28 February, 2012 King Edward Point
February has been a busy month on base, lots of people coming and going. The weather has been very changeable too, a scattering of beautiful sunny days, but also cold winds and snow too.
The Fur seal pups are around 2 months old now, and getting very curious an playful. On my trips to Maiviken to collect scat samples for studying the diet of the adults it is always worth stopping at Evans’ Lake (which we call puppy lake) to watch them swimming around and playing. The pups are very curious and if you sit down for a few minutes they are quickly sniffing around your boots trying to work out what you are. On the 8th was the second pup weighing of the year, followed by Gentoo penguin fledgling weighing. It poured with rain which made the beach and penguin colony slippery, but everyone that volunteered to help out still had a good time. After what seemed to be a slow start to the year both the pups and penguins have so far had a reasonably good year. A wildlife spectacle to see from our living room window was that of a Leopard seal eating a Fur seal pup, these incredible animals occasionaly visit the bay, lounging on the ice, but we’ve never been lucky enough to see them feeding before.
A visitor to the GSGSSI, chef, and radio presenter Gerard Baker, had a short but pleasant stay on base. He kindly ran some baking classes for us, rustled up an excellent Saturday night meal for us all, and gave the base a new copy of Mrs Beetons cook book which he has recently modernised. Towards the middle of the month we were visited by the KEO films crew and celebrity cook Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, for his new series about fishing. They did some filming in the labs, on the boats, tried their hand at fishing, failing to catch a thing, not surprising with all the Fur seals about!
At the end of the month there was some big swell coming into the bay, crashing onto the entrance to Moraine Fjord. This area is also the site of two shipwrecks, one of these, the Lynn up to this point had been fairly intact, however the battering from the waves has now torn her into three sections. Two base members were also visiting the Greene peninsula for a two day break, but the large breaking swell stopped us from being able to pick them up. The following day conditions had eased somewhat so I was able to go out in one of our RIB’s with John (doc) as my crew to pick them up. I was reliably informed by the Captain of the visiting cruise ship National Geographic Explorer that the swell originated from near Tristan da Cunha, where there had been 17m seas!
Coxwain and crew training has continued for the new base members, with towing featuring this month, an important skill to have when we are our own rescue service. Another boating related event was the visit of the German research ship Polarstern. We were invited onboard for a guided tour of the ship, and reciprocated with a tour of the base for the visitors.
By Alastair Wilson, Zoological Field Assistant.