers have finished developing them.  Thanks to Matt Holmes for organising the event and to all the guys who marshalled and made brownies and orange squash at the refreshment posts!!  Great day, lovely weather, topped of with a barbeque on the balcony watching the sun set over the mountains.......

Matt Kenney 2010.