South Atlantic Blog 2010

Chinstrap Penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) on brash ice in front of the Neumayer Glacier, Cumberland West Bay, South Georgia

Simon Flower and Ted Harris are setting off for South Georgia to lay in the infrastructure of a new Magnetic Observatory at the British Antarctic Survey’s King Edward Point installation.

Follow the 2010 fieldwork

The RAF flight will take them through Ascension Island, where a 3 day stop-over is planned to service, calibrate and make absolute measurements at the BGS Ascension Island Magnetic Observatory, which was installed there in 1992.

Five-day boat trip

After Ascension, a 9 hour flight takes them on to the Falkland Islands with another 3 day stop-over to do similar work at the Port Stanley Observatory, before they board the South Georgia fisheries Protection Vessel “Pharos SG” for the 5 day, 900mile crossing to South Georgia. On route, the Pharos will patrol and police the South Georgia Toothfish fisheries and may stop and check licenses of those boats fishing there.

Installing the new magnetic observatory

The Pharos SG arrives at King Edward Point, Cumberland Bay on 29 January where Simon & Ted will spend the next 13 days putting in the infrastructure, ducting, cables, observation points and instrument foundations and enclosures. All items necessary for this task have been previously shipped to South Georgia and as it is 900 miles from the nearest shop, they had better not left anything behind! The task of putting in the infrastructure will involve initial site surveys to decide the optimum positions for the housings, laying cables and foundations and making absolute measurements of the Earths magnetic field. In a year’s time, a similar visit will see the instruments permanently installed and the observatory commissioned.

Weather and wildlife

Although it is summer in the southern Hemisphere the weather on South Georgia can be extremely variable and there can be snow on any day of the year. In addition to the weather, other natural hazards will be the large amount of Elephant and Fur Seals which inhabit the island and make the relatively sheltered Cumberland Bay their home for most of the year. Large amounts of penguins also make there home there, but these are seen as more of a distraction than a hazard. The main hazard though, will probably be the weather. King Edward Point can get large amounts of rain and that coupled with water run-off from adjacent Mount Duse results in the site being – as described by a member of BAS - wet, wet, wet!

Luxury return trip

The return trip will see the pair being picked up by one of the many cruise boats that are now prevalent in these waters, the MS Delphin for the 6 day trip up to Buenos Aires in Argentina and the flight home. The Delphin docks at 08:00 on 18 February and the flight leaves at 13:15 from the international airport, so definitely no time for sight-seeing.