Union Glacier and Gould Bay

Sunday 15th December 2013
I’ve just arrived back in Ushuaia after an eventful three weeks. Gemma and I left the Ortelius in Ushuaia after a really productive trip. Sadly, Gemma had to go back to the lab while I continue to get all the fun stuff in the field. Next step – Emperor penguins. After catching up with amigos at CADIC (Centro Austral de Investigaciones Cientificas) – the local science institute, I took the long weary bus to Punta Arenas. I shouldn’t complain, it was actually very comfortable but it took eleven hours and so gets a little tedious.

The next phase was to join up with ALE/ANI, a commercial operator running flights from Punta Arenas to Union Glacier to support expeditions and tourists into the heart of the continent. It was a very different experience to anything I’ve done before and was extremely impressive. As a guest lecturer, I was talking to lots of people about penguins while using the opportunity to do my own work.

I cannot possibly describe how impressive landing a jet on a glacier was, or taking a Twin Otter (light aircraft) and Bassler (converted, beefed up DC3) to the emperor penguins was. I had a total of four days on sea ice with the penguins near Gould Bay.

The Ilyushin, just landed at Union Glacier.

The Ilyushin, just landed at Union Glacier.

Everything is better with regurgitated fish.

Everything is better with regurgitated fish.


The genetics went very well, the cameras not so well. I’ve got a few ideas buzzing around about how to monitor emperors, but the time-lapse camera I had with me for this year is not to be. The Gould Bay colony is really mobile, making it impossible for a static camera to record anything useful. However, I’m trying to come up with ways around this.

IMG_5456

Union Glacier Camp, Ellsworth Mountains

Union Glacier Camp, Ellsworth Mountains

IMG_5356

Day out in Union Glacier while waiting for the Ilyushin to take us back to Punta Arenas - is this really a job?

Day out in Union Glacier while waiting for the Ilyushin to take us back to Punta Arenas – is this really a job?

Two Emperors stooge next to the tide crack. Tom gets in the way.

Two Emperors stooge next to the tide crack. Tom gets in the way.

Twin Otter aircraft; I am seriously in love with these - they are incredible! Otters are very social and given the choice, they will hang around in pairs.

I am seriously in love with these aircraft – they are incredible! Otters are very social and given the choice, they will hang around in pairs.

This entry was posted in 2013/14 field season. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Union Glacier and Gould Bay

  1. mbransfield says:

    Emperor chicks & ice planes! This must have been thrilling – even for you! The video is spectacular & so are the photos. Hoping you’ll post more!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s