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.

Monday, 28 November 2011

RAF Airdrop

The Royal Air Force has finally succeeded in delivering some supplied for the OTEP project currently underway on the Barff and Busen peninsulas (blog update to follow)

The much thwarted drop arrived on time from MPA which in a Hurcules transport aircraft takes a round trip of 6 hours, and requires an in-flight refuel from a VC-10.

Ashley marked the drop zone with an orange smoke float and once the package had parachuted safely in to the sea, was picked up by Tom, Pat and I on the RIB.  The chute and other sundry bits of gear will be returned to the RAF via an HM Warship which we are expecting sometime in the next month or two.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Catch up 2 - October

In this, the second of my "catch up" reports, I will be looking back on a very busy month. In many ways it was October that really put the blogging behind schedule as it was this month that saw the RRS JAMES CLARKE ROSS arrive on "first call" and with it the arrival of our new wintering team. It was still quite cold at the beginning of the month despite spring being upon us.

The cold weather still apparent.  This is LUNA's re-righting cylinder after an hour at sea.

The incumbents are: Ernie Duston - Replacing Matt Holmes as the Facilities Engineer, James Wake, replacing Rob Webster as the Base Commander and John Weissman replacing Sam Crimmin as the base Doctor.

The short period after the activities the month previous, and the arrival of the JCR allowed enough time for me to take a short break away from base. The government officer, Robert Patterson, Heritage Trust curatorial assistant, Katie Murray and myself took a short break to the Greene Peninsular. The Greene sits adjacent to the base, between the thatcher and barff peninsulas and is segrogated from the mainland by two Glaciers - The Nordenskjold and the Harker. The peninsula itself is fairly steep with lowlands skirting its perimeter. There are a couple of peaks to climb including a very easy walk up Eosin Hill, where a moderate traverse can be made to the South to climb the un named peak further along the ridge. This peak gives spectacular views over the Glaciers.
Katie on the ridge 

After being dropped off by RIB on the beach, we set up camp by the old survival hut situated on the North West side of the Greene. It is a good place to camp as there is a fresh water stream next door which provides tasty drinking water, the hut is well equipped with stove, lantern, food and supplies and view is spectacular across Cumberland East bay. We spent the afternoon of day 1 setting up camp and collecting fire wood from the beach. There are no trees on South Georgia, and natural driftwood is very rare. However some years ago there was a severe storm which wrecked two fishing vessels on the Moraine Fjord bar situated at the north west end of Greene which over the years have deposited some timber on the beaches around the Fjord. This makes great fire wood to keep warm on fridged evenings.

Day two took us up on the mountainous spine of the peninsula as we climbed Eosin hill and then made north along the ridge. We stopped for a lunch of chocolate, biscuit browns and dried fruit, then doubled back and came down the steep north face of Eosin on the the beach near Mcmahon rock. From there it was a steady coastal walk back to the vicinity of the hut which was perhaps 2 or 3 miles. That evening we made a fire and had ration packs and wine for dinner.
The Harker glacier to the left - Hamburg Glacier to the right.

The third day we started early and hiked the length of the West coast up to the Glacier. En route we came across a number of Elle Harems and also witnessed a violent fight between two Bulls. This was Katies first real encounter with South Georgia's elephant seal population, and she commented on our own fragile mortality stood on a beach watching the equivalent of 2 transit vans scrapping only perhaps 50 feet away! After doing our fair share of sneaking and fast walking however, we eventually arrived at the foot of the Harker Glacier. The Harker is an impressive glacier, which with its shear spikes and icy minarettes resembles something conjured from Tolkien's Middle Earth. We set up a mini camp and cooked a lunch of Chilli Con Carne over the optimus stove washed down with fresh coffee. While we sat and watched we witnessed quite a large calving from the ice face, and literally thousands of tons of Ice plummeted into the sea. I also happened to have my camera ready at the time, so check out the video below.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Catch up 1 - September

Greetings folks. The one or two of you who still check this blog occasionally will have noticed that posts have been few and far between once again. This is for a hundred or so poor reasons, but principal of which is the fact that time here just passes so quickly. I feel its time to blog some updates especially if its been afew weeks since last I put fingers to keyboard, but its becoming clear that weeks in my head equivocate months in the real world. I notice for example that the last post I did was September, although I would bet a pound to a pinch of salt that a mere 3 or 4 weeks had passed.

5.5m Humber RIB LUNA blown off her trailer
September is an interesting time at KEP. It is fast becoming the end of winter, the wildlife is returning and the prospect of the first real thaw for months is rapidly becoming a reality. This september, the weather remained harsh at times with some very severe gales. As you can see from the photos below, winds of over 80mph can cause chaos. The RIBs had been out of the boatshed to make room for one of the Jetboats which we had slipped the day before to carry out some planned maintenance. Based on the forecast we were expecting wind but perhaps not quite as much, therefore the boats where not tied down. It took 4 of us and a JCB about an hour to re-right / recover the boats, replace LUNA back on her trailer and tie the boats down. On this occasion we tied one to the 3 ton jetboat trailer and the other to the containers. The wind continued to blow throughout and we all got snow in every conceivable place!

Katie... just before I couldnt see her anymore!
To continue the theme of bad weather and driving snow, for the first time this year, Katie and I had to abandon a walk to Maiviken. We had set off in reasonable conditions bound for the sealers cave at Maiviken so we could watch the nesting Gentoo Penguins coming in to roost. However once making our way up bore valley the visibility dropped to almost zero with 45 knot winds driving snow in to white out conditions. We are very familiar with the area, and made the decision to turn back to base before the underfoot got a little trickier the other side of Deadmans Pass. The drifts were also very deep, so walking was near impossible. On the way back we took refuge in the Church House at Grytviken as enjoyed a lunch of Army Issue Biscuit Browns and Chocolate.

The NATHANIAL B PALMER at anchor in King Edward Cove
September was not all storms and hardship however. We were pleased to welcome the United States Antarctic Program's research vessel the NATHANIAL B PALMER to King Edward Cove. The vessel stopped by during a 3 week science cruise searching for marine flora along the Scotia Arc. She was on a tight schedule therefore did not stay longer than a day, but we were invited on board and given a tour by the First Officer and Chief Scientist. The multi million pound vessel boasts an impressive array of facilities for visiting scientists, and undertakes a busy program of science in much the same way as the JAMES CLARK ROSS does for the Brits. The vessel was trawling for samples and deploying CTDs... otherwise known as Conductivity (salinity) Temperature and Depth recorders to map the spread of certain species of flora along the Scotia Ridge. The data collected will be used by a group of American Scientists as part of a wider scoped study of the deposition of marine life in the region. Despite the science the living standards on board were excellent with a fully loaded Gym, Restaurant and Cinema (complete with lazy boys!)

Finally, September saw the birth of the first Elephant Seal pup on base. The first pup last year, called Charlie by the winterers, was killed by a large Bull who crushed him to death. This year, in honour of Charlie, I suggested "Pancake" might be a nice name for our new arrival. It was agreed and so came to pass.

King Penguins with Chicks
The elephant seals (as well as the Furries) spend winter at sea where they spend much of the time feeding on Krill and the like. Pregnant females spend this time gestating, and eventually the "Harems" of females along with the Bulls haul out on the shores about South Georgia to give birth and be re-mated; starting the whole process again. This is an exciting time as the beaches become packed with Elle seals bringing with them a cacophony of noise. The Bulls, weighing up to 4 tons, will fight violently for their place amongst the Harems. the successful bulls (the one with the deepest, loudest roar, the biggest nose, and the hardest headbutt) wins his place as a Beach Master, giving him exclusive rights over mating up to perhaps 40 females. However, he must wait until the pups have been born and subsequently weaned. Weaning takes 3 weeks or so in which time the pup will triple in size up to around 80 kgs, and begin to fend for itself, eventually learning how to swim and feed for itself, and mainly for the little boys, learning how to fight. This all takes place around the slipway outside the boatshed, and is a wonderful time to sit and watch the little guys playing around and getting to grips with there new surroundings. During this time the beachmaster will continue to fight his corner, but will have to give way to other males coming ashore in close proximity. He may even loose his place on the beach all together. The ones who are not mature enough, or strong enough to claim beach master status are destined to be a "sneaker". He will sit in the shallows offshore and wait until the beach master is not looking, at which time he will sneak ashore and try to mate one of the females. This usually ends in protestation by the female who attracts the attention of the Bull... 8 tons of muscle and blubber then come to a head.

Pancake did very well, has successfully weaned, and is now learning to swim in amongst his new friends at the creche. In a few years time he will be competing for his place amongst the girls. Good luck to him.

See the September Photo album here:

Monday, 19 September 2011

South Georgia Photo update

Long overdue for many (mostly lame) reasons here is an update of goings on throughout August and September.  I have decided to make this a photo update to keep it succinct!

This slideshow is a little fast so to see the whole album click below.

SG Winter update

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Picture frame

As you may be aware from some of my other posts, KEP station benefits from a well equipped carpentry workshop, and a supply of wood which we can use for personal projects.  The time here can be well spent learning a new skill or brushing up on old ones.  I have an interest in woodworking, and did a fair bit building wooden boats at Woolston maritime college.  That was a few years ago now though, and I felt it was time I started practising some of the old skills.

Sue Gregory, BAS marine biologist extraordinaire and long distance girlfriend of mine left our shores 7 weeks ago now to work a 7 week stint at sea aboard the longliner San Aspiring as a scientific observer (see blog) and to mark her departure, I wanted to put my skills in to practice and make her a nice leaving gift.  A couple of weeks prior to her leaving we had enjoyed a glorious day in the snow covered foothills to the North of Mount Hodges and she had become particularly fond of a photograph I took of us in the lee of Hodges cap.  I decided I would print the photo and hand make a frame for it (see photos)

The frame is white oak with dark hardwood inlays, mitred and butted together with a perspex glass and a scanned chart backing on which I plotted the exact location the photo was taken.  I also scribed some words of wisdom which I first read carved in to the companion way of Wander III.  It reads "Grab a chanceand you wont be sorry for a might-have-been".  Never a truer word spoken in my view.  Except perhaps "Never eat yellow snow"....

Boat School

One of the many highly skilled (sic) duties of a BAS boatman is to train other base staff in the safe use of the boats.  As in the UK, this requires a mix of practical instruction afloat and shore based classroom lessons.  Ashley and I have devised this years theory curriculum and have divided responsibility for delivering each subject equally between us.
Last week the subject was 'Buoyage' and it was my class.  I spent the morning drawing all the different kinds of buoys on the computer, printing and laminating them.  After a short introduction and refresher on the IALA systems of buoyage and how they are used, I got the guys to design their own harbour.  I laid out a channel using rope on the dinning room table and I placed a few hazards and area of interest along it.  The idea was for them to use their knowledge as a group and place the buoys where they think they should go.  It worked very well and I think everyone enjoyed it.  They may of course have learned something along the way, but its always difficult to tell when your all having a laugh!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Midwinter celebrations

Midwinter greetings folks!

It is tradition for all Antarctic bases from all nations to celebrate the winter solstice, or the passing of midwinters day.  For bases like Halley at 76 degrees south, midwinters day will bring a welcome boost in morale, as for quite some time they will have been living in perpetual darkness.  Passing the half way mark means that the days will start getting longer, and for the bases farther south the return of the sun.  KEP at 54 south does not experience perpetual darkness.  The days in winter are similar to those of the british winter in that we always have at least 8 hours of daylight a day.  It is the case however that South Georgia, being situated East of the Drake Passage in the middle of the Southern Ocean, and devoid of the climatic tempering provided to the UK by the Gulf Stream, winters are on average considerably tougher than those of Britain.

Either way, it is a sterling excuse for a celebration.  The lobby in Everson house (our accomodation block) is festooned with midwinter greetings from all the other Antarctic bases, and we all have a week of party games and celebrations.  BAS arrange (without our knowledge) to have packages sent from our families back home (thanks mum for my lovely box!) and we also have the BBC Midwinter broadcast.  The broadcast is a collection of greetings from our friends and family and is aired of the BBC world service and on the HF frequency band so we can tune in here.  It was great to hear all the messages from back home.

We also have a midwinter feast, and present each other with the midwinter gifts we have been busily constructing over the last few months.  The standard this year was incredibly high and all the gifts made showed a great deal of skill (existing or learned!) and a huge amount of effort.  I would like to thank Sam the doc for my wonderful coffee table book.  Sam is a talented photographer and has a very creative eye for graphic design.  She has created a year book showcasing some of her wonderful photographs and documenting everything we have done since our arrival last year.  Its not finished of course as some of this year's history is yet to occur.  I drew Ruth, and I have made her a jewellery box out of white oak with purple heart and mwenge inlays and hardwood panelling.  I lined the inside with old "fathom" charts of the Cumberland Bay area.

The other activities we had planned for the week have been postponed due to science duties getting in the way.  Alistair and Matt have gone to sea on the Pharos to undertake some plankton trawls and other surveys, and therefore Midwinter Olympics (including human curling, sledge bowling etc), crazy golf, base pub crawl, wine and cheese tasting evening etc etc have been postponed until further notice.

I do feel the comforts of a modern antarctic base, belie the original reason for midwinters day celebrations.  It is not our reality being sat huddled in a pyramid tent with the huskies keeping warm outside, sipping whisky and opening the celebratory can of bully beef.  But the traditions are important to uphold, and well, its a whole lot of fun!
Our greeting to the other Antarctic Stations - Photo S Crimmin

A midwinter cigar

A selection of MWPs showing my jewellery box

All handmade presents we made for each other.  Note the Ukelele!

Me and the boys set the table for dinner - didnt do a bad job I thought.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Glacier Mapping

Monday morning saw nearly the entire contingent of base staff out on the boats.  The first task, and arguably the most important (sic) was to deliver Katie, Ali and Matt the mechanic to Sorling for their holidays.

Its a fairly involved process, which includes loading all their gear (and there is alot of it with winter gear and Katie's supply of liquid refreshments!) in to dry bags, then on to the boats.  Then it is simple case of deliver people and stuff to the destination by performing a beach landing at the other end.

All of our potential holiday destinations involve landing on to the beach.  The beach landings are done with the ribs, and it actually very straight forward, in a little tricky at times. The boat is driven bow first to the beach by the helmsman while the crewman trims the engines up.  Trimming the outboards in this way reduces the vessels draft, and allows the boat to get further in to the beach without grounding the skegs or damaging the propellers.  The negative effect is that the helmsman has markedly less control over the boat, particularly in applying astern power.  This is because the prop is now at an awkward attitude and it's efficiency is greatly reduced.  The helm (steering) also becomes heavier in this trim.  It is for this reason that a slow and controlled approach is taken so as to minimise the need to use astern to slow the boat.

Cross winds present the most difficult approach.  If the wind is blowing along the coast then keeping 90 degrees to the shore becomes a tricky task.  If the boat should end up side on to the beach there is a serious risk of the vessel grounding and becoming prone to capsize in significant swell.  The swell is the other serious factor.  The to get personnel safely ashore (or in to sufficiently shallow water) and to keep the drives in the deeper water at the same time negates a stern-too approach.  This leaves your transom vulnerable to being "pooped" (a genuine nautical term!) by the incoming swell.  This can flood a boat or drive it too far ashore.  The alternative would be to come in stern too riding to a kedge anchor laid offshore and trim the engines right out of the water.  This isnt done because it has big downsides (like having no power available should the anchor fail at an inopportune moment, and frankly, its a bit of a faf) in reality, if the conditions on a particular shore are so severe as to raise concerns over a bow-to approach then the landing can wait!

I digress.  Once the campers were ashore, Ashley (at the helm of the accompanying jet launch) took the opportunity to "map" the face of the Nordenskjold Glacier.  The glacier face is only a mile or so to the south of Sorling (see my sorling camping trip blog for pics etc) So we proceeded South in to the ice.  The rib is of no use in this exercise.  The method used to give an indication of glacial retreat is to range the jet launch 1/4nm off the face by radar range, then navigate a course at this range taking GPS fixes at certain points en route.  Plotting the positions, and the range will give an indication on the current location of the face.  The accuracy is limited with this method because of GPS inaccuracy (which according to the Royal Navy who have spent alot of time charting SG can be often upto 500m!) and one or two other inaccuracies.  However, Ashley does an admirable job in making the readings as accurate as possible, and it does give reasonable results.  The Neumayer glacier, mapped in this way a few months back, is known from other surveys, known to receeding at up to 360m per year, and Ashleys survey did confirm this ball park figure.

As you may have gathered, the radarless rib is redundant during this kind of work, so time to practice some spirited manoeuvring......
Nordenskjold Glacier from the jet boat - Photo Sam Crimmin

Somebody let the plug out?

Winter update

Hello everyone.  Just a quick update on the progression of the winter months.  The temperatures have been consistently below zero, save a few hours of the last few days.  The snow came back a week ago and left a good amount on us.  The temperature has ensured it has stayed too, although on lower ground around the base, the fluctuating temperatures of the last few days have melted the snow in places during the day, then re-frozen the melt water at night.  This leads to some slippery conditions as I found out first hand on my midnight rounds the other night (bruised hip but pride intact as nobody saw!)
Things are getting slightly more difficult than in the summer.  For example Ashley and bought one of the jet launches out of the water the other day to carry out some work.  We had to clear the slipway of snow and ice to get her re-launched.  Also the hose used for flushing the rib engines has to come inside to stop it freezing, and the water to it has to be kept running in to a drain to keep the pipes from freezing.  Other than that, it is the usual problems, like looking for mooring lines accidentally left un marked under a few feet of snow, and remembering  that once you do find them and dig them out, to put gloves on before handing them!  The ice makes them in to 16mm thick cheese wire!!  I fixed a problematic diesel heater on the jet launch during the haul out which is a god send in avoiding scraping the wheelhouse windows to clear the ice too.
Time is occupied with Mid Winter Present making still (a blog on what I have made will appear when it is no longer a surprise to the recipient!) and working on a personal project or two.  Again there might be some more on these as they progress.
Anyway, pictures speak a thousand words, so here are some photos from the other day.  Things are still fairly mild and benign, so this is not so bad.
The JCB sporting her winter snow chains.

Icicles from the roof

The sea in the cove is largely iced over.  Not thick enough for skating though!

Monday, 30 May 2011

A very happy birthday Me 'Arties!

Saturday night be as swash bucking as one gets around here.  A theme party it was held to celebrate Tommy and Katies Birthdays, and the chosen theme... well Pirates o'course!  Arrrrr!
Ashley she did a fabulous job o' preparing a wonderful 3 course meal, including a pirate ship cake, and table decorations including silver bullion made from nuts and bolts, and parrots folded from coloured paper.
The bar it was decorated as a pirate ship and a mutinous motley crew of dirty, rotten, cut throat sea bandits showed up to assist with the 15 men, the dead mans chest, and the bottle of rum.
I is a little concerned that the full spectrums of the piratin' community 'ad not been represented (these is some diverse times we live in mateys) so I came as a modern day Somali pirate, complete with a hand crafted AK47 and sunglasses.  Rob our BC thought like wise and stepped outside the box with an accurate rendition of a 15th Century Indian Ocean Pirate made out of bed sheets and a fake seal fur beard.
We ates and we dranks and we blundered and bludgeoned are Arrrrr! we'd be avin a whale of a time...
The mutinous crew o' Pirates!

The Esperanto .... Well I can only hope I can burn my piece off in the gym!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The Cosmos as viewed from South Georgia.

One advantage of being in a truly remote location, hundreds and hundreds of miles out in to the middle of the Southern Ocean, and being the only human habitation on the island (apart from our counterparts at bird island, many miles to the North) is that there is no light pollution.  Go out on a crisp, cloudless evening before the moon rises and the Cosmos is laid bare above you.  The Milky Way (the large cluster which is our own Galaxy) is often visible to the naked eye streaked across the Cove.  Last night was no exception, and with sincere thanks to Dr Sam for her expert photographic advice, here are some of the images I shot of the stars last night.  For those who are interested, the shots were taken with my Nikon D90 on fully manual mode.  They are all 30 second exposures using a range of ISO numbers from 1600 to 2400.  The lens is an 18-105mm set at 18mm with an aperture of F3.5.  The camera was of course sat on its tripod!  These are my first attempts, and with Sam's permission I will post some of her shots taken from the whaling station the other evening.  They are truly stunning!!!  I hope you enjoy these as much as I do.

Load Testing the ships moorings

Today I assisted Robert, the Government Officer, in testing the integrity of the mooring arrangements on the shore here at King Edward Point.
The base has a wharf which is used by a few different vessels throughout the year, some of whom, for example the James Clarke Ross, are quite large and heavy.
The mooring lines of these ships are fastened to "bits" and "bollards" on the quay, and to "Stenhouse slips" which are anchored in to the ground just above the beaches to the north and south of the quay.  The stenhouse slips are large chains with a hook and ring for attaching the spliced eye of the ships warps to.  This job is usually done by us BAS lot when a ship arrives.  The crew will pass a messenger line of small diameter with a "monkeys fist" on the end (which helps the line travel farther through the air).  Once the light line is hauled in by the shore party, the large diameter mooring line is let go and hauled ashore.  Then it is simply a case of dropping the loop over the bollard or passing the stenhouse hook through and securing it back up with the ring and pin provided.  The vessel can then pull the line tight using large capstans or mooring winches.
The problem with the arrangements are that the integrity of the ground tackle beneath the ground is unknown, and in the case of the mooring chains, their exact design is in fact also unclear.  They were installed, it is believed, either by the military, or earlier, although not much information exists.  Based on one which was removed a few years back, they utilised heavy gauge anchor chain with sea anchors at the terminations.  They are dug in to the ground, although the depth and extent is unclear.  In theory this set up in extremely secure, and it has certainly stood the test of time, as many vessels for decades have heaved and surged against them in rough weather without ill affect.
The Warp attached to the Stenhouse Slip
It is important however to test the integrity of the systems with the use of a "load cell" and a willing ship with decent diameter lines and powerful winches.
The Load Cell is a device which when placed in line with a length of warp or line it will measure the pull exerted on it in tonnes.  Robert, who is an experienced merchant navy officer himself, wanted to test the moorings were capable of at least 3 tonnes without any sign of breaking out or moving.
I am pleased to report all moorings were tested up to and in most cases beyond 3 tonnes of pull, and all were extremely secure.  It was clear to us both that they would in fact take a great deal more force.  So I am told, it is unlikely a force on any single mooring line will exceed 3 tonnes when they are holding a large ship against an offshore gale.  The lines are all doubled and designed to share the load in this circumstance, so for now the Government can be content the mooring provisions are secure.  It was great fun for me, although I will rest well tonight after hauling heavy line and carry 12 tonne SWL shackles around the place!  Who needs gyms!

Showing the Load Cell connected between the mooring line and stenhouse.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Sled of Death

Here is a slapdash collection of footage taken on my first trip out to the hills to go sledging!  There were a few minor injuries, but a whole load of laughs!

We will no doubt be back out again this weekend with the aptly named DEATHSLED.


Saturday, 14 May 2011

Camping trips and Hiking... its not all work ;-)

Well, heres a surprise... What I do here is technically classed as work.  It certainly takes up a minimum of 37.5 hours a week, and often quite a bit more, but I know trying to persuade you folks that this constitutes a 9-5 is like trying to persuade science that the Sun does in fact rotate around the Earth after all.  
I would like to make a case for the work done here by saying firstly that it is not always glamorous, and South Georgia isnt always beautiful.  Sometimes it rains heavily, and cold wind bites your cheeks as you meander your way to the boatshed to undertake some remedial works or get oily servicing an outboard engine.  Only yesterday I was rota'd for "gash" during our weekly "scrubout".  It was therefore my duty to empty all the bins, sort the recycling, clean the waste room, compact the cardboard, shred the glass and wash the gunge out of the landfill container.  
So its not all fun and games after all, and although I am far from complaining about the down sides of the work here, I was thankful to get away for a short break.
Sue Gregory (Fisheries Biologist most-high) and I hitched a ride on the Ribs to Sorling on the Barff Peninsular.  
Rookery bay is also on the Barff (see the blog) although Sorling is a few miles farther south, and significantly, is situated just on the East side of the Nordenskjold Glacier.  From Sorling, it is possible to hike to St Andrews bay (known for its large colony of King Penguins), Ocean Harbour (know for being the site of the first whaling station on South Georgia, and the site of the remarkably intact wreck of the Bayard) and a few other worthwhile destinations on the oceanward East Coast.
Day one was spent organising camp at Sorling.  The weather was iffy and forecast to get considerably worse, so taking some of Ray Mears' finest advice, we prepared food, warmth, a camp fire and some shelter.  
The view of the Glacier from our Camp at Sorling.

Day two was to be our first adventure East.  We wanted to make Ocean Harbour and camp there for the evening with the hope of a spectacular sunrise over the Bayard the following morning.  It was not to be.  As we set off with full winter survival and camping kit weighing 30Kgs on our backs the weather began to deteriorate.  Snow had fallen overnight and the atmosphere felt far more unsettled.  Lenticular clouds over the mountain ranges warned of high winds in the hills and the visibility began to decay in the mist. 
Showing the size of the packs.  This was Sorling valley before the weather broke.

The hike to Ocean is perhaps 2.5 miles as the crow flies, and initially it is a gentle climb up Sorling Valley, following the water course, which is a very picturesque river, reminiscent of the trout rivers of Scotland or the Salmon rich waterways of Canada.  The route becomes slightly more challenging when a steep ascent is made to reach a Col to the South of "Black Peak" which takes you over the moutain range and drops you neatly in Ocean Harbour.  
A King Penguin crossed a semi-frozen fast moving melt water stream near Sorling.

Progress was good, and we were confident, despite the deepening snow as we climbed, that we would make camp in a few hours, however the weather took a rapid turn for the worse.  We had been traversing the steep scree face with difficulty with heavy packs and deepening snow and ice for about 30 minutes when a large dark precipitous veil of cloud began to shroud the ridge we were heading for. The wind began to gust, and it became a little un nerving having to brace against 40mph wind with large slab sided packs and frozen snow under foot.  It began to snow and we lost sight of the ridge to the West of our position.  Already tired, and fearing that even if we made it to Ocean, this weather front may deposit far more snow and ice for the return journey, we decided to make back for Sorling.  The decent back to the valley floor was a little unsteady, but far easier than climbing into the weather.  It took us perhaps 2 hours walking to return safely to our camp at the Survival Hut.  It was a good days walking, and we were both very pleased we had made an attempt.  There was no regrets in our decision to abandon the hike as the temperature dropped, the snow fell and the winds continued to howl around the hut while we made soup over the Primus Stove.
The Reindeer stampede over the snowless lowland hills near Reindeer valley.

Day 3 was a revelation.  The initial plans to wake up on the shores of Ocean Harbour were scuppered but we awoke at Sorling to glorious sunshine, and a smattering of large Ice Bergs on the shore.  As I mentioned earlier, Sorling is only a mile from the face of the Nordenskjold Glacier, and in the pitch black of night, tremendous rumbles and booms can be heard echoing around the bay as huge chunks of ice are deposited from the advancing face of the Glacier.  This process, known as Calving, sets these large floating Ice Bergs adrift and often the larger ones end up grounded just offshore in the shallower water.  It made for a spectacular compensation for the failings of the day before.
A large piece of Ice Calves from the Glacier Face.  The noise is something to behold!
We decided to make for the Glacier face and photograph some of the Calvings. It is, in comparison to the previous days effort, a very easy coastal walk, with light day sacks on our backs.  We spent 3 hours at the Glacier, and I was pretty pleased with some of the images I shot.  We had lunch sat amongst the ice on the shore, and witnessed some large calvings.  I am pleased to report however, that the Nordenskjold did infact seem very stable, and although the pieces were large and spectacular, compared to the size of the face, the deposits are relatively small.  I dont believe the Nordenskjold to be receding anywhere near the rate of the Neumayer or Hamburg Glaciers.
An evening return to camp from the Glacier.  There were Gaint Petrels nesting very close to where this shot was taken.

Day four, and the boats returned to take us back to base.  It was our intention to stay until Monday (which would be day 5) however we decided to take advantage of the fact the boats were afloat to put the Government Officers aboard a fishing vessel for inspection in the bay.  We did decide however to continue our holiday on our return and Monday morning we set off up Brown Mountain to the East of Gull Lake.  This was Sue's first Summit, and despite a very sunny, if cold start at the bottom it became quite an adventure at altitude as the winds rose to 40 mph and the snow began to drift.  We were well equipped and warmly dressed, so we had fun with it and ended up glissading (or bum sliding) down much of the mountain on our decent.  
Sue poses for a snap near the summit of Brown Mountain.  It is more akin to a long ridge that a typical mountain peak.

Perhaps not well rested, but certainly very well rewarded for our travels, it is back to work.  The base is encased in snow and Ice now, with the prospect of it getting quite abit worse, so we are preparing to begin having to dig our way out of doors every morning.... Ill keep you informed.
An idyllic Gull Lake on the way up Brown.

The wind really blew on the South Ridge of Brown Mountain.

Matt Kenney 2010.