The odd second trip explained:
With the Falklands being so deep into the South Atlantic and the links to the UK science scene being historically strong, Stanley is home to a number of interesting organisations. Next door to the offices and staging post for the British Antarctic Survey lies the office for SAERI, the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute. We’d had a chance meeting with one of the BAS employees and she had forwarded Han’s details to SAERI as we had made it clear we have some time on our hands.This turned out to be a good move!
Our visit to Bleaker Island was our first foray onto one of the other inhabited islands around these parts but no sooner had we arrived than an email arrived asking Han (and I) if we’d be free to help on a research project. As it turned out, Megan from SAERI had fixed some satellite trackers to some gentoos, rockhoppers and magellanic penguins at various sites around the Falklands and needed some help collecting them back in to assess possible environmental impacts of the oil industry operating here. It just so happened that this particular trip was to the very island we were on and so would be returning the very day after we left to help catch penguins!
Very early starts and very late nights were to be spent checking the magellanic penguin burrows, watching the Rockhoppers launch out of the surf and ascend the cliffs and checking the gentoo colonies for penguins wearing last year’s GPS trackers. The long hours were worth it as we got shown how to handle and catch the penguins and learnt all about their habits. It’s another oddity of life here that you absorb information about various things that you never expected to. The longer we’re here, the more I can tell you about the breeding, feeding and general habits of various penguins, as well as an odd amount about sheep farming and other beasties of the animal kingdom.
Anyway, the penguin hunting was mostly successful so we got about half of her trackers back. Han’s major aim for her time here was to pick up a penguin, so I’m hoping she doesn’t just go home now as there were several caught and ticked off the list:
For many reasons, the Rockhoppers are my favourite so this was a real privilege. The magellanics are less popular in our household now having drawn blood through two layers of gloves on Han’s hand (they have hooked beaks unlike the other penguins – see, odd amounts of penguin knowledge). Two days after landing back from our second trip to Bleaker, we’d also opted for a last-minute trip to ‘the West’, but that’s a story for another day.