10 September 2010

Some settled fine weather and we’re all out on the ice taking photographs. One thing about spotting penguins at this time of year they always seem to be curious and will go to extraordinary lengths to get a closer look.

Chris G (Scottish) captured these three on a recent trip to Bandits.

Penguins paddling through the ice
Ice’s up – get paddling
Photo: Chris G
Curious penguins head towards the photographer
Funny looking penguins girls – shall we have a closer look?
Photo: Chris G
Penguins come very close to the photographer!
If you won’t come to us – we’ll come to you!
Photo: Chris G

Pete expands on their trip…

Two weeks ago saw myself, Tom, Geoff, Scottish & Ash head out to Bandits for the weekend on a magic sunny day.

Out along iceberg alley we spotted a few known jade bergs, several heavily pregnant Weddell seals and much to our delight 3 shiny, healthy Emperor penguins, not only the highlight of our weekend but one of the year’s highlights so far. We parked well away, turning our quads off, knowing full well that the emperors would quick smart make their way over to check us out, and what a treat, they came within metres of us, were not at all scared and hung around for well over half an hour, checking out each person in turn. You couldn't spend a better afternoon, out on the sea ice, surrounded by icebergs, sun shining down and 3 majestic Emperor penguins chilling out with us!

Onwards then to Bandits where we settled in for what turned out to be a hut-bound 2 nights as the weather closed in and there was too much blowing snow to head out the next day. Apart from much sleeping, reading and tall tales, a game of monopoly was had where Scottish lived up to his heritage, keeping the moths well and truly in his wallet, ending up pretty much owning every property house and hotel as well as managing the bank!

By Monday it had settled a little, enough for us to head home via the fjords, a nice change but denying us the chance to see how the Emperors had fared, and denying me the chance to add more photos to the 730 I already had of them.

Quad drivers give way to penguins crossing the ice
Giving them the right of way
Photo: Ash P
Three penguins walk in a line
Follow the leader
Photo: Pete H
Tom trying not to look conspicuous
Tom trying not to look conspicuous
Photo: Pete H
Pete sits near the penguins
Pete joining the huddle
Photo: Pete H

It’s not always rest and recreation out at the huts – while at Bandits they installed a new vent.

Chris and Tom at work installing a new vent at Bandits
Chris and Tom at work
Photo: Ash P

Nichol organised a Trivia Quiz for Friday night. We sorted ourselves into teams and went through ten hilarious rounds before discovering what we already knew – that Linc, Kim and Tom are the Masters of trivia. How could daily crossword fanatics be anything else? Luckily there was a World Cup round in there and the winners were followed closely by Frank, Pete, Adam and Andy Ballinger. It was asking for trouble to put a bowl of nuts and a pile of coasters on each table – just as well Nichol wore his hard hat come bowler – forward thinking. Thanks Nichol for a great evening – we were so engrossed that no-one took any photos!

At the weekend Pete, Ali, Wilco, Zupy and Jeff went out to Watts hut for a few days of ‘R n R’.

Pete’s version of the trip…

Once into Ellis Fjord we encountered a strong head wind and, with most of the snow blown away leaving a slick glassy surface, the lack of traction made for slow going, with the distance covered being only a third of the distance the speedo actually clocked up (Ali went sideways there at one stage). After exploring Lake Druzhby we headed back for the night to prepare for dark when we finally got a chance after some weeks of bad weather to try out Wilko’s idea. With ice drill and torches in hand we walked a short distance onto frozen Watts Lake and drilled a hole about a metre deep into the ice, placing a strong LED light into the hole which illuminated a large area of ice. This turned out to be as much of a success as we had anticipated and made for an amazing scene with the bubbles, cracks and fractures in the lake showing up a treat.

Sunday provided little wind and patchy cloud so we headed onto Crooked Lake where we explored all around and saw some magic scenery. Zuppy and Jeff walked to the top of Boulder Hill to admire the scenery and as usual Ali poked and prodded rocks, telling us how old they were and how they were formed – the Vestfolds are a handy place to have a Geo. Ali, Jeff and Zuppy headed home in the arvo. Wilko and I explored the lakes some more, videoing and photographing in the evening light several metres into the ice as the sun shone penetrated down a sight I will never tire of. We returned home Monday, leaving ahead of the blowing snow we could see approaching from the plateau. A fun weekend had by all.

Ice daisy
Ice daisy
Photo: Pete H
Ice formation resembling a frozen lava lamp
Frozen lava lamp
Photo: Pete H
The ice goes 'snap, crackle and pop' like rice bubbles
Snap, crackle and pop
Photo: Pete H
Investigating the Lake Druzhby
Investigating the Lake Druzhby
Photo: Zupy
Scramble up Grimma Gorge
Scramble up Grimma Gorge
Ali and basaltic dyke
Ali and basaltic dyke
Photo: Pete H
Pete lying down on the ice
Pete on ice
Photo: Pete H
 

Jeff, Ali and Zupy headed home on Sunday, stopping in at Ellis narrows on the return to get a glimpse of the turbulent ice free centre, where the water that fills the extensive Ellis Fjord is forced through a shallow and very narrow portal. As it was Jeff and Ali’s first trip to this locality they headed around the rocks that define the narrows for a better view, only to find that for the first time this winter the narrows were completely frozen over. Lying on the ice, where the tidal race generally forms swift rapids on the ebb and flow tides, was a rather large very pregnant Weddell seal sleeping soundly.

It was early to rise for those left on station. Many made the most of a perfect Sunday and headed out for the day to take in the scenery and capture the moment. One trip was out to nearby Suter Island, about 3 kms south-east of Gardner Island in the Vestfold Hills. This island was first mapped by Norwegian cartographers from air photographs taken by the Lars Christensen Expedition (1936-37) and was named after W.Suter, the cook here at Davis in 1960. A request had been made from Mr Suter to photograph the island for him and we decided it would be appropriate for our current chef to undertake this task.

Kim on Suter Island, 68° 35’46.0S 77°54’43.6E
Kim on Suter Is., 68° 35’46.0S 77°54’43.6E
Photo: Kim dL

Rob, Ben and Nick headed for the northern margin of the Sørsdal after an iceberg alley photo shoot.

Ben and Rob with Sørsdal Glacier behind
Ben and Rob with Sørsdal Glacier behind
Photo: Nick R
The Sørsdal glacier is reflected in Ben's sunglasses
Ben with the Sørsdal in his sights
Photo: Rob L
Nick setting up a time lapse shot
Nick setting up a time lapse shot
Photo: None

Once a month Nige heads up to Deep Lake to take photos of the water level. The level of this lake, the most saline in the Vestfold Hills, has been monitored since 1975 as one of the State of the Environment indicators. The high salinity means this lake remains liquid. You can see from today’s visit it is a spectacular sight when all else is frozen.

In recent months Nige has been getting up early to assist Kim with baking every morning and you can see that this has been paying off – both for him and us!

Bakery in action
Bakery in action
Photo: Nige C

Jeff and Ben headed out this afternoon to measure the ice thickness and found that there are now many more Weddells on the ice, all waiting patiently for the big event that cannot be far off if the size of these expectant females is anything to go by.

Weddell seals gather on the ice
A Weddell gathering
Photo: Ben O'L
Wide eyed Weddell seal
Wide eyed Weddell
Photo: Ben O'L
A Weddell seal
Krill for breakfast then?
Photo: Ben O'L
A very relaxed-looking Weddell seal
Making the most of the peace and quiet
Photo: Ben O'L

This page was last modified on 29 May 2014.