Start of the 2014 season!

We’re getting ready for the start of the 2014/15 season. The permits are in; most of them have come back and we’re nearly ready!

The team this year is a mix of US collaborators and some out-numbered brits. The season starts with Tom and Caitlin heading out to South Georgia on the Hans Hanson to conduct some in-depth censuses and deploy some more cameras. Then, we’ll be picked up from Stanley in the Falkland Islands by the Ocean Diamond and taken around the Scotia Arc. Caitlin will be replaced by Mike and then Racheal from Woods Hole and Louisiana State University.

Mike is a veteran of over 10 seasons’ South now; and he’s clearly good at it, so he’s coming back for more with us.

Gemma will join me for a month when we jump ship onto the Sea Spirit and go to the South Sandwich Islands, where we will find out if the first camera on the South Sandwich has worked. If so, this is the first time there will be any sort of continuous monitoring on this archipelago. Fingers crossed!

Finally, new PhD student Hila and then visualisation and analytical specialist Eamonn will join me on the Ocean Diamond as we try and get around all the cameras on the Antarctic Peninsula.

So, what have we been up to in the off-season? It’s safe to say that that is the hard bit. We come back and readjust to the real world and work out how to tie shoelaces and cross the road. After the immediate flurry of seeing friends, relatives and doing the laundry, we get down to the hard job of curating samples and data. Samples might need cleaning or special preparation. Data is much harder; most of our data is raw imagery. That means we need to back everything up, then give each image a unique id, put it in a data base and extract the data. That usually means clicking on all the penguins in each image to extract the co-ordinates.

However, this year we are very excited about the launch of Penguin Watch on the Zooniverse platform. This should mean that we can engage with the general public, share our imagery and gain data from volunteer clicks. You can see more about it at

So, for now I’m off to book flights and pack stuff for shipping!


Posted in 2014/14 field season | Leave a comment

Satellite camera deployed!

Wooo hoo!

The camera is live – here is some video of us half way through the set up. The battery was a huge lump to trek up the hill, but we got everything working well.

This camera is the first remote sat camera of the Instant Wild/Cambridge Consultant collaboration ( It’s an advanced prototype and it’s taken a long time to get it here, so thanks to everyone who have worked so hard and then let me steal it. It’s not even like I’m going to look after it!

Al Davies from ZSL is on board to set it up – there’s a lot of troubleshooting to get the first working. This has involved setting up cameras on the ship’s rail, then scurrying down to his cabin to check email for a photo.

Setting up the camera rig

Al checks the satphone to Cambridge Consultants - the people who built the sat camera with him. It's best to check that it's sending before we leave it for a year...

Al checks the satphone to Cambridge Consultants – the people who built the sat camera with him. It’s best to check that it’s sending before we leave it for a year…

So, after an attempt to get to Detaille was rebutted by ice, we headed to the Yalours. We hiked a lot of equipment up a small hill, but it did reveal to us that there’s a little way to go yet on the power supply to make it really portable. We massively over-specked the power requirements to make sure it won’t die even if the solar cell fails. We had a bit of a scramble, but managed to set up two cameras looking at the penguins and one looking at the installation. It was a race, but we walked away relatively confident that it might survive! Special thanks to Woody the Expedition Leader for giving us some extra time ashore to guarantee the installation. Also, thanks to Wolfgang who came to pick us up when he should have been having dinner.

The important photo – this photo went to space and back…twice! We routed it back to the ship to test everything. Now it’s clearly working- the only question is how well it will survive the winter. Let’s hope all of those holes and connectors work.

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...and this is the one that Al watches.

…and this is the one that Al watches.

Relief and happy days!

Hope all is well in the real world…

Posted in 2013/14 field season, Antarctic Peninsula | Leave a comment