Category Archives: cameras

WOW! People love counting penguins!

Penguin Watch (www.penguinwatch.org) is live – tell your friends, children etc! Already wonderful volunteers have classified about 8000 images to completion (when several people’s clicks agree, the image gets retired).

Thanks so much to Quark Expeditions, who have donated a trip to Antarctica. The hope is that this will really get the message out and encourage new people to take part.

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As I get time, I’ll post some of the most interesting pictures that people are flagging up as interesting, curious or beautiful.

To start, here’s Port Lockroy in an Autumnal blizzard:

http://zooniverse-static.s3.amazonaws.com/www.penguinwatch.org/subjects/standard/5538bbb9ab760304c9011607.JPG

Probably gentoos returning from the sea at Petermann – we tried a highway camera a little while ago:

Also, people are flagging up images that are out of the ordinary, like this. The unexpected can be particularly interesting:

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A sheathbill on Danco Island in the middle of winter- definitely not meant to be here!

Thanks to everyone out there who is clicking, and to dedicated volunteers like Zsuzi, AvastMH, NickyPeng and Vroni, the superusers who have been moderating everyone on this.

Thank you!

The Antarctic Peninsula in Glorious Sunshine.

While I hate to give the impression that this is all fun and games, we’ve been having some wonderful weather here.

It’s the penultimate trip and Hila is on board, who has just started a DPhil (PhD) in monitoring diseases in penguins. It’s not her first experience of penguins; she did an MSc on gentoo penguins and after a break in the real world (as if!), she’s now expanding to more penguins and to policy – relevant monitoring.

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We just got back to last year’s satellite camera on the Yalour Islands and serviced it. It was still transmitting a month ago, but it looks like Al will now have to reboot it from London. We installed a new battery, so fingers crossed it will be good for at least another year. The idea is that these cameras will be good enough to leave for three years at a time.

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“The most awful place in the world.” James Cook, 1775

“A scary, serious paradise of penguins.” Tom Hart, 2014

Chinstrap penguins porpoise off Candlemas Island, South Sandwich

Chinstrap penguins porpoise off Candlemas Island, South Sandwich

Hi All, usual apologies for the delay, lots has happened.

The team has been incredibly busy, mostly on the Antarctic Peninsula, but also around the Scotia Arc (South Georgia, South Sandwich, South Orkneys and the Peninsula). I’ll resume the story in Ushuaia. Caitlin Black has flown out back to the UK and Gemma Clucas from Southampton University has flown in. In addition to helping with the cameras, Gemma will also be collecting samples for her PhD.

The South Sandwich Islands are a chain of volcanoes that arc around from East of South Georgia to East of the South Orkney Islands. They are volcanic and all active to some degree. Because they lie in such rich krill waters, they are a paradise for penguins, with millions of chinstrap and Adelie penguins. I’m privileged enough to have been there twice before
(https://penguinlifelines.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/south-sandwich-islands/) and (https://penguinlifelines.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/gearing-up-for-saunders-south-sandwich-islands/) and I’m in love and terrified by these islands in equal parts.

A visualization of earthquakes since 1898 neatly outlines the Scotia Plate to the North of the Antarctic Peninsula http://uxblog.idvsolutions.com/2012/06/earthquakes-since-1898.html

A visualization of earthquakes since 1898 neatly outlines the Scotia Plate to the North of the Antarctic Peninsula
http://uxblog.idvsolutions.com/2012/06/earthquakes-since-1898.html

It’s almost completely unrepresented in the scientific literature, but is essential to understanding observed changes in the krill transport chain impact of fisheries on penguins further West.

We join the Sea Spirit in Ushuaia, with a new team we’ve heard a lot about, but not worked with.

The Sea Spirit in Royal Bay, South Georgia.

The Sea Spirit in Royal Bay, South Georgia.

A spectacular voyage lies ahead, visiting the Falklands and South Georgia before the South Sandwich. With such a spectacular prize, it’s difficult not to wish away the start. The weather is kind, with some rain and wind in the Falklands, but nothing bad.

Gentoo penguins in the Falklands

Gentoo penguins in the Falklands

West Point, Falkland Islands with Black Browed Albatross overhead.

West Point, Falkland Islands with Black Browed Albatross overhead.

On route to South Georgia, we manage a photo census of Shag Rocks; part of our ongoing effort to monitor more colonies and understand the Southern Ocean dynamics. Shags are particularly sensitive to disturbance, making them a vital indicator.

Carrying out a photo census of Shag Rocks in perfect conditions.

Carrying out a photo census of Shag Rocks in perfect conditions.

We had a blissful, perfect five days on South Georgia, managing to get back to some of the cameras we placed in October and conduct more photo censuses.

King penguins at Gold Harbour (Gemma Clucas)

King penguins at Gold Harbour (Gemma Clucas)

But, just as we were due to leave South Georgia, a really large storm came through. We delayed a little, departed, turned back and then finally got under way again. Captain Oleg made a great decision and after another day at sea, the familiar shape of Saunders Island appeared on the radar and on the horizon. Wow!

Steam rolls of the side of Saunders Island in the South Sandwich. The camera was upright, and was still working until 10 days before we arrived. We serviced it so that it should be good for another three years. At this point, we were trying to work out where the nearest humans were – probably on the International Space Station.

I can't quite believe being back - geothermal steam rolls up the hill past a massive colony of chinstrap penguins (Photo: Dave Riorden)

I can’t quite believe being back – geothermal steam rolls up the hill past a massive colony of chinstrap penguins (Photo: Dave Riorden)

Spring hits the South Sandwich Islands - an image from the seaward facing camera.

Spring hits the South Sandwich Islands – an image from the seaward facing camera.

We had two days in South Sandwich, revisiting Candlemas for the first time since the 2011 survey. We left with a wealth of data to go through and immense pride, not to mention exhaustion. Dr Jo was threatening sedation unless I slept by the end…

(Brown) Trousers Rock off Vindication Island in January 2011; what the South Sandwich Islands usually looks like.

(Brown) Trousers Rock off Vindication Island in January 2011; what the South Sandwich Islands usually looks like.

...and in December 2014 on an incredible, calm day.

…and in December 2014 on an incredible, calm day.

A spectacular iceberg of Vindication Island with a leopard seal patrolling. The seal was calling for a mate. When we turned off the engine, we could hear it through the bottom of the boat.

A spectacular iceberg of Vindication Island with a leopard seal patrolling. The seal was calling for a mate. When we turned off the engine, we could hear it through the bottom of the boat.

A king penguin in the middle of the Scotia Sea, miles from home.

A king penguin in the middle of the Scotia Sea, miles from home.

As if the South Sandwich Islands weren’t enough, the weather teases us with the possibility of a landing (and camera) at Elephant Island. I’ve attempted this four times and always been blown out. However, I should have had faith in Captain Oleg and the luck of the Sea Spirit! We landed and placed a camera, making the monitoring network I’ve been trying to create for the last five years essentially complete.

Thanks Team!  The Sea Spirit team at Point Wild, the overwintering site of Shackleton's men on the Endurance expedition.

Thanks Team!
The Sea Spirit team at Point Wild, the overwintering site of Shackleton’s men on the Endurance expedition.

Gemma and I leave the Sea Spirit in Ushuaia with a lot of new friends and some bewildering, spectacular shared experiences. Thanks guys – there’s no finer team in the Southern Ocean!

More cameras – cool pictures.

8th January, 2014

Caitlin my MRes student, camera guru in training and all-round hard worker has joined us on the Ocean Diamond. For the last year, she’s been working on the images that these cameras generate, clicking on penguins and scoring sea-ice. It’s by no means her first work on penguins, but she’s never been to Antarctica, so it’s exciting to experience her first trip. While on board, her job will be to help reorientate cameras in light of her analyses, making sure that we get the best we can from these. Moreover, she’s got used to one very specific view of a lot of the colonies, so it’s a good chance to see what’s behind the camera. Before she joined, I’ve been going through the images we’ve collected since last season, which are proving excellent. The only bad news is that both of the cameras on Booth Island failed. One of these was a long-term success story, but so far all of the others have worked very well. Here’s a few:

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Chinstrap penguins arrive at Orne Harbour in November. They look like they regret it.

Chinstrap penguins arrive at Orne Harbour in November. They look like they regret it.

Emperor penguins at Gould Bay, Weddell Sea, showing chicks with less than a month to go before fledging.

Emperor penguins at Gould Bay, Weddell Sea, showing chicks with less than a month to go before fledging.

Gentoo penguins arrive at Danco Island, Errera Channel. Sea and brash ice is still visible in the background. Often gentoos will come and go throughout the winter.

Gentoo penguins arrive at Danco Island, Errera Channel. Sea and brash ice is still visible in the background. Often gentoos will come and go throughout the winter.

Also, here’s a video showing some of the set-up.
[wpvideo ef9a88Xp]

Cameras and whales

27th Dec 2013

So far, so good! The cameras we’ve got to have survived the winter and seem to be performing well. We’re ticking off the sites north of the Lemaire and so far as I look through the images, they seem to have collected some excellent data. This winter was a huge year for sea ice, so it’s really important that we have good data to compare with the norm. We’re interested in the timing of breeding in particular and how that might have been delayed. My early impression is that the Adelies and Chinstraps were delayed, but Gentoos not really.

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We’ve set up cameras at a few more sites, and also tried to calibrate the colours within image with true colour. Paul is on board testing this, which involves him walking around the colony with a long stick with a colour standard on it. He then aims it at a penguin and takes a photo. I’m not sure the guests on board have figured it out – why he’s ruining otherwise excellent penguin photos with a stick. The goal would be to be able to measure what he does from my own automated (year-round) cameras.

High - vis clothing really works in the gloom. Here Paul heads back to the main group.

High – vis clothing really works in the gloom. Here Paul heads back to the main group.

We’re now on the Drake heading home again, and have been fortunate to have some excellent wildlife encounters. Just when we thought it was over, some spectacular humpbacks came and hung around the ship. Captain Oleg stopped the ship and we had about an hour of spectacular viewing.

It’s been great to rejoin the OD crew – there’s a fantastic team ethic on this ship and it’s great seeing old friends while working- it feels all the more special for having a (nearly) common purpose. Shane and the team have been hugely accommodating of the scaffold poles and paraphernalia that I’ve brought on board.

Humpback whale, Drake Passage, quite close to the South Shetland Islands. Humpbacks are so called for how they arch their backs when diving.

Humpback whale, Drake Passage, quite close to the South Shetland Islands. Humpbacks are so called for how they arch their backs when diving.

Also demonstrated here.

Also demonstrated here.