King Edward Point Diary – June 2008

30 June, 2008

Here we are just after the mid-winter break! Days start getting longer etc!! It has been quite busy. We have a 5-metre rib out of action at the moment due to an overhaul.

The Fishery has been busy with krill trawlers, I never realised the scale of the operation here! krill is a species found in the Antarctic waters of the Southern Ocean. Antarctic krill are shrimp-like and live in large schools, called swarms, sometimes reaching densities of 10,000–30,000 individual animals per cubic meter. They feed directly on minute plankton, They grow to a length of 6 cm, weigh up to 2 g, and can live for up to six years. They are a key species in the Antarctic ecosystem and are, in terms of biomass, probably the most successful animal species on the planet (approximately 500 million tonnes).

The trawlers aren’t like any thing I have seen, they are ships with a net, each ship is capable of holding 900 tonnes! The Government officer invited me out to have a walk round on one of her inspections, I was amazed! We went on board the krill trawler Niitaka Maru, from Japan. She had a crew of 85, and a whole factory below decks, As soon as the krill comes aboard it gets processed and boxed, It’s then transferred into the vast hold which is a chilly -20 degrees Celsius. This is just 1 out of many ships here. They fish in the Antarctic waters. The reason they are up around us is because this time of year the sea ice is advancing at five miles a day further south. Ten days later I was even more amazed as the operation got bigger. I had thought the trawlers just go home to unload, but no.

These huge ships, bulk carriers, we call them Reefers, anchor up in the bay where the trawlers come in and unload their 900 tonnes of krill. The trawlers then head back out to sea until they are full again! I’m not sure how long this goes on for, but at the time of writing there are two carriers out here with two trawlers along side. They are all sorts of different nationalities working together, I was thinking that this could not be sustainable as in they are going to wipe out the krill, but then I saw the figures!! They are allowed to catch around 65 thousand tonnes from around South Georgia. So far they have caught around 15,000 since May, Which is a small part of the population of krill around South Georgia, It’s a very sustainable organisation. Yesterday a tanker showed up and has started to refuel long liners that are still working the fishery day and night as well. All these ships have to be inspected every time they come in as well as the Reefers and tankers. So we are very busy running around on the boats. Even on the mid winter break we are all busy. We take time off when we can!

We have had the Royal Navy here for five days doing exercises with us. It was a very interesting few days. HMS Clyde was alongside our jetty and we went onboard for a meal one evening and got a look around the ship, which was great.

The other ship got a look around was the HMS Liverpool with a crew of 250 some of which were ferried to and fro by us and their own boats for a look at the place here. It was an interesting few days. They also did some scuba diving off the end of the jetty here and found a few huge tyres that we pulled out with Quest a few days later.

I also turned 26 and had a great day! Really nice day out with some good weather and had a real good look around the old whaling station and museum at Grytviken.

The weather here has been odd. Today it is raining, the weather systems are coming from the north so are bringing the warm air down from South America and every now and again keep the temperature on 0.5 degrees Celsius. We have had some very rough weather followed by some beautifully flat calm. There is still plenty of snow and icebergs around and when it gets cold it really does especially if there is a southerly strong wind blowing It makes going out to do lates and earlies very unappealing but once you are out side on the rounds its lovely no matter what the weather! I am getting really good at making bread now!!

Mid winters day has just passed us by, which at home there is the longest day of the year and here is the shortest. We treat it a lot like Christmas here with a huge meal and we all make presents for each other. I made a ship in a bottle and received a wine rack made from reindeer antlers! It was a really nice day! The meal was 16 courses! With a main meal of roast Upland Goose from the Falkland islands. Half way through we all went to the comms room and listened over the high frequency radio to the mid-winter broadcast which was on the BBC world service. Amy and my Mum sent me messages and it was a real moment when we were all there listening to our families saying hi. Even with the internet and comms nowadays it was a lovely moment, each with a glass of wine, very special.

Amy has been nothing but support for me here and the letters she sends are fantastic,

So from a damp South Georgia I wish you all, all the best and will speak soon