King Edward Point Diary – January 2005

31 January, 2005 King Edward Point

New Year

Well a Happy New Year to all you dedicated readers of the South Georgia News Letter. Since I arrived at KEP in November last year, we’ve been very busy around the base and January has proved to be no different.

Down at the Boat Shed the year started off well. On New Years day we ran Endurance Trials on Pipit, one of our shiny new Jet Boats. We decided to go round into Cumberland West Bay and asked Tim and Pauline Carr to join us and share some of their knowledge. We started by calling at Maiviken, before following the coast round to Harpon, Mercer Bay and over the bar to Geikie Glacier. From there we proceeded to Carlita Bay and Enten Bay, and we arrived at Jason harbour for lunch. After lunch it was back to the Cove for Tea and Medals. It was fantastic way to spend New Year’s Day.

Other news from the boat shed: we’ve finished Alert’s refit. H, Krissi Lad and myself took her for sea trials 7th Jan and found her to be a better boat. We’ve had the usual South Georgia Government work to do, going out to a mixture of Fishing, Research, Cruise and Navy Vessels. We’ve been out in Quest a number of times to do the CTD Scan and Plankton Trawls. An A frame has been made for the back of Quest to make it possible to work the Tooth Fish Pots more safely. Quest herself is due to come out of the water early next month for a much needed refit.

In tech service world Non Stop Steve Artis is working round the clock, making most of the summer season and keeping the base in good working order. He’s had the usual servicing of the geni’s as well as sorting out the new fuel lines for the jetty and plumbing in the Aquarium.

On the 8th Jan Fisheries Protection Vessel Dorada came alongside bringing in Stuffin’ Steve Massam the Taxidermist and German Crab Specialist Sven Thatje. Steve got to work straight away. He’s now finished a Wandering Albatross Chick, a pair of Pipits, a Diving Petrel and is currently working on a Storm Petrel. Crab specialist Sven entered in style discovering a new crab species within a day! His current work is looking at crabs in their early stages of development and seeing how they adapt to the cold. Sven has also been out with us in Quest to do a trawl in East Cumberland Bay and the Cove for juvenile crabs and other crustaceans.

On the 9th Chief Scientist Sarah Clarke and Assistant Scientist Will Reid left KEP on Dorada, a Fisheries Protection vessel, to begin a month long Science Cruise. I asked Will to give me a summary of the cruise for the newsletter with a few pictures. So here it is:

This month saw the arrival of Mark Belchier and Martin Collins on the fisheries patrol vessel Dorada for the annual research survey around South Georgia. This meant that two lucky scientists from KEP were allowed to join in the fun and games on a three week trip around the island. Well that was how it was sold to Sarah and me. The main aim of the survey was to try and get a better understanding of icefish acoustics and for that reason acoustics expert Richard O’Drisscol from NIWA, New Zealand also joined us. This gave the daily game of penguins that extra bit of edge with contenders coming from all parts of the globe – Scotland, Ireland, England and the southern hemisphere.

The survey began on the 9th January with the calibration of the acoustic equipment in Husvik – slightly further north of Cumberland Bay – and then we headed out into the Western Core Box (WCB) to start acoustic transects. The plan was to spend nearly two weeks working through the WCB to looking for icefish on the echosounder and then fish the marks we thought were icefish when they appeared. Unfortunately we completed this within three days, as there were no icefish to be found. So instead we went bottom trawling for a few days still in the WCB. This was a great chance for Sarah and me to begin to get to grips with a lot the fish species around South Georgia. It also highlighted the rich and diverse invertebrate fauna around the shelf area including sponges, soft and hard corals, sea urchins, sea stars and loveable if a bit slimy elephant snot! All of which Mark had the joy of sorting whilst singing “I’m lost benthos…Woooooooo…Caught in a trap…No turning back….I’m lost in benthos….”. We really hope that he doesn’t give up his day job for the sake of his family and ear drums the world over!!!!

We then moved to the Shag Rocks for a further three days of bottom trawling. There we began to catch a few more toothfish with the largest one measuring 84 cm, which compared to the commercial fisheries is still a baby but provided quite a stir on board. During our period here we carried on taking length and weight from each fish, as well as stomach contents and otoliths from a subsample. This will provide the happy scientists at KEP with some work through the winter and also keep the “Mighty” Collins out of trouble while on base.

On the 17th we moved back towards home again to start deploying the Aberdeen University Deep Ocean Submersible (AUDOS), with it’s deep sea camera, to look at the monsters of the deep and give me some crab TV to watch over the winter (it’s a long dark winter down here folks). Unfortunately some things are not meant to be. The first four deployments went well but the fifth didn’t go quite as planned. The rope attached to the AUDOS got caught round the propeller of the boat and snapped. This caused the lander to sink into the abyss once more and prompted a quick dash back into KEP, where a couple of military divers removed the entangled rope while Sarah and myself got on shore for an hour or two. And then back to the science and more icefish…or maybe not. We started our hunt for the now elusive icefish on the north east shelf of South Georgia and kept going south to east of Drygalski Fjord. Still we found no icefish so we went back up towards the north of the island and started doing more transect to the south ofBird Island. Alas again there was a lack of icefish.

We arrived back in KEP at the end of month without fulfilling one of our main scientific objectives – examining icefish acoustics. However I still thoroughly enjoyed my time on Dorada as well as learning a great deal. So I’m just going to quickly list a few of my own cruise highlights:

1. the Right whale off Bird Island which gave me an excuse to have a breather during one of Mighty Collins gruelling circuit training sessions

2. the group of four or five Right hales feeding on what would probably have been krill (small prawn like creature that lives down here)

3. the spectacular Ross Glacier in Royal Bay where we swapped nets over

4. wandering and grey-headed albatrosses in general

5. fish gonads

6. the penguins on the iceberg

7. the full orange moon

8. being crowned King penguin after a tough battle in the final of penguin tossing against the Mighty Collins

9. and finally Brian’s cooking – no one boils veg like you mate!!!!!

All in all an enjoyable trip so I’d just like to thank the guys on Dorada for making myself and Sarah feel welcome for the three weeks – cheers dudes!

Thanks to Will for that summary.

Ernest Shackleton arrived here on the 20th Jan bringing in Les Whittamore, Logistics Coordinator for South Georgia, for his annual visit to check the base out. We had a good couple of weeks with Les and one of the high points of his visit, literally, was when I went with Les to mend the VHF Repeater to the North of Duse. A good morning off base.

The Shack also brought in last seasons base Doc Jen Corser who is currently serving as Doc on Bird Island. Jen and Krissi, our Sparky, were able to get away over night together to Maiviken, before the Shack had to go the following evening.

In late January we saw two unusual visitors to the Cove. Although Macaronis and Chinstrap Penguins are common on South Georgia we don’t see them very often in the Cove. On 21st a Macaroni came up the slip way to the boatshed while we were loading the Shack and on the 24th a Chinstrap came ashore outside the offices.

As well as visiting wildlife we’ve had a number of visiting ships. There have been the usual cruise ships to keep the museum busy, Research Vessel Polarstern, Charter Vessel Brave Heart and Royal Navy Vessel HMS Gloucester. We also had a group of Norwegians visiting the whaling stations around South Georgia for the 100th Anniversary of the oldest station here at Grytviken. In their group were people who had worked here in the cove on the whaling station and Catchers. There was a service in the Whalers Church to remember the people who had worked in the Whaling Industry. Alison Dean (BC), Jenn Keys (Doc), and myself along with Ken (Government Officer) and Ann (Post Mistress) attended the service.

The month finished on a sad note. Assistant Scientists Suzi Hawkins and Rich Mitchell left KEP after two years here at KEP. They left on Dorada with Les. Both Suzi and Rich had been a big part of life in Cove and they will be sadly missed. We wish them the very best for the future.

Well that’s it folks, that was January 2005 here at Sunny King Edward Cove, I’ll say the usual Hi’s to my folks back home and the Filey Lifeboat Crew. Roll on February!

Rick Johnson