«Reisebrev fra Bouvetøya / Travel log from Bouvet»
After recovering from our initial shock of seeing large chunks of Nyrøysa gone since the last expedition in 2001-2002, we got going with the work we're actually here to do!
The fur seal breeding season is in full swing and the beaches are covered in little black pups. We've spent much a lot of time trying to find mums with newborn pups. Known aged pups are important for both the CEMP monitoring growth rate data and for our foraging study. So – we've weighed a large number of newborn pups and applied individual bleach marks to them so that we can recognize, recapture and re-weigh them to measure their growth rate. In some cases, we've also equipped their mothers with various electronic instruments to track their movements and diving behaviour at sea. This will allow us to look at at-sea behaviour by moms in relation to growth rate and condition of their pups. So far, we've only done this for fur seals, since the penguins are still sitting on their eggs. Come January, we'll be doubly busy looking after the seals and penguins all at once.
Besides the scientific work, we've been very busy setting up and maintaining our little camp. Since satellite photographs taken of the island a few months before we arrived indicated that the 40 ft container which has been functioning as accommodation on the island for the past 11 years had disappeared, we very quickly had to come up with an alternative strategy. In the end, we brought 5 high-latitude camping tents for sleeping, a couple of old Norwegian army tents for food storage, and two “WeatherHavens”. These special polar tents are triple layered, insulated shelters which are built on a solid wooden floor, and with a rigid aluminium frame. We've only used one of these so far, and it now holds our kitchen, dining area, communications central and computer and biology lab. Needless to say, this 5 x 5 meter structure is a haven of homey chaos.
Our house-hold situation became somewhat more complex on the (Austral) midsummer's day, Dec 21. After a very windy night, we woke up about 5am – when virtually all of the poles in our various sleeping tents snapped (followed by most of these tents blowing to pieces). We had a hectic few hours securing the WeatherHaven which was also straining with the gusty catabatic winds rushing down the hillsides from the glacier that covers most of the island. After a few hours we managed to add a few extra guy-wires to the tent. In the afternoon, the winds had finally dropped enough that we could start a proper cleanup operation. Luckily, we had brought enough timber and plywood sheets with us to build a sturdy shack. So, we extended the 2.5 x 1.5 x 1.5 m wooden crate that the WeatherHavens were shipped in, to form an emergency shelter that now sleeps 2-3 people in relative comfort, and can hold all 5 of us in an emergency. Since then, the winds have been up and down, as is normal here in the SubA (Subantarctic), and so far this new shelter as well as the WeatherHaven have stood up to the “test” magnificently.
This week also saw the celebration of two (!!!) Christmases. On the 24th and 25th, to satisfy all nationalities. Christmas Eve gave us a welcome present in the form of the first satellite tagged female returning home. Her instruments were recovered and all the data was secured on laptops and external hard drives. After a hectic and crammed collective effort in the kitchen we had a splendid and eclectic meal on the 24th, consisting of Mexican bean soup, slow roast springbok, oriental style butternut squash, mustart&honey gammon, sauerkraut and oven roasted potatoes.
Martin & the Bouvet Team