It’s been a busy week of field training, seabird ecology and spring cleaning.

Seabird research in the Davis region

The Seabird Research Group have been busy attaching satellite trackers to female Adélie penguins at the southern and northern–most range of their breeding populations in the Prydz Bay region.

This research is to help understand where the penguins breeding in the extensive sea ice area of southern Prydz Bay forage, and to identify their traverse route across the ice to get to their foraging grounds.The data will also show whether their foraging location differs from the more northerly breeding populations.

The trip to the breeding colony in the south required flying across a field of intricately carved icebergs trapped in a vast expanse of sea ice, which was not only spectacular to witness but also revealed just how far the penguins had to waddle to get to their food!

The group have also been to the stunningly located Hop Island to retrieve trackers, which were deployed last year.

Hop Island is an incredibly important island because it provides habitat for a range of seabirds including Adélie penguins, snow petrels, Antarctic petrels, cape petrels, southern fulmars, skuas and Wilson’s storm petrels to breed.

The tiny little devices which we seek have recorded light levels every ten minutes since last summer and are attached to small bands around the birds’ ankles. The data will hopefully reveal for the first time where these Prydz Bay breeding birds forage during the cold harsh Antarctic winter months. We were very fortunate with perfect weather during these trips, which made the white icebergs glisten and sparkle in the sun creating a perfect backdrop to our worksite.


Field training around Long Fjord

Late afternoon on Friday 25 November, a group of 12 intrepid expeditioners (myself included) joined the field training officers (FTO’s), Nick and Gideon, for survival training. A short helicopter ride took us to Brookes Hut.

The hut overlooks Long Fjord, which is currently covered in sea ice. It was a fantastic afternoon with sunny skies and light winds. After a quick tour of the hut we headed off towards Deep Lake and got fantastic views and plenty of selfies from the hill overlooking the lake. On the return journey Alison and Matt called in our evening radio sked (scheduled communication).

Before cooking our camp stove dinners we had instruction on how to use our bivvy bags and find shelter in case of a blizzard. There was a range of bivvy architectural styles (with varying degrees of success). After a brief pause to enjoy such a peaceful evening we fell asleep to the calls of Wilson storm petrels and the gentle rustling of the bivvy bags. I learnt a key thing this night; that it is best to sleep facing the open end of the bivvy bag, that way the frozen condensation from your breath doesn’t fall onto your face as you try to sleep.

We started the following day on a hearty breakfast of porridge before venturing onto the sea ice to learn about drilling and measuring the depth of the ice to check if it is safe to travel on, as well as practising how to use a throw–bag in order to rescue someone who has gone through the ice. After this we took a brief detour to investigate some seals before heading back at the hut and packing up to begin our trek back to Davis.

Splitting into two groups we followed a series of GPS points along the fjord and to the tip of Weddell Arm where we headed back over land. It was a long but very scenic hike back to the station and for the group that went via Dingle Lake and the Heidemann Valley there were plenty of interesting rocks to cause distraction. It was a great experience and everyone really enjoyed the chance to get out and see another part of the Vestfold Hills!


Window cleaning Antarctic style

Davis is known as the riviera of the south, and this week it has provided clear sunny and warm days.

However it can get quite grimy as the snow melts and turns the ground into a minor quagmire, with dirty windows spoiling the stunning outlook.

Nothing that an elevated work platform, window cleaning squeegee and a few days with positive temperatures to stop the cleaning water freezing to the window can’t fix!

The wide brimmed hard hat — that was just for show…