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Our last field trip was to Harpon Bay. Unfortunately, we managed to pick one of the most rainy days of our whole trip. Nevertheless, we still got some good samples, and even more enjoyed dinner and a warm cup of tea in the evening. The main glacier in Harpon Bay is the Lyell Glacier which is highly covered with debris. It is also a very active glacier with a lot of calving.

 

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Lyell Glacier with meltwater stream and seal wallows


IMG_9199.jpgLyell glacier with ice debris


But, now it is time to say good-bye to South Georgia. After 1-month of extensive sampling, we now have an interesting set of samples to take back to the UK for further analysis. The last two days, we spend cleaning, packing, and getting our samples ready for shipping.

 

We left South Georgia on the James Clark Ross (JCR), one of the British Antarctic Survey's research vessels. The JCR arrived on a windy morning and we were all transferred by jet boat onto it. The JCR left Cumberland Bay as soon as we were onboard, and we waved King Edward Point goody-bye.

 

SG8.jpgLast views of Grytviken (thanks to Barbara for the images)


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King Edward Point Research station


Before the JCR headed towards the Falklands Islands, there was another stop at Bird Island, a small island at the northern tip of South Georgia. A few people joined us from there, and some re-supplies were loaded off. It was a cloudy morning, but Bird Island still looked beautiful. A multitude of birds such as petrels and albatrosses could be seen.

 

After a few hours at Bird Island, we headed for the open sea. While we were on the JCR , we had a chance to visit the labs and find out more about the science happening on the research cruise. We were lucky the sea was pretty calm throughout our journey, and after 3 days we arrived in Stanley, Falksland Islands. From here, we jumped on a plane to get back to London.

 

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Bird Island


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Several albatrosses


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On the JCR in open sea


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JCR in Stanley Harbour, Falkland Islands

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We had the opportunity to carry out sampling on several peninsulas such as Barff, Greene and Thather Peninsula. We were keen to visit as many sites possible for a good geographic coverage, to gain a better understanding of the spatial distribution of microbial taxa, richness and community composition.

 

We are also interested in glacial meltwater run-off on microbial biodiversity, therefore we collected samples near several of South Georgia's glaciers including Harker, Nordenskjöldand Heany Glaciers.


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Nordenskjöld Glacier, Barff Peninsula


IMG_8491.jpgHeany Glacier, Barff Peninsula

 

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Penguins wandering onto Heany Glacier


 

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A Meltwater stream at Heany Glacier

 

We were able tohike to many ofour sampling sites on Thather Peninsula, but in order to get toGreene and Barff Peninsula, we had to be taken by boat. The boat trip were always great as we would get quite close to some of the big icebergs and constaintly cracking and carving glaciers.

IMG_8951.jpgIcebergs near Nordenskjöld Glacier


 

DSCF1286.jpgBoat officers getting a RIB boat ready

 

DSCF1281.jpgWe are getting ready for the boat trip

 

DSCF1300.jpgInside the Harbour Launch


IMG_8265.jpgBoat journey to Barff Peninsula

 

During our multi-day field trips, we would stay at the lovely well-equipped field huts that are maintained all over South Georgia.

IMG_8581.jpgThe hut at St Andrew's Bay

 

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IMG_9034.jpgThe hut at Greene Peninsula

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A field team with members from the Natural History Museum and University of Sheffield will spend five weeks in January to February 2013 at King Edward Point research station in Cumberland Bay on South Georgia, Southern Atlantic Ocean. The project is funded through a Research Grant by the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

 

The aims of the field trip are to collect samples from soils and streams around Cumberland Bay such as Greene and Barff Peninsula to perform a comprehensive characterization of the bacterial and microbial eukaryotic diversity using next generation sequencing. The sample collection will enable to map bacteria and microbial eukaryotic community richness, composition and geographic distribution. Nutrients analysis for especially nitrogen and iron will also be performed to evaluate the relationship between microbial diversity and nutrients present in soils and streams.

 

This is important because bacteria and microbial eukaryotes are a major component of soils, and are essential for maintaining terrestrial ecosystems. Microbes are also important for processing of organic biomass and minerals in the soils, and nutrients generated in the soils can be transported into coastal waters through terrestrial runoff, and could subsequently potentially provide a source of nutrients for phytoplankton and fish in the coastal waters of South Georgia.

 

South Georgia is an island in the southern Atlantic Ocean and located south of the Antarctic Convergence, which is a climatic boundary between air and water masses of the Antarctic and subantarctic regions. South Georgia is around 170 long and between 2 to 40 km wid.

 


map1.jpgSouth Georgia in Southern Atlantic Ocean

 


map2.jpgSouth Georgia and Cumberland Bay (based on BAS map of South Georiga)

 

 

The landscapes of South Georiga characterized by steep barren mountainswith Mount Paget being up to 2.934 m high, numerous large glaciers and snowfields. The vegetation is dominated by mosses, lichen, grasses and a several flowering plant species . Ponds and streams are often rich in algae and mosses (http://www.sgisland.gs).

 

IMG_9101.jpgCumberland Bay

 

 

By the way, here are links to two webcams on South Georgia next the Kind Edward Point station:

 

South Georgia Webcam1

 

 

South Georgia Webcam2


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Author: Kevin

Date: 28 November 2012

Temperature: -4 degrees celcius, sunny and bright

Wind speed: 5 knots

 

We have now been at Cape Evans, the site of Captain Scott's Terra Nova hut for the last three weeks or so. Our daily work pattern is now well established. Morning meeting and radio schedule with Scott Base at 07.30am, then off to work until 11.00am when we stop for first lunch, then work again until 3.00pm when second lunch beckons. Final work period is over at 7.00pm with dinner at around 7.30pm.

 

We take it in turns to cook, so as there are only four of us on site, it comes around pretty quickly, with some people looking forward to it more than others, as spending your day digging out one hundred year old marrow fat lard from tins has been known to dampen the appetite!

 

Over the last week or so we have been lucky to have good weather with temperatures above -5 and lots of sunshine, giving us beautiful views of Mount Erebus and the Barne Glacier. Whilst this may seem good to those far away, it leaves us with a dilemma. We rely on snow banks for our fresh water and keeping our fresh food frozen. The fine weather sees the banks literally melting away in front of our very eyes and we still have two more months on site.

 

This morning our "freezer" was looking decidedly worse for wear so it was time for improvements. More snow was packed on top and around the sides and a better door was fitted. All courtesy of the carpenters used timber stack.

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Freezer looking a bit sorry for itself

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Freezer on its way to a new look (Barne Glacier in the background)

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Part of this year's objectives was to sample cryoconite holes on the Upper Wright Glacier. They are vertical water-filled holes in the gaciers that are up to ca. 1 m in diameter and up to ca. 60 cm deep. At the bottom of these holes there is always a layer of sediment or small rocks, and many of these cryoconite holes have an ice lid. These cryoconite holes are formed by wind-blown dust and small rocks that melt into the ice. Some of our aims are to characterise the microorganisms living in these ice-entombed habitats and evaluate the relationships to microbial communities in other aquatic ecosystems in Antarctica.

 

 

Upper Wright Glacier and the large ice fall that is coming down from the polar plateau

 

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Stunning geological strata

 

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Hunting for croconite holes on Upper Wright Glacier

 

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Ian and Hannah are drilling into a cryoconite hole

 

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Posted by Sarah

 

Date: 20 April 2011
Temperature: -23 Deg C
Wind Speed: 5 Knots
Temp with wind chill: -45 Deg C
Sunrise: 10:49
Sunset 14:54



At the weekend four of us took a day trip to Room with a View to see the sunset. It was an amazing day as the colours in the sky were constantly changing from the moment we left Scott Base until we drove into mist on the way home. The photos don’t really do the place justice as it is hard to capture the 360 degree views, starting in the north with Mt Erebus, Cape Evans and the Dellbridge Islands to the north west, west down the Erebus Ice Tongue and the Trans-Antarctic Mountains, Hut Point Peninsula and Black and White Island to the south and Mt Terror and Mt Terra Nova to the north east.

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Kites at Room with a View © AHT/Sarah

The weather, with just a slight breeze, made it perfect for flying kites. Troy had taken his large kite and skis for some kite skiing.  Victoria had brought her small stunt kite. Skiing was not possible due to the sheer depth of soft snow but both kites were in the air and made a spectacular sight, with the Dellbridge Islands and Cape Evans in the background.

 

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Troy kite skiing © AHT/Sarah

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Storms in Antarctic conservation

Posted by Cricket and Diana Jan 31, 2011

 

Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 15 January 2011
Temperature: -2
Wind Speed: 7 knots
Temp with wind chill:

 

 

Weather is one thing you can never rely on down here.  In December, at Sir Ernest Shackleton's base at Cape Royds in the Ross Sea Region of Antarctica, we had a 5-day storm of biting winds, cold temperatures and snow.  It was exciting at first, but then the daily buildup of snow in my tent and constant winds just lost their magic.  For some reason, I believed that that storm was our first and last.  I guess I thought that we’re in summer now and the weather should be sunny and even balmy during our last couple weeks here.  And, for the most part it has been, but just this week the winds shifted to the south, the temperature rose and we all realized we were in for another one.  This storm was a small one, mostly of blowy snow, and lasted just 2 days. Now that it’s over, it’s amazing to think how such a thing like a small storm affects your psyche.


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Tentsite in the storm © AHT /Cricket


It’s only after a storm that you realize how tiring living through one is.  Working outside is a bother and even the short commute between your tent, the kitchen wannigan, the conservation lab and the hut takes its toll.  It’s a quiet struggle, with your back hunched over and face scrunched up against the wind.  Your clothes get wet from all the snow, you wear your big issue boots, which weigh over 3kg, and everything seems a wee bit more of an effort.  And, when the storm finally leaves, there is a big relief.  The first sight of blue sky and sunlight seems like a marvelous gift that makes you smile.  It’s like seeing things for the first time, and suddenly everyone is just that much happier.  It’s been interesting living and working outside for just that reason – your life is not about news and events but more about what is going on in your immediate world and how vulnerable you are to it all.

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Barne Glacier just after the storm © AHT /Cricket
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Date: 25 December 2010

Posted by: Jamie Clarke

 

 

Out in the field at Captain Scott’s 1910 expedition base, Cape Evans with five colleagues from Antarctic Heritage Trust, I am celebrating my first white Christmas. The day seemed to sneak up on us without the usual barrage of advertising or carols that you would expect in regular life.


Our morning celebrations started with a leisurely breakfast of fried eggs on toast (a special treat considering that we are in the field).   After lunch we divided into two teams for Christmas games – Northern Hemisphere (Randy, Jam and Martin) and Southern Hemisphere (Al, J.T and myself).   J.T organized the games which included the “stick”, “dunnage” toss, (basically caber toss using spare pieces of workshop timber) and the “rope” game, the final result being the Southerners coming out victors!


In the late afternoon we walked up to the top ridge beside the Barne Glacier to enjoy the sunny, still day and awe inspiring panoramic views.


To top the day off, we exchanged gifts through a previously arranged secret Santa.


All in all a Christmas I will never forget!

 

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  Looking at the view from the top ridge beside the Barne Glacier © AHT 2010

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I am going to Antarctica to study cyanobacteria because they are  very important for the ecology of Antarctic freshwater system such as lakes, ponds and meltwater ponds on ice shelves.

 

 

Cyanobacteria were initially described as algae in the 18th century, before scientists realised they were bacteria. Therefore, they are also called Cyanophyta or blue-green algae based on their blue-green coloration.

 

Antarctic cyanobacteria are generally characterised by their ability to cope with the harsh conditions of Antarctica, which include:

 

  • low temperatures
  • ice formation
  • high salt concentrations
  • several months of darkness during the Antarctic winter
  • high ultraviolet radiation during the summer
  • large variations in nutrient supply
  • Many Antarctic cyanobacteria produce antifreeze compounds and UV screens and are able to grow with very limited nutrients.

 

 

 

Cyanobacteria colonise Antarctic freshwater sediments, and  biofilms are formed when cyanobacteria  grow to such a high number that they form a continuous layer on top of a substrate. As they are filamentous - hair-like - they form a web or three-dimensional matrix.

 

They stay attached to the substrate by producing sticky substances. These so-called exopolymeric substances also enhance the matrix-structures.

Once the matrix structure is formed, other bacteria and microbial eukaryotes colonise the cyanobacterial biofilms and it becomes a microbial mat.

Microbial mats are characterised by a vertical stratification of different microorganisms. The chemical and physical gradients along the mat matrix are a result of the different metabolic activities of the inhabiting organisms and surrounding environmental conditions.

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Cyanobacterial mat community

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Cyanbacterial mat community in a meltwater pond on the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica

 

 

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Cyanobacteria isolated from a meltwater pond on the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica

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Posted by Cricket

 

Date: 6 October 2010
Temperature: -15C
Wind Speed: 40 knots
Temp with wind chill:
Sunrise: 5:30am
Sunset 9:50pm

 

Sundays are our day off at New Zealand’s Scott Base, and, when the weather permits, these are the best days to set off on longer hikes.  There are a series of marked trails throughout the southern tip of Ross Island, one being a hike up to Observation Hill that Diana featured in previous blog, and another is called the Cape Armitage Loop.  Last Sunday, a friend and I walked the 8k trail that took us out in front of Scott Base, along a flagged route over the sea ice to the U.S. McMurdo Base.  It is an open and flat route that affords views of the distant Trans-Antarctic mountain range, and White and Black Islands, and follows along the back side of Observation Hill.

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Trail System on the Southern Tip of Ross Island © AHT/Cricket


The trail is named after Albert Borlase Armitage, who joined R.F. Scott’s 1901-1904 Discovery expedition from the merchant service and served as Scott’s navigator and second-in-command.  Among other accomplishments, Armitage successfully led the Western Journey, becoming the first to ascend the Ferrar Glacier and reach the summit of Antarctica.  This was quite a feat considering that his party consisted of seaman who had little cold weather and no climbing experience.  One author said that before this journey, the highest any man from that party had ever climbed was up the mast of a ship.  Though likely an exaggeration, it serves as a helpful reminder that most of Scott’s men had never before experienced anything like the Antarctic terrain and climate.

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View of McMurdo from Cape Armitage Loop © AHT/Cricket

 

Armitage’s Western Journey was quite difficult and the party suffered fierce blizzards, altitude sickness, and one even a heart attack.  Surprisingly, all survived and returned safely to the Discovery base camp.  Knowing a little of the history, I smile at the irony of the Cape Armitage Loop name, for the trek is a tranquil and relatively easy route that, as advertised, offers solitude and escape.  And, it conveniently ends near the coffee shop at McMurdo where you can sit back and have an easy rest of the day with a big mug of hot chocolate.
 

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Posted by Diana

 

Date: 21 September 2010
Temperature: -20 Celsius
Wind Speed: 25 knots
Temp with wind chill: -40 degrees c
Sunrise: 6:48
Sunset 18:49

 

This week I worked on an interesting artefact. It was a ration bag which would generally have held food product for the members of Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition 1910-1913. However, this bag turned out to have rocks and a tiny folded piece of paper. On the paper was a pencil written note that said Moraine Ferrar G.

 

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Before treatment  © AHT/Diana

 

 

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After treatment © AHT/Diana


We forwarded this information to Natalie, a curator at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, who has a wealth of information about Antarctic exploration and is familiar with the hand writing of the members of Scott’s party. On first impression Natalie’s “ thought was it was Debenham's writing - he went to the Ferrar January 1911 and then again later in the expedition. He also wrote extensively on the Ferrar region after the expedition”.  Frank Debenham was on Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition of 1910-1913.This information would have to be confirmed by hand writing comparison with other identified Debenham manuscripts and is best done using the originals in both cases but still very exciting.

 

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So what started out as a very ordinary treatment proved very rewarding seeing the actual hand writing from what could be one of Scott’s expedition members.