King Edward Point Diary – October 2005

31 October, 2005

Spring is in the air

Well once again it’s my pleasure to say a big hello to all you dedicated readers of the King Edward Point News Letter. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since my last newsletter in January; so here are a few key events that have shaped KEP and KEPers this year:

  • The Great South Georgia Storm of 2005
  • The Great Quest Roll of 2005
  • The Great Cove Freeze of 2005
  • The Great Butter Shortage of 2005
  • The Great Toilet Roll Shortage of 2005 – a tough one!
  • The Great Pipit Tow of 2005
  • The Great Quest Plankton Trawl of 2005 – under auxiliary outboard engine I might add

So as you can see it’s been quite a year and October has proved to be no different for the tireless KEP staff.

General news

October started out with a well-earned trip away for Pat and Sarah Lurcock. Jenn and I took them round to West Bay and dropped them ashore at Jason Harbour. It was a good passage round to Jason on a fine morning with light winds. Pat and Sarah spent four nights at Jason Hut and had a superb time.

The ozone hole passed over South Georgia earlier this month, leaving us to either cover up or slap it on. Thank fully it didn’t last too long and with the exception of our hard-working Sparky, Krissi Lad Hall, everyone managed to avoid serious skin damage.

Christine and Asty, the new Museum Assistants have settled in after their arrival last month. Tim and Pauline Carr have been showing them the ropes and have wasted no time getting them on skis and out into the hills.

Chris Sites has worked round the clock to get the seismic Sat Dish connected. Unfortunately due to a small error the satellite could not be found from the dish’s position. Luckily another satellite was found and the day was saved! Chris was with us for a little over two weeks but he was working the majority of the time and didn’t get to see much of the island. We did manage to get Chris out in Alert for a trip into Moraine Fjord to see the Harker and Hamberg Glaciers. Chris left the sunny shores of South Georgia on the 16th on Sigma. Our hard-working Sparky once again made a memorable speech at Chris’s last meal with us, which I’m sure he won’t forget.

Shipping news

The first yacht of the summer arrived on 12th – Northanger. It was good to see them back at KEP again. We’ve also had in two more yachts, Le Sourire and Tooluka. The RFA Grey Rover arrived at the Hope Point Anchorage on 13th and stayed until the 16th. FPV Sigma was alongside over this time and as Commander of the KEP Fleet, I had the pleasure of having lunch with Sigma’s Captain, Grey Rover’s Captain and Chief Engineer, along with Pat and Sarah. This was at the Government Officers Chateau; it was a very pleasant afternoon and much enjoyed. The first Cruise ship of the summer arrived on 26th – Nordnorge.

First circumnavigation of South Georgia – in Kayaks!

Three New Zealand kayakers became the first to paddle round South Georgia and did so in a very quick 18 days. The Kayakers were brought in and supported by yacht Northanger. Graham Charles, Marcus Waters and Mark Jones left KEP on 13th on an over cast, snowy day. That didn’t dampen their spirits and they made there way round South Georgia anti clockwise covering 600 km. They arrived back into Cumberland East Bay on the 31st mid afternoon. Pat, Steve and myself went out to meet them in Pipit. The three kayakers finished their circumnavigation back at KEP at 1700 to a warm welcome.


The first Elephant Seal pups have weaned this month and their mothers returned to sea. The Ellie Bulls have had some spectacular fights for control of the KEP beach, while the weaners cause much amusement as they go it alone for the first time.

On the 12th Light Mantled Sooty Albatross returned to Cumberland Bay. Will spotted five as he and myself were steaming out to the CTD Site 1 in Quest. Personally I didn’t see what the fuss was about, however if you like that sort of thing you may do.

Under the microscope

With Quest back in full service again the science has got back on track with the usual CTD, Plankton Trawls, Nets and Pots. We’ve also run another trial with the deep Long Line. It yielded a modest catch, however further work is needed before we can use it regularly. Sarah, Jamie, Will and myself have racked up 30 hrs of sampling time in Quest this month.

This month has seen an increase in Plankton activity which has caused excitement among the science team, well some of them, well one of them actually. I asked wannabe Doctor Watts what this all meant and he put together a couple of paragraphs for me:

As the sun rises higher in the sky at the end of September and through October, the sea gets greener. This is the phytoplankton, starting what will soon become one of Earth’s richest blooms. This is what feeds South G’s amazing wildlife. Our plankton nets are too coarse to catch phytoplankton, but we do catch what feeds on it – the copepods, and lots of them. In September, we’re catching a teacup-full of plankton during our two half hour tows. It’s really easy to find the Icefish larvae we’re looking for in a teacupfull. As September moves into October, though, the huge amount of food in the upper layers of the ocean starts to show itself. Our catches become an ever thicker, salmon coloured soup of copepods, each about 2 millimetres long. A pint one week, a litre the next, and you know spring has arrived for sure.

It’s not only copepods that our fish larvae are hidden amongst. As spring arrives, the variety of other plankton critters we see broadens. From shrimp larvae to Themisto, the voracious, fly-sized amphipod raptor, all the crustaceans that dominate our plankton seem to be spawning in time for the summer bloom. We even occasionally get a run of larval krill, even this far inshore. It’s not just the crustaceans, though – Tomopteris, the transparent paddleworm, becomes more abundant, as do the Pteropods, or sea butterflies – actually tiny snails with wings. The Icefish we’re looking for are still there, but they’re joined by an increasing variety of other fish larvae. Everything at the low end of the food web, it seems, is throwing out babies, to take advantage of the spring food bloom.

Thank you Jamie for that, hope it sound exciting enough and inspires all you up-and-coming Marine Biologists.

Down in the boat shed

In between fishing this month, Steve and I have had both the Jet Boats on the slip and in the shed for post winter servicing, which both boats were much in need of. The hardships of the winter have taken their toll on Pipit and Prion, so a bit of TLC was very much on the cards. Pipit was re-launched on 24th and was twice the boat for the overhaul. Prion is still in the shed and will be re-launched early next month.

Pipit squeezed into the boatshed for essential maintenance.

Campers’ corner

Various base members have been able to get away this month for a break or two. On 7th Jenn, Christine, Tim, Krissi and Asty went for a three-night trip over on the Barff. Sarah, Jamie, Will and Myself dropped them off at Coral Bay with Prion and Luna on a fine morning. The happy campers, who were based at Corral Bay, had day trips over to Godthul and the surrounding area. They all had a fantastic time and were picked up on a foggy, snowy morning on the 10th.

Jenn and Krissi had a weekend trip on the Thatcher Peninsula taking in the delights of Papua Beach and surrounding area.

There was also a trip to No Name which Jenn, Christine and Will did later in the month. Will claimed this to have been hard core camping, having Bivvied out in the snow. Having watch Ray Mears numerous times I feel Will’s claim of hard core camping exaggerated slightly!!!!

New arrivals

As I said in shipping news, the first cruise ship, Nordnorge arrive on the 26th, bringing in with them some new and not so new KEPers. Ali was returned to us, safe, well and looking refreshed ready for the onslaught of looking after us all again. Dave Peck, South Georgia Morrisons Rep was back in again for another SG summer. Two new faces arrived, Charlotte Routh as new Doctor, who’ll be taking over from Jenn this coming year and finally Tim (the boy Scout) Burton, to make us go camping, as if we didn’t have enough to do anyway! All of us, except Steve, went onboard Nordnorge for the evening and had a really good time. The new arrivals were dropped ashore the following morning to begin their respective South Georgia lives. Nick (Supergroove) Atkinson arrived back on Sigma on the 29th. Nick is here for another summer and completes the museum staff.

Field training

Field training started on the 31st with Tim taking Charlotte, Steve and myself out into the hills behind Gull Lake to do some snow and ice work. Much fun was had by all as we slid down steep snowy slopes in various positions and then stopped ourselves with trusty Ice Axes.

Halloween party

On Saturday the 29th we had a Halloween fancy dress party. There was a good mix of costumes as once again the face paints took a battering.

And finally

Well that’s about it folks, October in six sides of A4, padded with pictures. Look out for November’s thrilling instalment of the KEP newsletter, for more new arrivals, more field training and all manner of frolics for your delectation.

I’ll finish by saying a big hello to my folks back home and once again to the Filey Lifeboat Crew.

Bye for now,