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November 30 was extremely windy, definitely an excellent opportunity to begin sample sorting and packing in earnest! Samples are air-dried back at base in a laboratory for a few days before being carefully wrapped in tissue and packeting for transport to UK next May in ‘cold stow’ under low humidity conditions. I am also databasing specimens on a daily basis, downloading GPS tracks and importing to GIS software and establishing a photoarchive which will help decide the ‘next steps’.


50th Anniversary of Antarctic Treaty

On 1 December we awoke to gloriously sunny weather. Strong winds and favourable tide brought in the first major brash ice to Factory Cove. I began to catch up with emails and rescued from ‘SPAM’ one sent to me by a Norwegian aunt referring me to an article on the 50th Aniversary of the Antarctic Treaty. I checked the article online - a rare event for me on Signy as I normally only check emails intermittently.


These are the routes I trekked on the anniversary. I first revisited Khyber Pass. After dinner and ‘gash’ duties, Matt suggested I walk up Observation Bluff. Wonderful!


Examining lichens on Green Gable overlooking the Gourlay snowfield.


Sunset over Coronation  Island from Bernsten Point, 20.59 hours. According to my GPS sunrise was at 02.39 and sunset at 21.03.


Coastal lichens

Coastal lichens are especially well adapted to life in harsh environments and are influenced by salt, temperature and other factors. They are at times completely immersed by sea water. I have been asked to collect samples for several colleagues at the Natural History Museum and elsewhere.


Rock colonised by lichens, W. Cemetery Flat.


A marine lichen, collected from Cemetery Flat – my only sample of a coastal lichen so far! A similar black lichen in the Shetland Islands, Scotland, UK was mistaken for oil after an accidental oil spill.


Bruce and Jessica crossing Cemetery Flats. The ice is beginning to melt and break up. They crossed successfully and avoided getting wet! I decided not to examine coastal lichens on this occasion but to head back up the valley to Khyber.


Next steps

Jessica, Bruce and I probably have 10 days to go before we leave Signy. Our ship, the James Clark Ross is currently at Rothera but its itinerary is delayed owing to heavy storms. As well as returning home and to the Museum, I look forward to visiting colleagues at the British Antarctic Survey on January 11 and to consulting their collections. However, an extra day or two on Signy will be a bonus!


I consider my visit to be a success in spite of the snow and hope my visit and the samples I have collected will prove useful to others. I am extremely grateful to everyone for their support in making my visit possible.

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William P

William P

Member since: Dec 16, 2009

William Purvis, a lichenologist from the Botany Department, is in the Antarctic on the island of Signy conducting research into lichen biodiversity under global climate change. Follow his blog, updated as and when he can from this remote area.

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