Poor weather conditions delayed our departure but enabled us to catch up with other travellers who arrived on the flight Sharon left on. These included Pete Convey and Elise Biersma from the British Antarctic Survey and a few journalists from Chile, Argentina and Europe. We boarded the Aquiles on the night of 21st Jan - first stop O’Higgins station on the Antarctic Peninsula. We only had an hour to walk around the base on 22nd Jan before heading to Deception Island.
About 35 scientists/journalists (not including the moss team) disembarked the Aquiles for Gabriel de Castilla, the Spanish station on Deception Island on 23rd Jan and the following day, four zodiac boats full (including us this time) visited Robert Island. We trekked as much of the island as was possible in the four hours – which also included some time being interviewed by a journalist from Argentina. We watched many seals heading into the water or lazing in and around some very extensive moss carpets.
Next stop, Byers Peninsula, Livingston Island. After a laborious couple of days, our group of 13 (4 Chilean, 3 Spanish, 2 American, 2 Chinese, 1 German and 1 Australian) and the tons of our camping gear were dropped at the campsite, our home for the next 5 days.
Camping in Antarctica. What an experience! It rained for 4 out of the 5 days so I now understand why it’s called a ‘tropical’ location. On our first full day we were lucky with much sunshine allowing us to trek along the Southern Beaches and up Sealer Hill, nearby a petrel colony. The ground was very soggy and it didn’t take long for the moss and ground to soak up the sunshine as well.
A typical day, Byers Campsite Moss heating up, Byers' Southern Beaches
On Sealer Hill, we discovered a large area covered with mounds of Chorisodontium moss, from which I sampled a 20 cm long shoot! It will be very interesting to see how old this population could be.
Moss on Sealer Hill, Byers
Collected 20 cm long moss shoot
Unfortunately, we had very windy and wet weather during the rest of the week limiting many of us to short visits outside (dismantling 13 OTCs near the beach) and laboratory work inside. I also had a very quiet birthday on the 28th Jan, eating rehydrated dehydrated ‘party’ food and sharing chocolate and drinking Spanish red wine with the group. My surprise birthday present from the moss team was to ring anywhere in the world via satellite phone and, of course, I would call David in Australia and so I needed to wait about 12 hours due to the difference in time zones! It was a nice surprise to both of usJ.
To be continued…