A quiet week with blizzards keeping us indoors and still a little lull in the vibe around station as we regroup after an immense effort of making sure our Midwinter celebrations were the ‘best ever’.
So, I thought I would backtrack a little, and take the time to update you on the successful deep field trip to Taylor Glacier, which was undertaken just before Midwinter, in support of Project 4564 – Long-term monitoring of status and trends of emperor penguins and southern giant petrels: a comparative study, for Dr Barbara Wienecke.
The Taylor Glacier emperor penguin colony is quite unique as it’s only one of 2 known colonies that breeds on land, rather than the sea-ice. So, it’s very important to visit each year and monitor the status of the penguins.
The small team of 6 people, 2 hagglunds, and infinite expectations, travelled the 85 km to the west of the station, across the sea-ice to Colbeck Hut, Taylor Glacier and Proclamation Point. Despite two very large detours to avoid uncrossable cracks in the ice, and some rough travel over multi-year sea-ice, the trip outbound was uneventful. After 7.5 hours the team arrived safe and sound at Colbeck Hut, ready to head to the Taylor Glacier emperor penguin colony the next morning.
Up early and a quick 15 minute drive, and they were there on the edge of the Antarctic Specially Protected Area (entry via permit only) ready to get to work. Just 4 were able to enter, 2 to take the photos of the colony from above – to allow Dr Barb to do a count – and 2 to undertake the downloading and servicing of the automated cameras (positioned overlooking the colony and set to automatically take a photo a day… so watching the progress of the colony through the breeding season without having to actually be there).
Photos taken, cameras maintained, the team departed feeling the tinge of success and most pleased that they would be able to report back to Dr Barb that her "lil’ pumpkins" are in place, breeding, and huddling as expected.
Then a little time for some sightseeing – a drive round the end of Taylor Glacier to visit Proclamation Point. The piece of land Douglas Mawson and his men landed upon on 18th February 1931 to claim this portion of Antarctica (“between meridian 138º and 60º East of Greenwich and South of Latitude 64º as far as the South Pole”). The cairn on the site holds a copy of Mawson’s proclamation, a log book to record visits, and of course is a great site for the all-important photograph to record a visit stepping in the footsteps of legendary heroes of expeditions past.
Back to Colbeck Hut to regroup and discuss the successes of the day, then a drive back to station on the third and final day of the trip. Prepared to regale the rest of the team with tales of penguins, sea-ice, hut humour, and photography in extreme conditions.
From all reports a great trip and a beautiful spot to visit; checking in on a small, persistent emperor penguin colony doing their thing in a picturesque valley, overlooked by the magnificent Taylor Glacier.
We have two more trips scheduled to track the progress of their breeding season. So, another couple of chances for others in the Mawson team to travel out across the sea-ice and undertake that all important work in support of Antarctic science (and do a little sightseeing in the process).