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, 30 May 2011

A very happy birthday Me 'Arties!

Saturday night be as swash bucking as one gets around here.  A theme party it was held to celebrate Tommy and Katies Birthdays, and the chosen theme... well Pirates o'course!  Arrrrr!
Ashley she did a fabulous job o' preparing a wonderful 3 course meal, including a pirate ship cake, and table decorations including silver bullion made from nuts and bolts, and parrots folded from coloured paper.
The bar it was decorated as a pirate ship and a mutinous motley crew of dirty, rotten, cut throat sea bandits showed up to assist with the 15 men, the dead mans chest, and the bottle of rum.
I is a little concerned that the full spectrums of the piratin' community 'ad not been represented (these is some diverse times we live in mateys) so I came as a modern day Somali pirate, complete with a hand crafted AK47 and sunglasses.  Rob our BC thought like wise and stepped outside the box with an accurate rendition of a 15th Century Indian Ocean Pirate made out of bed sheets and a fake seal fur beard.
We ates and we dranks and we blundered and bludgeoned are Arrrrr! we'd be avin a whale of a time...
The mutinous crew o' Pirates!

The Esperanto .... Well I can only hope I can burn my piece off in the gym!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Cosmos as viewed from South Georgia.

One advantage of being in a truly remote location, hundreds and hundreds of miles out in to the middle of the Southern Ocean, and being the only human habitation on the island (apart from our counterparts at bird island, many miles to the North) is that there is no light pollution.  Go out on a crisp, cloudless evening before the moon rises and the Cosmos is laid bare above you.  The Milky Way (the large cluster which is our own Galaxy) is often visible to the naked eye streaked across the Cove.  Last night was no exception, and with sincere thanks to Dr Sam for her expert photographic advice, here are some of the images I shot of the stars last night.  For those who are interested, the shots were taken with my Nikon D90 on fully manual mode.  They are all 30 second exposures using a range of ISO numbers from 1600 to 2400.  The lens is an 18-105mm set at 18mm with an aperture of F3.5.  The camera was of course sat on its tripod!  These are my first attempts, and with Sam's permission I will post some of her shots taken from the whaling station the other evening.  They are truly stunning!!!  I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Load Testing the ships moorings

Today I assisted Robert, the Government Officer, in testing the integrity of the mooring arrangements on the shore here at King Edward Point.
The base has a wharf which is used by a few different vessels throughout the year, some of whom, for example the James Clarke Ross, are quite large and heavy.
The mooring lines of these ships are fastened to "bits" and "bollards" on the quay, and to "Stenhouse slips" which are anchored in to the ground just above the beaches to the north and south of the quay.  The stenhouse slips are large chains with a hook and ring for attaching the spliced eye of the ships warps to.  This job is usually done by us BAS lot when a ship arrives.  The crew will pass a messenger line of small diameter with a "monkeys fist" on the end (which helps the line travel farther through the air).  Once the light line is hauled in by the shore party, the large diameter mooring line is let go and hauled ashore.  Then it is simply a case of dropping the loop over the bollard or passing the stenhouse hook through and securing it back up with the ring and pin provided.  The vessel can then pull the line tight using large capstans or mooring winches.
The problem with the arrangements are that the integrity of the ground tackle beneath the ground is unknown, and in the case of the mooring chains, their exact design is in fact also unclear.  They were installed, it is believed, either by the military, or earlier, although not much information exists.  Based on one which was removed a few years back, they utilised heavy gauge anchor chain with sea anchors at the terminations.  They are dug in to the ground, although the depth and extent is unclear.  In theory this set up in extremely secure, and it has certainly stood the test of time, as many vessels for decades have heaved and surged against them in rough weather without ill affect.
The Warp attached to the Stenhouse Slip
It is important however to test the integrity of the systems with the use of a "load cell" and a willing ship with decent diameter lines and powerful winches.
The Load Cell is a device which when placed in line with a length of warp or line it will measure the pull exerted on it in tonnes.  Robert, who is an experienced merchant navy officer himself, wanted to test the moorings were capable of at least 3 tonnes without any sign of breaking out or moving.
I am pleased to report all moorings were tested up to and in most cases beyond 3 tonnes of pull, and all were extremely secure.  It was clear to us both that they would in fact take a great deal more force.  So I am told, it is unlikely a force on any single mooring line will exceed 3 tonnes when they are holding a large ship against an offshore gale.  The lines are all doubled and designed to share the load in this circumstance, so for now the Government can be content the mooring provisions are secure.  It was great fun for me, although I will rest well tonight after hauling heavy line and carry 12 tonne SWL shackles around the place!  Who needs gyms!

Showing the Load Cell connected between the mooring line and stenhouse.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Sled of Death

Here is a slapdash collection of footage taken on my first trip out to the hills to go sledging!  There were a few minor injuries, but a whole load of laughs!

We will no doubt be back out again this weekend with the aptly named DEATHSLED.


Saturday, 14 May 2011

Camping trips and Hiking... its not all work ;-)

Well, heres a surprise... What I do here is technically classed as work.  It certainly takes up a minimum of 37.5 hours a week, and often quite a bit more, but I know trying to persuade you folks that this constitutes a 9-5 is like trying to persuade science that the Sun does in fact rotate around the Earth after all.  
I would like to make a case for the work done here by saying firstly that it is not always glamorous, and South Georgia isnt always beautiful.  Sometimes it rains heavily, and cold wind bites your cheeks as you meander your way to the boatshed to undertake some remedial works or get oily servicing an outboard engine.  Only yesterday I was rota'd for "gash" during our weekly "scrubout".  It was therefore my duty to empty all the bins, sort the recycling, clean the waste room, compact the cardboard, shred the glass and wash the gunge out of the landfill container.  
So its not all fun and games after all, and although I am far from complaining about the down sides of the work here, I was thankful to get away for a short break.
Sue Gregory (Fisheries Biologist most-high) and I hitched a ride on the Ribs to Sorling on the Barff Peninsular.  
Rookery bay is also on the Barff (see the blog) although Sorling is a few miles farther south, and significantly, is situated just on the East side of the Nordenskjold Glacier.  From Sorling, it is possible to hike to St Andrews bay (known for its large colony of King Penguins), Ocean Harbour (know for being the site of the first whaling station on South Georgia, and the site of the remarkably intact wreck of the Bayard) and a few other worthwhile destinations on the oceanward East Coast.
Day one was spent organising camp at Sorling.  The weather was iffy and forecast to get considerably worse, so taking some of Ray Mears' finest advice, we prepared food, warmth, a camp fire and some shelter.  
The view of the Glacier from our Camp at Sorling.

Day two was to be our first adventure East.  We wanted to make Ocean Harbour and camp there for the evening with the hope of a spectacular sunrise over the Bayard the following morning.  It was not to be.  As we set off with full winter survival and camping kit weighing 30Kgs on our backs the weather began to deteriorate.  Snow had fallen overnight and the atmosphere felt far more unsettled.  Lenticular clouds over the mountain ranges warned of high winds in the hills and the visibility began to decay in the mist. 
Showing the size of the packs.  This was Sorling valley before the weather broke.

The hike to Ocean is perhaps 2.5 miles as the crow flies, and initially it is a gentle climb up Sorling Valley, following the water course, which is a very picturesque river, reminiscent of the trout rivers of Scotland or the Salmon rich waterways of Canada.  The route becomes slightly more challenging when a steep ascent is made to reach a Col to the South of "Black Peak" which takes you over the moutain range and drops you neatly in Ocean Harbour.  
A King Penguin crossed a semi-frozen fast moving melt water stream near Sorling.

Progress was good, and we were confident, despite the deepening snow as we climbed, that we would make camp in a few hours, however the weather took a rapid turn for the worse.  We had been traversing the steep scree face with difficulty with heavy packs and deepening snow and ice for about 30 minutes when a large dark precipitous veil of cloud began to shroud the ridge we were heading for. The wind began to gust, and it became a little un nerving having to brace against 40mph wind with large slab sided packs and frozen snow under foot.  It began to snow and we lost sight of the ridge to the West of our position.  Already tired, and fearing that even if we made it to Ocean, this weather front may deposit far more snow and ice for the return journey, we decided to make back for Sorling.  The decent back to the valley floor was a little unsteady, but far easier than climbing into the weather.  It took us perhaps 2 hours walking to return safely to our camp at the Survival Hut.  It was a good days walking, and we were both very pleased we had made an attempt.  There was no regrets in our decision to abandon the hike as the temperature dropped, the snow fell and the winds continued to howl around the hut while we made soup over the Primus Stove.
The Reindeer stampede over the snowless lowland hills near Reindeer valley.

Day 3 was a revelation.  The initial plans to wake up on the shores of Ocean Harbour were scuppered but we awoke at Sorling to glorious sunshine, and a smattering of large Ice Bergs on the shore.  As I mentioned earlier, Sorling is only a mile from the face of the Nordenskjold Glacier, and in the pitch black of night, tremendous rumbles and booms can be heard echoing around the bay as huge chunks of ice are deposited from the advancing face of the Glacier.  This process, known as Calving, sets these large floating Ice Bergs adrift and often the larger ones end up grounded just offshore in the shallower water.  It made for a spectacular compensation for the failings of the day before.
A large piece of Ice Calves from the Glacier Face.  The noise is something to behold!
We decided to make for the Glacier face and photograph some of the Calvings. It is, in comparison to the previous days effort, a very easy coastal walk, with light day sacks on our backs.  We spent 3 hours at the Glacier, and I was pretty pleased with some of the images I shot.  We had lunch sat amongst the ice on the shore, and witnessed some large calvings.  I am pleased to report however, that the Nordenskjold did infact seem very stable, and although the pieces were large and spectacular, compared to the size of the face, the deposits are relatively small.  I dont believe the Nordenskjold to be receding anywhere near the rate of the Neumayer or Hamburg Glaciers.
An evening return to camp from the Glacier.  There were Gaint Petrels nesting very close to where this shot was taken.

Day four, and the boats returned to take us back to base.  It was our intention to stay until Monday (which would be day 5) however we decided to take advantage of the fact the boats were afloat to put the Government Officers aboard a fishing vessel for inspection in the bay.  We did decide however to continue our holiday on our return and Monday morning we set off up Brown Mountain to the East of Gull Lake.  This was Sue's first Summit, and despite a very sunny, if cold start at the bottom it became quite an adventure at altitude as the winds rose to 40 mph and the snow began to drift.  We were well equipped and warmly dressed, so we had fun with it and ended up glissading (or bum sliding) down much of the mountain on our decent.  
Sue poses for a snap near the summit of Brown Mountain.  It is more akin to a long ridge that a typical mountain peak.

Perhaps not well rested, but certainly very well rewarded for our travels, it is back to work.  The base is encased in snow and Ice now, with the prospect of it getting quite abit worse, so we are preparing to begin having to dig our way out of doors every morning.... Ill keep you informed.
An idyllic Gull Lake on the way up Brown.

The wind really blew on the South Ridge of Brown Mountain.

Matt Kenney 2010.