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.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Dam good fun!

Ok, apologies first off for the cheesy title.  This is just a quick snippet of my day walking up bore valley to the fresh water dam and weir with the tech services squad, Tommy and Matt H.  Due to the brodificum spreading done by the helicopters, it is important to ensure minimal amounts end up in our drinking water.  The water we use on base for all our requirements comes from a fresh mountain spring and melt water stream a miles or so from base.  The stream has been dammed and there are is a sluiced system which ultimately feeds a pipe which runs down to Grytviken disused whaling station and then around the cove to KEP.  The run off from the dam runs down the valley following the original water course and eventually empties into the sea.
So we set off.  The first job was to go to a man hole in the whaling station to connect a large fire hose to a hydrant.  With this open, it will gush water straight from the dam holding tank (the pressure is quite high.... see silly photo below)  Then we hiked up the valley to the dam, and on arrival, Matt closed the sluice gate which feeds the tank and pipe.  As the hose was open in Grytviken the tank was now emptying. We then opened the sluice to drain the dam basin.  This was so we could remove any rat pellets which had collected in the pre-tapped part of the water system.  It was great fun draining tens of thousands of gallons of water in just a few minutes!  The job didnt take long, and one the area was devoid of stray pellets the dam was closed and we enjoyed the sunshine while the basin filled once more.  True british workers, except we forgot the flask of tea!
Oh dear.
The pressure takes some holding on to!

Emptying the basin.


Saturday, 12 March 2011

South Georgia Habitat Restoration photo update

Last weekend I spend most of Saturday filming and photographing the helicopter operations for the Rat eradication project.  The team spent some time with me explaining how things work.  Basically the bait spreading device is an aluminium hopper which the ground crew fill with Brodifacum rat poison pellets. The helicopter then hovers low over head and one of the ground crew attaches the hopper to a special hook under the aircraft.  The hopper is fitted with a small Honda engine which the ground crew will then pull-start.  This engine drives a paddle wheel which, when the pilot operates a switch will start spreading the bait.  Once the engine is started, the ground crew moves away and the pilot begins to lift the hopper.  This is a very skilled bit of flying as the pilot cannot see the hopper, so has to use his skill to judge when he is picking it up straight.  If he does not lift it vertically he will spill the hopper of damage it.  Once the hopper is airborn the pilot flies to the appropriate area and using a specialist piece of GPS tracking equipment he will open the hopper valve and begin flying a course similar to that of a farmer ploughing his field.  The tracker will record the choppers progress so the team can be sure the bait has been spread thoroughly to the required amount.
"Alpha Mike" on the ground for re-fuelling
"Tango Charlie" departing Grytviken with a hopper

Showing the hook system
Approaching to be fitted with a hopper.

See the album at http://picasaweb.google.com/mailmemek

Life of an Antarctic Boatman the movie

Hi Guys.

The second in a series of films about my life here in South Georgia.  I have reset the title format as the last video was more about the journey here and the first few weeks.  This is about life as it becomes more settled.  Again is a mix of film footage and still and includes some more humorous bits.  Its a shade over 11 minutes, so I hope you enjoy it!


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Goodbye Wanderer III

Tuesday this week saw the departure of a special little yacht.  Wanderer III, owned and skippered by Thies Matzen and his wife Kicki Ericson, was commissioned by famous British sailor Eric Hiscock.  Her designer, Laurent Giles made her deep drafted, and heavily ballasted with a modest beam and she was always intended to cross oceans.  She is one of only a relatively small number of wooden yachts still circumnavigating, and her strong Iroko on Oak construction has survived a grounding in the pacific, and many thousands of sea miles with her 3 owners. The Hiscocks circumnavigated her and the story of which is documented in Eric Hiscocks book 'Round the World with Wanderer 3'.  Eric sold her to another gentleman who circumnavigated her again until she was bought by Thies in 1981, and he has wandered around the world aboard ever since.  He began as a solo sailor, until Kicki joined him in '89 as a beautiful adventure-seeking young woman.  A somewhat unlikely crossing of the Pacific Ocean together started something and in 1999 Kicki became his wife in the church of the abandoned whaling station at Grytviken here in South Georgia.
Thies and Kicki have been in South Georgia for 2 years studying the Wandering Albatross (Wanderers namesake) and exploring this wonderful island aboard Wanderer and have been the subject of a few excellent articles written by Thies for magazines such as Yachting Monthly and GEO magazine.  They are both knowledgeable and sympathetic nature lovers and Thies is a particularly good photographer.  His collection of photographs from South Georgia is a rare and valuable archive.
During my time here, we have become very close, and many happy nights have been spent on Wanderer.  Thies is a talented wooden boat builder and joiner, and I have taken some tips from him for a few personal projects I have, and Kicki is a constant source of entertainment, especially when there is dancing to be done!  I also have to thank her for my Kafir culture which she kindly gave to me and is now providing me with fresh yoghurt every morning.  These guys and as warm as humans can be, and within minutes they feel like old friends.
We had a great party on my birthday, which doubled as their leaving do, and Kicki and I managed to get everyone including the film crews up and dancing til the small hours.  The entire base turned out on the beach to give them the trademark KEP mexican wave and we lit time expired flares.  It was an emotional day for us all.
They have left South Georgia now bound for St Helena via Tristan Da Cunha.  The passage is expected to take wanderer a month, and I am hoping at the time of writing that they will be 200 miles off by now.
To my good friends, I wish you a safe and pleasant passage!  As promised Thies (when you read this) I will join you somewhere in the near future on my new (wooden) boat!!

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Banded Fur Seals

Last week, Katie, Sue and Myself took a walk up to Hope Point and continued round to the North as far as Sooty Bluff.  The evening was calm and sunny, and the point is a great place to sit amongst the wildlife and chill out after a hard day.  On our way however, we came across this Fur Seal which had been banded quite some time ago and was in a lot of discomfort.  The line is a small piece of Trawl Net, most likely from one of the wrecked fishing vessels at the Morraine Fjord entrance.  Fur Seals have a tendency to swim through things rather than around them, and this includes things like rope, packing bands, and trawl net fragments.  It is likely she got tangled when she was a bit younger and she has since grown painfully in to the net.  The seals have no way of removing the line once they are banded and in the case of this seal, it is likely to have resulted in death from the ever open wounds the line creates.  It was encouraging to see she was in otherwise good condition, and a quick VHF call to Alastair saw him arrive within minutes with the necessary equipment to free her.  We are hopeful that she will make a full recovery once the slightly infected wound heals.
The Seal as we found her.  She was weak and and tired.

Alastair the minute he cut the line free

We hope her wounds will heal and she will be fine.

An historic day in South Georgia

"Alpha Mike" in action.
FRIDAY 4th March was a momentous occasion in the Human History of South Georgia.  Not only was it my 26th Birthday (!), but the South Georgia Habitat Restoration Project reached the first milestone in the tremendously exciting Rat eradication project by completing the aerial bait spreading of the Greene Peninsular to the South of King Edward Point.  This remarkable achievement was the first major step in the project's plans to spread Brodifacum, a specially blended and selected rat poison on Rat infested areas of the island.  The poison, which is dropped from hoppers suspended under two Messersmidt helicopters, will target areas bounded by Glaciers or the Sea.  It is believed that the Rats are unable to traverse these areas, therefore as each area is poisoned, there are no fears of re-population by neighbouring Rats.  Early studies undertaken yesterday show positive results.  A good spread of bait was observed by the demarcation of 20m x 20m areas and the counting of the bait pellets.  In addition, Rat droppings tainted with the bait's luminous green dye were found by Sally Poncet, indicating quite literally the Rats have taken the bait.  The ambitious project aims to eradicate rats completely from the island within a year, which will have an immeasurably positive impact on the native wildlife, it particular the South Georgia Pipit, which is only found exclusively on the Island, and have been driven to near extinction by the ravenous rat population.
Innes from GEO magazine
So the day bought about a lot of activity, most of which required boat support, so I spent nearly all day on the water dropping SGHR team members and government officers over to the Greene, and ferrying the GEO magazine crew over to the East Coast to take footage of the helicopters doing their thing.  I used it as an opportunity to train some members of base staff on the Ribs.  Katie and the morning, and our latest addition to the SAR support team, Sue, who is undertaking intense training and joining the ranks during her stay here.  The SAR support team are base members who are rota'd on to be available on base for immediate Search and Rescue should there be an incident with the helicopters.  Each morning during a brief, it is declared a flying day or otherwise based on the current and forecast weather conditions.  If it is deemed a flying day, then the SAR team will be on standby to provide lifeboat assistance, and to support team rat's emergency response team.  Following an exercise to test the SAR plan last week, we were put to the test over lunch on Tuesday when a call for immediate and urgent boating assistance was made on the VHF.  Myself and the other on call staff leaped to our feet and began running to the boatshed.  Thankfully, both helicopters were fine, and the call was in response to a hopper which had been inadvertently dropped in to the sea.  Currently a dive team and Ashley are working on it's recovery.
The helicopter "Tango Charlie" in the early morning light.
Photo: Sam Crimmin

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Whos on base at present?

So recently, KEP base has been playing host to a number of Summer only visitors.  As you know, the South Georgia Habitat Restoration project (or team Rat) have arrived, and last Monday they began bait spreading on the Greene peninsular.  In addition, the project is being made in to a documentary by a German Film production company called GEO.  Innes and Roland have been about with a host of equipment, including their very cool £50,000 camera.  We also have a Korean film duo on base at the moment, taking footage for a Korean film on Life in the Antarctic.  Goo and Pak have been here nearly a week now, and we have been introducing them to classic british cuisine, like my Sausage Casserole and Potatoes last night.  They have promised to make us some spicy Korean noodles in the coming weeks.... best have a glass of water on standby!
We have also had a small contingent of visiting BAS staff.  Including Andy Webb and Terry Baker from BAS technical services, and Sue Gregory from the BAS Marine Science department. Terry and Andy have since left on the last Pharos, but Sue will be remaining until April when she will be boarding a Southern Ocean Longliner (Fishing Vessel) as an observer and spending 8 weeks ensuring CCAMLR (Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources) fishing practices are adhered to.
Until afew days ago, our humble research station has also been playing host to a rather more high profile group of people.  The IMAX film company have been touring the local area filming very cutting edge film in 3D.  They are working on a 3D film characterising Penguins, which they are hoping will be screened in Cinemas next year.  I was lucky enough to be shown round £3,000,000 worth of equipment by Danny (Specialist 3D camera man) and Simon (Director) including "the beast"  which is the pet name for the 3D camera.  The camera is basically two movie quality film cameras on a jig.  One camera is set for filming and the other is offset by an amount determined by Danny.  This is critical as if he does not set a suitable offset he will make the audience sick when they watch it!
Currently we have about 40 people on station.  The internet is impossibly slow, and this week we have identified a Marmite crisis.  We have 2 tubs left in the food store before were on the Bovril!!!  It will prove a stark contrast when the winter months arrive and the station and its unsuspecting residents are plunged into Ice and Snow drifts, the sea starts to freeze and 8 people hunker down for the duration.
The GEO photographer, Ingo, photographs the sunrise during my 6am base rounds.

Matt Kenney 2010.