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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.