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A good catch … FINALLY!!!

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Friday 9th of August, King Edward Point:

FISH!!!!! FISH!!! I caught fish!!!! Okey, it’s not the fish larvae I was after… but fish after all!

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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.

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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:

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Bubble traps sometimes need a bit of encouragement to go IN the water, but they do go eventually in the water:

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And here is the new sport at KEP: jellyfish trap throwing!!

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I  I often get espectators while deploying and retrieving traps:

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And this is the usual stuff that I get in them… a soup of amphipods, isopods, copepods, some polychaetes:

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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 …???

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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.

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Now we have a proper South Georgia Flag in front of base!!!! Oleeeeee!!!!

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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.

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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!!!

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Monday 5th of August 2013, King Edward Point:

Three weeks have gone by since I first stepped on South Georgia. I can’t believe it! Time is flying by… Sampling is proving very difficult indeed… Now I get why they say that fieldwork in the Antarctic is hard…

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First it’s the leppies: Last Wednesdays we had the joy of a young leopard seal visit. It was very close to the jetty and darting from one end of the Pharos to the other, playing around the ropes and posing for the 10 or so very excited biologist taking more photos than paparazzis.

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Here’s a little video of collective footage by Joe Corner, Paula O’Sullivan and Rod Strachan:

It was all very exciting for the first… hour and half? It was a bit less fun, when I had to go retrieve/set my traps at the other end of the peninsula before sunset and I was impeded to access the traps because “young leppy” had decided it was great fun to come see what the hell I was doing in the water knee-deep. An express exit was very much required… After a loooong while I was finally able to service the traps. Next surprise came on Friday, when as I was approaching the traps I see this massive head poking out of the kelp, at first I couldn’t figure out what it was and a whole list of potential animals crossed my mind… but after a few more pokes, it was unmistakeable. An adult leopard seal was again lurking around my traps, but this one was no joke. That head looked terrifying, and I am sure it was spying on us on the shore. It kept poking out and swimming and playing with the buoy at the end of my pulley system and checking the traps… there was no way I was going in the water that day. I’ve been told that leopard seals are a rare sight at KEP and it was very excited to see them at first, but this is the 5th time they are around here since I have arrived and it aint fun when you can’t service the traps because there’s something with a huge gaping mouth full of very sharp teeth lurking underwater.

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The other problem I had not thought of are icebergs getting caught on my pulley system, which then encourages all the water around it to freeze over and I end up with ice-locked ropes and traps. Noup… that aint fun either. Given the freezing weather we’ve been having this week (-11oC) traps have had to spend the weekend out there.

And today, when finally the surface had melted and there were no leppies around, the whole pulley system/traps had trapped a whole bunch of kelp that must have been floating around… so this time, knife in hand, Ella and I had to go in there chest-deep and cut all the kelp off the ropes…. About 45 minutes later we managed to retrieve the traps. One was intact, one had the tubes twisted slightly and the other had missed a couple of tubes, but the lights were all still on!! Considering they had been there about 4 days, withstanding the attention of seals, full blast of icebergs and tangled among a bunch of kelp, I was pretty chuffed with the trap engineering. Hahaha! In any case, I have still not caught any fish larvae…. On Friday, my failure to collect my traps was lightened up the announcing of the 5 elements that need to be included for our mini-film for the Antarctic Film Festival! Every year, all Antarctic bases compete in making a 5 minute film including certain elements. The element are announced on Friday and the film must be submitted before the end of Sunday. This year the elements were: a Ping-Pong ball, a sneeze, a gingerbread man, a bathtub, and the phrase “Voulez vous coucher avec moi ce soir”. Grand!!! Thank you french bases!!!! hahahaha!!! After much brainstorming and a few coffees/teas we finally agreed on the theme of the film and started making plans for our master piece. Within an hour we were filming. Cast, filming crew, director, baking pros, special effects specialists… the science station had suddenly turned into a Hollywood studio!! There were fake skies, mini and life size spaceships, diggers throwing snow, an army of gingerbread men … even fireworks!! Friday eve was great fun!

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On Saturday the station was buzzing from very early, the Pharos was leaving to Stanley and with her Paula and Tony waved goodbye to the rest of us.

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It was a sad moment, but to cheer us all up a bit we started inmediately with the filming and my acting skills were put to the test… oh my… I think that on average we only had to film every scene twice… so we were not too bad. Hahaha! Though I had never realised how hard acting is. We worked solid all Saturday to film all the scenes and by the end of Saturday I was exhausted. My favourite parts have been all the special effects: spice aliens, spiceships, doctors, eyeballs, blood, blood and more blood!! It was chocolate tasting blood which lead to quite a bit of confusing fun.

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Going to the doctor, with my new friend:
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the director, getting a bit exhasperated:

Some outdoor scenes and blood… always more blood…

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Then for some “romantic” indoor scenes:

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Our base doctor, Hazel, making blood with Ella… I thought it ended being REALLY realistic…. a bit suspicious… 🙂

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The director had a looooot of patience..

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tasty,…. huh?

and some final scenes…

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The film was edited on Sunday, and premiered at KEP living room. Now I know that if I can’t make in science, I can always knock at Hollywood doors! Hahaha!

The film can be seen here: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B6xKzE6p5KMFX0FrZXJlV3lkTDQ&usp=

Look into the 48h category/KEP South Georgia/It came from outer spice.

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A few more random pics of life at the station: Sunrise at KEP…. Amazing stuff!!

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A  day where we had another masive snowfall and I had to try snowrackets to reach the boating shed. Advice to would-be-Antarctic-explorers: “Do not try to jump with snowrackets on” …. … you’ll end up shamefully in the snow … plus risk breaking your legs!! A big no-no….

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My first King Penguin !!

 

And more of those incredibly  cute but sinister pintails… I still cant imagine them devouring a seal…

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Many thanks to everyone for watching this space!!!!