54 17'S 036 30'W. South Georgia, Southern Ocean.

Follow Matt Kenney during his deployment in South Georgia, working as a Boating Officer and Coxswain for the British Antarctic Survey.

Read Matt's posts with news, reviews and extracts from his Journals, and see photo and video posts to show you some of the work the Antarctic Survey are doing in the Southern Ocean, and also provide an insight into life on a British Antarctic research station.

Matt will also provide accounts of his work at sea and ashore on Humber Destroyer RHIBs and 11m twin jet drive Pilot vessels along side the team at the King Edward Point research facility.

Matt arrived in South Georgia on the 28th October 2010.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


Round about 17:30 last night, the sun became low and warm and the mountains hove out of the low cloud and the Kelp in the cove became a rusty summer gold.  I decided it was a great evening to take the camera out on to the beach just outside Larsen House to get some shots of the local residents.  There was a small gang of King Penguins preening among a harem of Elephant Seals and pups and the odd Fur Seal too, which is standard for the area surrounding the station.  There are also lots of birds, including the Skua which you can see in the photos who came to torment the Weiners.  See below some of the results.  I hope to tell you guys a bit more about these critters soon.

.......Today was more Extended passages on the Jet Boats, so stay tuned for the blog asap.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

St Andrews Bay Boat trip

Friday bought with it Ashley and I's first boating operations into the "extended boating limit".  The EBL is an expanded area where special boating operations are required further from base.  There are afew protocols to adhere to when executing trips further afield.  The normal routine, dependent on requirements, is to take 2 jet boats with DOTTY (the 2.5m tender) for beach landings, or as was the case on Friday a jet boat and one of the Humber RHIBs which can carry out beach landings themselves.
We began at 0800, loading the requisite equipment, including a full field kit to support the personnel should we have to seek refuge due to mechanical failure, or inclement weather, and personal equipment.  The kits include emergency food rations, water, maps, compasses, medical supplies, a Primus stove, matches, goggles, gloves, spare warm clothing etc, as well as the standard equipment for all boat operations; a boat suit, gloves, and Personal Locator Beacons.  The locator devices are beacons which can be activated in the event of a man overboard and transmit a signal on 121.5Mhz.  This signal can be received by the jet boat which uses a radio direction finder and provides the coxswain with a bearing from the vessels head to the MOB.  The waters around South Georgia are currently between 1 and 3 degrees centigrade, so swift recovery is a must, despite the thermal protection provided by the boat suits.

The purpose of the trip this time was to take the invasive flora specialist Kelvin, and the Government Officer Kieran to some site located on the East Coast of SG, so we took a route North out of King Edward Cove, into Cumberland Bay, rounded Right Whale Rock and proceeded South to Ocean Harbour and Cobblers Cove.  The trip is 24nm each way, and takes the ribs about 50 minutes in good conditions to get to St Andrews, and the same to come back.  Ashley took command of PRION, the jet Boat, and I cox'd LUNA, the specced Humber Defender.  LUNA is equipped for longer journeys with an extra jockey seat for crew, and a self righting device on the A-Frame.  The weather was good, but once we rounded the cape of Barff Peninsular the swell was running up to a couple of metres, and it was hard work (although very good fun) driving the 5.5mtr through the seas, and keeping her from getting airbourne!

Once on site, the GO and Kelvin embarked onto Luna and I took them ashore.  Landing personnel on a beach is a straight forward affair, the boat is driven close to the beach, the crewman trims the engines to reduce the draft and the coxswain eases her in, and once the bow is grounded, the engines are engaged in slow ahead to keep her steady.  The guys and equipment are disembarked over the tubes forrard.  Kelp and surf are the main issues, as well as finding a section of beach which is not too populated by Fur Seals or agressive Bull elephant Seals.  Its no good putting the guys ashore safely only for them to end up between two 4 ton males fighting!!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Weeklies, Monthlies and Furries!

Hi Guys.  The weekend is finally over, and my liver survived.  We had a Bonfire on the beach (photos to follow) and Sunday, the Pharos was in and it was Roman, the Chief Officer's birthday so we were invited aboard for a barbeque.
First order of the day was base meeting.  Every Monday we all meet in the dinning room after breakfast to discuss Shipping Movements, notices, events, problems etc.  Its a good opportunity to convey information and organise your week around things.  Once the base meeting was over, Richie (the Electrical engineer) provided some fire drill training to the new winterers, then once complete, George and I were rota'd to assist the Mech with refuelling the day tanks for the Boilers, and then assist the sparkies with testing the fire alarms.  Its a straight forward process, and not a particularly exciting one.  It really is a case of monitoring the pump and lines in the fuel store during the refuel, and then standing by the panel in the Laboratory building silencing, resetting, and confirming via VHF radio that the correct alarm sounded.
The remainder of the day was spent on the jet boats.  All the boats in our fleet here undergo a great deal of planned maintenance.  Each has daily (pre-start), weekly and monthly interval checks, as well as 3 monthly, 6 monthly and yearly.  Each schedule is computerised and the computer generates work orders stating which service is required, and for which boats.  PIPIT and PRION got both there 3 monthly and weekly check ups today as they are both due.  No significant problems were found with either vessel and they were given a clean bill of health, although I am keen to loose a bit of weight to aid scrambling around in the confined engine spaces!
The afternoon was spent on DOTTY (the 2.5m tender with a 3.3hp outboard) as I assisted with a modification to the tide guage which is clamped to the seaward face of the quayside.  it was easy enough to remove, despite the bolts being corroded in the salt water.  I drove the tender round the bay after the work had completed to give the motor a good run as the tender gets very little use.
This evening after dinner, Ashley, Rob (the base commander) and I took a walk round to Sooty Bluff, the most Eastern extent within the single-person travel limits (more on these later).  Its a nice spot, and very close to base.  We took Bodgers (otherwise know as Broom sticks) to fend off any hostile fur seals.  Fur Seals are beginning to return ashore after some time breeding at sea, and they are far more aggressive than most Elephant Seals.  They seemingly prefer to lie amongst the tussock grass and leap out as you pass with an aggressive deep growl.  The bodger is designed to tickle there whiskers, which usually frightens them off.  If your cornered un-armed by a large Fur Seal then you can get a nasty bite.  Quick little critters too.
Sorry for the lack of photos this time guys, I have struggled for time to process any.  They will follow.  Signing off for tonight, but wishing you all a great Tuesday!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Cumberland Bay Boating

Me driving the Jet Launch from the wheel house (much warmer!)
Today was mostly spent at sea.  Around 1000, Ashley, George, Les, Tommy, Alastair and Myself went out into Cumberland Bay for a familiarisation exercise on PIPPIT, one of the Jet Launches.  Cumberland Bay is quite an extensive waterway, it is scattered with coves, bays, Fjords and Glacier faces, but despite its sheer beauty, it is also our new working ground and there are some beach landing sites, amongst other operating areas, which Ashley and I will be expected to use to land Scientists ashore, or travel to for other reasons.  Therefore familiarity with it is paramount, as the weather here is famously unpredictable at times, and it is very easy to be caught in heavy fog, strong Katabatic winds off the mountains and Glaciers, or even a blizzard.  Should we be caught in such conditions, we need to be able to navigate the vessel back to base using the Radar predominantly.

Mercer Bay - Absolutely stunning in real life!
Nordenskjold with a larger piece of glacier ice in the foreground.
I realised yet another 'first' today by navigating the Sea Ice around the Nordenskold Glacier in Cumberland Bay East.  Its very similar to operating the vessel in Kelp strewn areas; i.e. you reduce the vessel's speed, but keep the engines running well above idle RPMs making the vessel more responsive to imputs to the jets, allowing you to quickly stop, turn, go astern or whatever manoeuvre is required to avoid the larger brash ice or "bergy bits".  The smaller pieces of sea ice can be taken at speed, despite the off-putting resonant bumps and scrapes of ice colliding with the aluminium hull.  The stem is ice strengthened, and the boats are well suited to operating around South Georgia waters, but George and Paula (the superstar out-going boatmen) have had to make some modifications.  The cold water intakes which cool the Yanmar Diesels can get clogged if operating in slush ice, so they took a hose from the ancillary port on the jet units which now diverts high pressure water through the strainer units when required.  It is operated by a ball valve in the engine space, and has apparently eliminated the problem.

Once we returned ashore, it was time for Smoko and then the weekly scrub out.  We all split into teams and get allocated areas of the accomodation block to clean, dust and tidy...... Im now taking a break with the crew in the lounge as I write this, and shortly were off to the beach for a bonfire and a beer.... a perfect end to another great day.

Nordenskjold Glacier

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

RSS James Clark Ross

Yesterday saw the arrival of the RRS JAMES CLARK ROSS to South Georgia.  The JCR is a Scientific support and replenishment vessel owned and operated by BAS, and keeps a busy schedule running supplies to all the Antarctic Stations and running research cruises around the Southern Ocean.  A good friend of mine, Dave King, who helped me enormously with invaluable advice before my deployment,  worked on her as the Chief Officer for a number of years, so I can say to him I have finally met the old girl, and not only that but helped berth her alongside.  Very often when larger vessels come into the cove, the Boatmen of South Georgia are asked to assist by using an RHIB as a line handler.  So me and Ashley donned our dry boat suits and I drove the ALERT out into the cove to tend to her two Head Lines.  A crewman lowers the warp (with no messenger lines attached in this case) onto the bow of the RHIB which is then motored to the required anchor point on the shore and passed to the shore team who make the line fast to heavy ground tackle.

Today she was delivering her cargo of supplies for King Edward Point.  These supplies will be the bulk of the support for the station for the next year, although, the PHAROS will be available often enough for small replenishments.  We spent the day unloading tons of food, boat spares, office supplies, medical supplies, toiletries, beer, wine, spirits... You name it we now have it.  No rest today either, as all cargo needed to be removed from crates and all packaging and waste segregated and processed for recycling and the items checked against the orders and put away.
Today was fairly hard work getting everything booked in and put away, so Katie, Ashley and I took a walk up to Gull Lake after work.  Its been another wonderful day of sunshine, and the lake was very peaceful as the sun went below the mountains.  Heres some pictures of the JCR coming away last evening - mainly for Mr King :-) - She could not stay longer as she has a very tight schedule this year due to delays in a shipyard up the Tyne earlier this year.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Mount Duse.

Yesterday was a pretty active day for me.  I spent the morning walking round to Grytviken (the old abandoned Whaling station in King Edward Cove) and continued on up to Gull Lake. Gull Lake is accessed via a steep gravel track from Grytviken, and feeds our Hydro-plant (the Hydro-Electric power plant for the base) as well as providing a sanctuary for the Prions.  It was very peaceful up there on my own, but I learnt to be wary of the strong Katabatic winds which funnel down the valley from Mount Paget.  You can see the gust front hit the lake ahead for you, then an icy blast wraps you up and knocks your balance if your not careful. The walk there and back was about 10km after I detoured.
Part of the old whaling station at Grytviken
I should have spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing but we had arranged the night before for a few of us to climb Mount Duse.  I was very keen, but apprehensive, as until this point I had only scaled Portsdown Hill; and that was in a car.  Mount Duse is directly adjacent to the base, and is about 1300 feet or so, which does not make it the tallest on South Georgia, but it is very steep and the ascent is mainly Scree Rock.  Katie (fisheries scientist), Matt (electro mechanical techy), Ashley (partner in boating), Luke (fisheries scientist), Kelvin (invasive floral species controller) and myself (boatman) went up, and the more experienced climbers where great at being patient and guiding the way up through the scree strewn faces and tight, steep and rocky gullies.  The Scree can be tough, especially towards the summit, where it is loose packed and falls away underneath you as you climb.

From just below the summit
Looking South from the first plateau, with Cumberland bay and Grytviken in the foreground, and Gull Lake beyond.
My first Mountain Summit :-)

Journey South - Photo update

Hey guys, as promised, a selection of Photographs from my Journey South........
38,000ft above the Equator

Our Aircraft in Ascension Island

My Cabin on Pharos SG

Captain K Whittaker of the FPV PHAROS SG


Petrel and Albatross

Lenticular cloud forms

Fortuna Glacier

Me, Katie and our first IceBerg!

Cumberland Bay

The Boat shed.  My office for the next 13 months.

The Base, taken from the Pharos as we entered Cumberland Bay.

The previous over winterers giving us a welcome!!

Matt Kenney 2010.