Helen the Penguin

Helen the Glass Penguin
I’m getting close to finishing my series of quizz-tastic work venues for a bit. But they might be back! They’ve been aimed at trying to: provide a little geographic interest (showing off the new mapping features of the site); serving up some (poor?) humour; and sharing an occasional piece of art, history, monument, or architecture that I come across travelling Britain’s railways…

I think this week’s venue is a tough one! As usual, without cheating by using the map, where does this penguin live? It certainly isn’t one of Ian’s Antarctic friends… Although I’m sure at least one of the blog’s authors knows the location, as a little hint, why “Glass Penguin”?


Abel Tasman coastal track

We decided to explore the beautiful beaches and rocky coastline of Abel Tasman a little more by walking a section of the coastal track. A number of the track sections are across tidal estuaries and beaches, and so our plans had to fit around the tide times. This proved slightly tricky as low tide was around 9 o’clock (rather unsociable given that the tidal sections were not at the start or end of the walking day). This resulted in us taking the high tide path on at least one section, which was a couple of hours longer than the lower alternative across a bay.

We started at Marahau on the eastern coast of Abel Tasman and headed north towards Totaranui. The coastal path wound up and down over the headlands and was mostly in the bush, but provided pretty views of the coastal scenery at regular intervals. The path itself was extremely well-trod and was about 1.5 m wide at all times! There was certainly no navigational challenge! Such a path was necessary as tourists were frequently dropped off by the water taxis, allowing them to walk a short section of the path, before being collected a little further along the coast. So, frequently one would meet people in flip flops on the path, despite the location being a days walk from civilisation!

Blue sea of Abel Tasman

After about 7 hours, we reached our beach-front campsite at Medland Bay, where there was space for only 10 people. Thankfully the campsite was very quiet, with only one other couple there.

Beach at Medland Bay campsite. Our tent was pitched just above the bay

Over dinner we watched a heron and a kingfisher fishing in the river, and then once it got dark we took advantage of the darkness and stargazed for a while. Once we’d spotted enough satellites, Richard brought out the camera and played with his torch, lighting up the trees on the opposite hillside.

Southern cross over Medland Bay

The next morning, we set off sharpish, so that we could get to the next tidal section of the path (Onetahuti) before too late. We were actually there quite early, so given that the day’s walking was relatively short, we decided to make hot chocolate on the beach!

After a further hour of walking we got to the Awaroa Lodge, where we enjoyed an apple strudel :-). This was the end of our coastal trek as the next section of the path to Totaranui was tidal and uncrossable at that time. So, we spent a few hours on the beach, drying our belongings and swimming (for Richard anyway), and then we were picked up by our pre-arranged water taxi. This was great fun. The boat was fast and the pilot was kind enough to stop to show us a passing blue penguin and a seal colony.

Eating apple strudel at the Awaroa Lodge.
The speedy ride back to Marahau

Dunedin – Sealife Central

We’re in Dunedin, in the South of the South Island, to visit my brother and his family. We’ve also found the time for a little sight-seeing, in this case, of the local wildlife. Dunedin is famous for its albatross and penguin colonies, so naturally we went looking for them.

Pied oystercatcher on the Akaroa peninsular

On our first day we went to Aramoana, where a long spit extends out into the harbour mouth. We were looking for penguins, but didn’t see any. We did see albatross, but only from a distance, so settled for some seals and terns. The next morning, we opted for a trip on the Monarch, a boat that goes out of the harbour in search of wildlife. The trip was brilliant – we saw a New Zealand Sealion on the way out of the harbour, then were visited by a pod of Hector’s Dolphins who played and showed off around the boat. We also saw a lot of albatross – there wasn’t enough wind for the Royals to take off, so we only saw them sitting on the ground, but we had visits from a couple of the lesser species. Lesser for an albatross meaning one with a wingspan of less than 3m – these are still very big birds!

New Zealand sealion at Aramoana
Hectors dolphins.
Hectors dolphins
A white-capped albatross.
A white-capped albatross

In the late afternoon, my brother Peter took us to one of the local beaches where penguins nest in the dunes. We walked along the beach to a hide at the far end, and then peered through the windows in search of penguins. After a few minutes we realised that a Yellow Eyed Penguin had been in full view the whole time, and eventually we spotted two more, another Yellow Eyed, and a Little Blue Penguin, both of which had also been pretty much visible the whole time. Unfortunately, they were quite a long way away, so the picture isn’t great, but it was nice to see them, especially as populations on this beach have been falling in recent years due to disturbance from visitors.

Yellow-eyed penguin near Dunedin

Friday 13th is 2 Weeks Late

Halley Construction

The season is moving on and there are only four weeks to go before we have to leave on the ship (so we’re not stuck here for the winter). All the efforts through early January to meet the Friday 13th deadline – decision day – were brought to nought by the failings of some of the systems on the mechanical and electrical side. At the time BAS did not have 100% confidence that the life support systems would be wholly efficient to take on the base for the winter, so the decision was delayed for two weeks, and its been an all out effort including late nights to move the project on sufficiently for BAS to make their decision.

The good news is that yesterday, with the arrival of a BAS board member by plane, the decision was made and they will winter in Halley 6. All the major systems are now functional and the large areas are finished. From next week we will be having all our meals in the new base.

Completed areas of the Halley VI base

Some of the lads haven’t really been pulling their (considerable) weight though and for some of us it’s been really frustrating to work on Sundays and until 10 o’clock most nights to be held up by wiring not done by guys who are “tossing it off” all day and finishing early.

As you can imagine, it’s the end of the season, we’re all getting a bit crabby, and there’s been some words said and some raised voices. (Yep, I’ve shouted at a few people!) How some of them ever get anything done at home eludes me.

Anyway despite this work has continued to put the finishing touches to the modules…

Work continuing, inside and outside Halley

The science modules are all but finished and this week BAS move into them to set up and continue the science that has been continuing at Halley 5. The main module is looking more finished and the glass spiral staircase was fitted this week, while the command module (Base commanders office, surgery, comms room, server room and laundry) was completed and handed over last week.

With all the work, I’ve not got out skiing much, so the half marathon race from Halley 5 to 6 in two weeks time is looking like it might be quite slow. However, we did have time for a BBQ last Saturday, just getting it in before it was too cold to stand about outside. (We ran out of meat again!)

Halley BBQ

Windy Bay Penguins

News on the Windy Bay penguins is that the sea ice stayed for long enough for the young ones to fledge into the sea, and we now have the first few Adelie penuins about that are coming in to moult.

Adelie Penguin

With the first sunset due in two weeks and the time seeming to fly by, it won’t be long before we’re packing up. There’s still lots to do, so I’ll keep you posted on progress…

Happy Christmas from Antarctica!!

Over the last couple of weeks the main topic of conversation here at Halley has been food. After only a week here we began to run short of things. Of course, the food we are eating came on the ship last year and was ordered in about June 2010, so it appears they under-ordered. So far we’ve run short of pepper, sugar, meat, tomato sauce, CHOCOLATE, crisps… But at least there’s plenty of porridge. The emergency food was brought out, but with 60 people on base it hasn’t lasted long, and it was with great relief that a plane arrived from Rothera yesterday with more emergency food. The ship is also making good progress and should be here in the New Year. I forsee a Roman style banquet every night!!!!

Windy Bay Update
If you’re worried about how the young penguins at Windy Bay are getting on, I can report that the sea ice is still solid and they are getting a lot bigger. Hopefully the ice will remain into January when they should be big enough to survive. Here are some pics…

The penguin colony under the ice shelf cliffs
Look how clean I am!
Look at me!!
What's that?

By the way…
Happy Christmas to all the Sterling Adventure Bloggers and readers from here. It’s going to be a white Christmas…

Cue Bing…

Happy Chritmas from us!!!

Windy Bay Penguin Colony

Today I was lucky enough to travel the 40kms to Windy Bay where there is an Emperor Penguin colony. There was about 8-10 thousand penguins on the sea ice, and although we couldn’t get down to mingle with them they were still an impressive sight. The chicks are at present almost as big as the parents who both have to go off to feed, and then wander back from the sea, find their chick and feed it. Consequently there is a lot of noise, and smell, with the chicks constantly demanding food from the adults. One adult might look after a number of chicks in a crèche while the others are making their way back the kilometer or so from the edge of the sea ice.

The Emperor Penguin colony on the sea ice, sheltered by the cliffs of the ice shelf
Emperor Penguins treks back from the sea
How do I find my Mum?
A chick demanding food
An adult Emperor Penguin with a crèche of chicks

The colony waits until the sea ice breaks up, and this commits the chicks to the sea for the first time. Hopefully that will be in January when they have developed proper feathers: last year it was very early and most of the chicks drowned. 😯
I’ll keep up to date with their progress… but if the worst happens, I’ll lie and tell you they all safely swam northwards!