No progress once again. I know lots of people had told me it was going to be near to impossible and that I should not keep my hopes too high. But I, perhaps stupidly, had believed that luck would be on my side… I keep deploying traps to no avail… and this is getting very depressing. And harder to admit defeat whenever anyone asks me about the traps… So I’ll spare you my ranting.
Last weekend was August Bank Holiday weekend, I had quite a bit of work to do, so adventures were kept to a couple of afternoons. Saturday was an unbelievably glorious day, so I skied up to Gull Lake and Brown Flats on my own. It was actually really hot, so I was down to just a T-shirt and still sweating like a pig.
It’s a truly fascinating sensation being on your own in this environment, there is no one else but us on the island… and it’s so vast!! It’s a weird mixture of “I’m in the middle of absolute nowhere: if I shout NOTHING would hear me” and “I am the luckiest guy in the world”. And then when you’re in your own little world, you bump into someone from the station – Tara! – Amazing! After a couple of hours, I had enough of being on my own, and returned to base to find that the sauna had been put on – Yeay!!! – Being half-Swedish, I obviously love saunas!! And now I could do it properly: sauna, roll in the snow, and back in the sauna!!! Hahaha! Never done it before and it was so much fun! And then after sauna, it was my first fancy dress party at KEP!! Superheroes vs. villains! After a bit of rummaging around the fancy dress box, I put together a Sabretooth outfit.
On Sunday, we had a visit. A plane from the Falklands military was going to do exercise and was going to show up sometime in the afternoon.
So we went up to Brown flats with cookies to enjoy the reminder of outside civilization. It was rather weird making such a fuzz about a plane flying above us, but there are never planes above South Georgia… so it was quite an event!
Monday was a glorious day once again, but had work to do so I stayed in base. After a couple of hours I could not take it anymore and I moved my office outside: to read under the sun. And it was lovely!! So lovely that after another couple of hours I was in my swimming trunks sunbathing… in August, in South Georgia! Wonderful!!
I actually even got a bit of a tan! – Note for Antarctic explorer wannabes: my skin is quite dark so it copes with a fair amount of sun, others at the station are not so lucky and burn even after putting factor 50. And no one wants a sunburn.
However the most exciting thing of all must have been the return of the Pharos.
OMG!! I had seen the excitement of everyone on station the day I arrived, but I had not understood it. It’s like a grown up version of Christmas!! Really, Pharos is like Santa: big and red and bring presents!! Presents like oranges, bananas, apples, and onions, avocados, and butternut squash… but nothing excited me more than the lettuce – Oh my dear dear, crispy, fresh, green lettuce: I had missed you!! – Nom nom nom… I was caught in the action of stuffing my face with a leaf of lettuce that had “fallen off” while being carefully inspected (by me) for bugs … and I have been here only a month and half…
Hard at work checking all the freshies for stowaways:
Our newly restored food store: You cannot imagine my happiness at this view…..
I was quite bemused by some of the cargo: it appears that my favourite Swedish furniture shop delivers even in South Georgia!!!!
It also brings post to everyone on base… and even I got post: Paula sent me a bag of sweets, a pot of “Smooth & Spicy” mustard, and some “Tim Yum paste”. Hihihi! Thanks a million Paula!!!! You made my day!!!
Oh, yes! On Thursday I decided to put away some large (1.2 by 2.4m) planks of plywood as I didn’t need them anymore. So took all three of them and carried them above my head and started my way to the storing container. As I reached the corner to the container – zliiiipppp…. Kapummmm paw… papatakatakatakaaaaa…. Auuu…. – the floor around the container had frozen, I slipped on it, went flying, landed on my lower back and broke the ice with my head… it that wasn’t enough, the three planks of plywood landed right on my face…. I lied motionless sandwiched between the floor and planks of plywood for a few seconds, trying to figure out what had happened… Oooucchhh…. I was in pain, but I was actually more embarrassed and hoped that no one in the Pharos had witnessed my cartoonish fall. Admittedly, it had probably been quite funny. I peeked out of the planks; No one around; Okay, let’s get out of here. My nose was bleeding, from the outside. So I went to see Ella and Jo, who were very professional and promptly checked my head: no breaks, I’ll survive and I’ve learned another lesson: Always look where you are walking and do not carry things above your head. My lips have swollen, and I look like I’ve just come out of a Botox op; and my nose is much wider than normal and slightly greenish, it’s kinda funny, I look like a crook. Very convenient for my planned pirate party on Saturday…
FISH!!!!! FISH!!! I caught fish!!!! Okey, it’s not the fish larvae I was after… but fish after all!
Yesterday, I deployed two of the bubble traps off the jetty and one of the jellyfish traps off the jetty but with a big weight on, so that it was fishing at 10m of depth. The latter caught these two juvenile fish (way too big for my purposes), but it shows that fish are attracted to the lights inside the traps.
I had baited one of the bubble traps with blue lights and it had attracted far fewer amphipods than the one with white lights, but there was this “thing” in the trap: it was completely transparent and had two tiny eyes. My mind immediately thought of an arrow-worm (Chaetognatha), so I didn’t give it too much importance. Unfortunately an amphipod ate the head of such “thing” before I reached the lab, so I could only look at the body under the microscope. After inspection under the microscope I was no longer so convinced it was an arrow-worm. It had fins all along the body, a caudal fin, and the body seemed to have muscular segments on it. After it died it also turned pure white, much like all the preserved fish larvae I’ve seen so far. Most species, including those I’m targeting, have melanophores (spots) along the body, but there are a few icefish species which have no pigmentation at all. Unfortunately, without the head I cannot tell for sure if it was a fish larvae or some other marine critter. I’ve kept the specimen so we can determine if it was fish or not by DNA analysis. This whole experience has made me realise that so far I have been looking for white or opaque larvae in the traps, as all icefish larvae I have been shown so far have been preserved in ethanol. But what if live icefish larvae were transparent? That makes the whole spotting them in white buckets a bit more complicated. I will be paying much closer attention to my catch from now on.
All in all, I still haven’t caught the target icefish larvae, but the novelty of having caught juvenile fish and something that may potentially perhaps be some sort of icefish larvae, has given me a new spur of hope.
Here a sequence of me deploying traps underneath the watchful eye of some curious shags:
Bubble traps sometimes need a bit of encouragement to go IN the water, but they do go eventually in the water:
And here is the new sport at KEP: jellyfish trap throwing!!
I I often get espectators while deploying and retrieving traps:
And this is the usual stuff that I get in them… a soup of amphipods, isopods, copepods, some polychaetes:
Then one needs to spend quite a bit of time looking at this teeming soup of stuff, trying to identify anything that looks remotely like a fish larvae… rather tedious.
What the …???
Here I was, happily trying to identify that misterious creature under the microscope, when sudenly, some unusual fauna appeared on the window….
It was the Government Officers, replacing the flag that had been damaged on the last storm.
Now we have a proper South Georgia Flag in front of base!!!! Oleeeeee!!!!
Other than that life at KEP is still very much in post-KEPwood mode, all we can talk about is the filming and what the other stations may have filmed. We’ve heard that some other station has used the same filming technique as us… so we’re not happy puppies about that …. And we’ve heard that Bird Island have an amazing film… but there’s only 4 of them there, so they can’t be as good as we are… can they?
I thought I’d give you an idea of what everyday life is like at KEP, other than deploying traps, running away from seals, photographing penguins, skiing and staring in movies.
Each of us is responsible for their own breakfast and lunch, but we have “smoko” (AKA coffee/tea brake in non-exmilitary venues) at 10:30 and dinner at 7 all together, which are welcome social events.
One person, who rotates among us, is responsible to make the earlies rounds (i.e. checking the whole station at 6am, digging snow from the front of doors, making bread, and aweing at the spectacular sunrises), keeping the communications log, and preparing dinner for everyone. On those days, it’s better not to plan to do anything serious as you’re pretty much in the kitchen all day. I love cooking, so it’s not like I’m precisely suffering those days…. Hahaha!
A visit to our food stores:
The day after one is on earlies, one is on lates, which means doing the rounds to check the whole station again at midnight’ish, closing all doors and turning off all lights, dealing with all the rubbish (ALL sorted into aluminium cans, steel cans, plastic, cardboard…. ), fighting the blizzards when it’s unreasonable weather, and making sure everyone’s in bed. Being a natural night owl, that’s easy peasy lemon squeasy, and I take advantage of that time to write this blog.
Now in winter there’s only 10 of us on base, so we have the luxury of having a bedroom each, which to top it all are ensuite!! “La class”!!! There a series of common rooms: kitchen, dinning room, two screening rooms, one with a projector, a VERY extensive collection of books, DVDs and musical instruments, and the Copper bar… obviously the most important common room of all!! The heart and soul of social life on base.
A Grand tour of our living quarters in SG:
On Friday afternoon it’s scrubbout time, and the whole station is cleaned up, a great way to finish the week. Today I was responsible for the bar, and I realised that whoever thought of having a coppertop bar did not think of cleaning it… that was a workout on its own!! It is now spotless!!!