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 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.