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, 28 November 2011

RAF Airdrop

The Royal Air Force has finally succeeded in delivering some supplied for the OTEP project currently underway on the Barff and Busen peninsulas (blog update to follow)

The much thwarted drop arrived on time from MPA which in a Hurcules transport aircraft takes a round trip of 6 hours, and requires an in-flight refuel from a VC-10.

Ashley marked the drop zone with an orange smoke float and once the package had parachuted safely in to the sea, was picked up by Tom, Pat and I on the RIB.  The chute and other sundry bits of gear will be returned to the RAF via an HM Warship which we are expecting sometime in the next month or two.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Catch up 2 - October

In this, the second of my "catch up" reports, I will be looking back on a very busy month. In many ways it was October that really put the blogging behind schedule as it was this month that saw the RRS JAMES CLARKE ROSS arrive on "first call" and with it the arrival of our new wintering team. It was still quite cold at the beginning of the month despite spring being upon us.

The cold weather still apparent.  This is LUNA's re-righting cylinder after an hour at sea.

The incumbents are: Ernie Duston - Replacing Matt Holmes as the Facilities Engineer, James Wake, replacing Rob Webster as the Base Commander and John Weissman replacing Sam Crimmin as the base Doctor.

The short period after the activities the month previous, and the arrival of the JCR allowed enough time for me to take a short break away from base. The government officer, Robert Patterson, Heritage Trust curatorial assistant, Katie Murray and myself took a short break to the Greene Peninsular. The Greene sits adjacent to the base, between the thatcher and barff peninsulas and is segrogated from the mainland by two Glaciers - The Nordenskjold and the Harker. The peninsula itself is fairly steep with lowlands skirting its perimeter. There are a couple of peaks to climb including a very easy walk up Eosin Hill, where a moderate traverse can be made to the South to climb the un named peak further along the ridge. This peak gives spectacular views over the Glaciers.
Katie on the ridge 

After being dropped off by RIB on the beach, we set up camp by the old survival hut situated on the North West side of the Greene. It is a good place to camp as there is a fresh water stream next door which provides tasty drinking water, the hut is well equipped with stove, lantern, food and supplies and view is spectacular across Cumberland East bay. We spent the afternoon of day 1 setting up camp and collecting fire wood from the beach. There are no trees on South Georgia, and natural driftwood is very rare. However some years ago there was a severe storm which wrecked two fishing vessels on the Moraine Fjord bar situated at the north west end of Greene which over the years have deposited some timber on the beaches around the Fjord. This makes great fire wood to keep warm on fridged evenings.

Day two took us up on the mountainous spine of the peninsula as we climbed Eosin hill and then made north along the ridge. We stopped for a lunch of chocolate, biscuit browns and dried fruit, then doubled back and came down the steep north face of Eosin on the the beach near Mcmahon rock. From there it was a steady coastal walk back to the vicinity of the hut which was perhaps 2 or 3 miles. That evening we made a fire and had ration packs and wine for dinner.
The Harker glacier to the left - Hamburg Glacier to the right.

The third day we started early and hiked the length of the West coast up to the Glacier. En route we came across a number of Elle Harems and also witnessed a violent fight between two Bulls. This was Katies first real encounter with South Georgia's elephant seal population, and she commented on our own fragile mortality stood on a beach watching the equivalent of 2 transit vans scrapping only perhaps 50 feet away! After doing our fair share of sneaking and fast walking however, we eventually arrived at the foot of the Harker Glacier. The Harker is an impressive glacier, which with its shear spikes and icy minarettes resembles something conjured from Tolkien's Middle Earth. We set up a mini camp and cooked a lunch of Chilli Con Carne over the optimus stove washed down with fresh coffee. While we sat and watched we witnessed quite a large calving from the ice face, and literally thousands of tons of Ice plummeted into the sea. I also happened to have my camera ready at the time, so check out the video below.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Catch up 1 - September

Greetings folks. The one or two of you who still check this blog occasionally will have noticed that posts have been few and far between once again. This is for a hundred or so poor reasons, but principal of which is the fact that time here just passes so quickly. I feel its time to blog some updates especially if its been afew weeks since last I put fingers to keyboard, but its becoming clear that weeks in my head equivocate months in the real world. I notice for example that the last post I did was September, although I would bet a pound to a pinch of salt that a mere 3 or 4 weeks had passed.

5.5m Humber RIB LUNA blown off her trailer
September is an interesting time at KEP. It is fast becoming the end of winter, the wildlife is returning and the prospect of the first real thaw for months is rapidly becoming a reality. This september, the weather remained harsh at times with some very severe gales. As you can see from the photos below, winds of over 80mph can cause chaos. The RIBs had been out of the boatshed to make room for one of the Jetboats which we had slipped the day before to carry out some planned maintenance. Based on the forecast we were expecting wind but perhaps not quite as much, therefore the boats where not tied down. It took 4 of us and a JCB about an hour to re-right / recover the boats, replace LUNA back on her trailer and tie the boats down. On this occasion we tied one to the 3 ton jetboat trailer and the other to the containers. The wind continued to blow throughout and we all got snow in every conceivable place!

Katie... just before I couldnt see her anymore!
To continue the theme of bad weather and driving snow, for the first time this year, Katie and I had to abandon a walk to Maiviken. We had set off in reasonable conditions bound for the sealers cave at Maiviken so we could watch the nesting Gentoo Penguins coming in to roost. However once making our way up bore valley the visibility dropped to almost zero with 45 knot winds driving snow in to white out conditions. We are very familiar with the area, and made the decision to turn back to base before the underfoot got a little trickier the other side of Deadmans Pass. The drifts were also very deep, so walking was near impossible. On the way back we took refuge in the Church House at Grytviken as enjoyed a lunch of Army Issue Biscuit Browns and Chocolate.

The NATHANIAL B PALMER at anchor in King Edward Cove
September was not all storms and hardship however. We were pleased to welcome the United States Antarctic Program's research vessel the NATHANIAL B PALMER to King Edward Cove. The vessel stopped by during a 3 week science cruise searching for marine flora along the Scotia Arc. She was on a tight schedule therefore did not stay longer than a day, but we were invited on board and given a tour by the First Officer and Chief Scientist. The multi million pound vessel boasts an impressive array of facilities for visiting scientists, and undertakes a busy program of science in much the same way as the JAMES CLARK ROSS does for the Brits. The vessel was trawling for samples and deploying CTDs... otherwise known as Conductivity (salinity) Temperature and Depth recorders to map the spread of certain species of flora along the Scotia Ridge. The data collected will be used by a group of American Scientists as part of a wider scoped study of the deposition of marine life in the region. Despite the science the living standards on board were excellent with a fully loaded Gym, Restaurant and Cinema (complete with lazy boys!)

Finally, September saw the birth of the first Elephant Seal pup on base. The first pup last year, called Charlie by the winterers, was killed by a large Bull who crushed him to death. This year, in honour of Charlie, I suggested "Pancake" might be a nice name for our new arrival. It was agreed and so came to pass.

King Penguins with Chicks
The elephant seals (as well as the Furries) spend winter at sea where they spend much of the time feeding on Krill and the like. Pregnant females spend this time gestating, and eventually the "Harems" of females along with the Bulls haul out on the shores about South Georgia to give birth and be re-mated; starting the whole process again. This is an exciting time as the beaches become packed with Elle seals bringing with them a cacophony of noise. The Bulls, weighing up to 4 tons, will fight violently for their place amongst the Harems. the successful bulls (the one with the deepest, loudest roar, the biggest nose, and the hardest headbutt) wins his place as a Beach Master, giving him exclusive rights over mating up to perhaps 40 females. However, he must wait until the pups have been born and subsequently weaned. Weaning takes 3 weeks or so in which time the pup will triple in size up to around 80 kgs, and begin to fend for itself, eventually learning how to swim and feed for itself, and mainly for the little boys, learning how to fight. This all takes place around the slipway outside the boatshed, and is a wonderful time to sit and watch the little guys playing around and getting to grips with there new surroundings. During this time the beachmaster will continue to fight his corner, but will have to give way to other males coming ashore in close proximity. He may even loose his place on the beach all together. The ones who are not mature enough, or strong enough to claim beach master status are destined to be a "sneaker". He will sit in the shallows offshore and wait until the beach master is not looking, at which time he will sneak ashore and try to mate one of the females. This usually ends in protestation by the female who attracts the attention of the Bull... 8 tons of muscle and blubber then come to a head.

Pancake did very well, has successfully weaned, and is now learning to swim in amongst his new friends at the creche. In a few years time he will be competing for his place amongst the girls. Good luck to him.

See the September Photo album here:

Matt Kenney 2010.