Life in the Field- Two Months in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Antarctica

Penguin Lifeline's own Tom Hart and Caitlin Black explore an ice cave at Fortuna Bay after a long day of surveying king penguins.

Penguin Lifeline’s own Tom Hart and Caitlin Black explore an ice cave at Fortuna Bay after a long day of surveying king penguins. Photo by Roland Gockel

After two months in the field on two different vessels, we can finally update you on some of the progress we have made on our camera project and survey efforts in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and the Antarctic Peninsula.

The trip began in Stanley, Falkland Islands where we accomplished endless hardware shopping, picking up shipments of cameras and batteries from all over the world, and meeting with collaborators working on projects in the Falklands and South Georgia. We also managed to set up two cameras overlooking King and Gentoo penguins while on the islands.

The beautiful Hans Hansson anchored at Stromness in South Georgia.

The beautiful Hans Hansson anchored at Stromness in South Georgia. Photo by Caitlin Black

After a very busy week, we disembarked on the Hans Hansson- a beautiful 23 m. yacht- with Dion Poncet and Juliette Hennequin as our wonderful hosts.

IMG_7358

Relaxing on the aft deck of the Hans Hansson.

After a long 4 days at sea, we landed at Elsehul on South Georgia and began collecting data.

Throughout the trip we worked to set up new time-lapse cameras, count birds by taking oblique photos, and 3D map sites to better understand how penguins succeed or fail when building nests under different topographical conditions.

We were fortunate that the beauty of South Georgia made even our count photos extraordinary momentums.

King penguins count survey photo from Right Whale Bay

King penguins count survey photo from Right Whale Bay

While in South Georgia, we were able to install 15 new cameras, overlooking colonies of gentoo, king, and macaroni penguins as well as both fur and elephant seals. We hope to better understand the annual cycle of each of these species from the cameras and how changes to the timing of the breeding phase is influenced by environmental variables.

DSC_0269

Macaroni penguins nesting at Cooper Bay, South Georgia. Photo by Caitlin Black

A female elephant seal relaxes with her pup on the beach in St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia.

A female elephant seal relaxes with her pup on the beach in St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia. Photo by Caitlin Black

Using a very long pole and a GoPro camera, we mapped penguin colonies, which will later be used to generate a 3D model of each colony or sub-colony studied using the time-lapse cameras.

Tom Hart uses a GoPro and long pole to map a chinstrap penguin colony at Orne Harbour on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Tom Hart uses a GoPro and long pole to map a chinstrap penguin colony at Orne Harbour on the Antarctic Peninsula.

An example of an image resulting from pole mapping a gentoo penguin colony at Ocean Harbour, South Georgia. Note our time-lapse camera also present in the mapping photos.

An example of an image resulting from pole mapping a gentoo penguin colony at Ocean Harbour, South Georgia. Note our time-lapse camera also present in the mapping photos.

The trip ended with Orca sightings and a visit to Shag Rocks to count the thousands of blue-eyed shags that nest on these remote islands.

Thousands of blue-eyed shags nest on shag rocks, a series of islands off the coast of South Georgia.

Thousands of blue-eyed shags nest on shag rocks, a series of islands off the coast of South Georgia. Photo by Caitlin Black

Once back in Stanley, we hopped aboard Quark’s Ocean Diamond and headed back to South Georgia, still anticipating more time on the island. Once there, we were able to maintain the cameras that were installed a couple weeks prior and pick up data in the form of tens of thousands of images.

Gentoos nesting at Cooper Bay, South Georgia are photographed every hours by a time-lapse camera installed this field season.

Gentoos nesting at Cooper Bay, South Georgia are photographed every hours by a time-lapse camera installed this field season.

After a few days at Fortuna Bay, Stromness, Grytvikken, Gold Harbour, and Cooper Bay on South Georgia, we were back at sea, this time headed to the Antarctic Peninsula. First, we landed on the South Shetland Islands to visit two chinstrap penguin cameras we have installed on Half Moon Island.

Time-lapse camera overlooking a chinstrap penguin colony, maintained on Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands.

Time-lapse camera overlooking a chinstrap penguin colony, maintained on Half Moon Island, South Shetland Islands.

We eventually made it to Antarctica and were able to set up three new cameras overlooking gentoos and chinstraps on Petermann Island and Booth Island.

Gentoo penguins nesting on Booth Island, one of the most stunning sites on the peninsula.

Gentoo penguins nesting on Booth Island, one of the most stunning sites on the peninsula. Photo by Caitlin Black

Just as exciting as the camera installation was the chance to collect data from cameras that had been running for an entire year and realize the camera was still intact and collecting data.

Image of Adélie and gentoo penguins nesting on Petermann Island, Antarctic Peninsula from one of our time-lapse cameras installed on the Island.

Image of Adélie and gentoo penguins nesting on Petermann Island, Antarctic Peninsula from one of our time-lapse cameras installed on the Island.

Alas, we headed to Ushuaia to end the trip and begin the next. There are always more cameras to maintain, birds to counts, and samples to take as our team continues the field season for two more months with additional trips to South Georgia, the South Sandwich Islands, and Antarctica ahead.

3 thoughts on “Life in the Field- Two Months in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Antarctica

  1. Fiona

    Looks and sounds awesome Tom. Very jealous. Say Hi to anyone from Quark that knows me, and hello to my special penguins on Petermann next time you see them. Hopefully I’ll be back next season.

  2. Spocki

    I’m just back from a cruise on MV Fram – was excited to visit some of the places I already knew from penguinwatch.org and see them live.

Comments are closed.