Winter has come

It has been a little while since my last blog, and lots has changed down here at Rothera. The winter season has started. Yes, that’s right, winter and summer are upside down here, just like other southern places like Australia.

In the Antarctica winter the sea ice, darkness, extra snow and wind means that we can’t have planes and ships down at Rothera for 6 months of the year. We are completely isolated. Only a few humans stay at Rothera to keep it running. This year it is 19 humans, Sid and me. All the other penguins leave too, so I am glad Sid is here to keep me company.

The Shackelton, a British Antarctic Survey ship, took away the last of the summer staff. We all stood and waved them off, letting off flares and shouting goodbyes. Funny to think that for the next 6 months we will only see the 19 people that are left. We have a few scientists, some people to keep the station working (plumber, electrician etc.) a chef and the doctor. Here is a photo of Bryony and a couple of others waving goodbye:

Farewells

Farewells

At Rothera they don’t have 24 hour darkness, but the sun does not come above the horizon for about 2 months. We have just had the Sundown Ceremony, when the sun dips below the mountains for the last time. The oldest person on base, our chef Issy, takes the flag down. In July, when the sun comes back up behind the mountains, the youngest person on base puts a new flag back up. Here are all 19 humans at Rothera with the old, battered flag:

Sun Down

Now the sun doesn’t make it over the horizon, but is isn’t too far away. So we get some wonderful sunrises and sunsets. This photo was taken this morning at 11am, two of the boys are flying a machine that can take photos and films from the air. It is pretty cool:

sunrise

sunrise

Before it got too dark we were all allowed a week’s holiday off the station. Each person goes with one of the field assistants – survival experts who work here – and can camp, go climbing or skiing if the weather is good. Bryony and I went with Caspar and camped in the north of the island. Here is our tent:

P7550360

It was pretty cold outside, and hard working putting the tent up and down, especially on windy days. But inside it was warm and cosy once the Tilly lamp had been lit. In the mornings Caspar fried bacon for some sandwiches, so it wasn’t too tough living there for a week:

Making bacon with Caspar

Making bacon with Caspar

We climbed a small mountain, here I am at the top:

At top of mountain

At top of mountain

We also went down a crevasse, which is where there is a crack in the ice. For safety we all had to be roped together, in case one of us fell down an unseen crevasse. We drove around on Skidoos, which were also roped together. Here I am with Emily, the dive officer, in the crevasse. Emily and another FA were camping next to us.:

Cravasse climbing

Cravasse climbing

It was a fantastic week, to be able to camp in Antarctica is something I have wanted to do for a long time.

I have had some questions from you guys, which is great. Laila Waise asked if we live in tents here, and if it is cold. Well, at Rothera we live in nice buildings. There is a photo at the beginning of this blog of the room I share with Bryony. As you have just seen, we do get to go out in tents sometimes. In the summer some of the scientists and field assistants live in tents for about 3 months at a time. I am glad I don’t have to do that.

The Rainbows in Thorner have asked if we have spring or autumn here, and how many months there are in an Antarctic winter?

Working at Rothera we have a definite “Summer” and “Winter” period, but that is decided by when the first and last planes come. As we don’t have trees or flowers spring is very different. But the seasons do change slowly, the sea freezes up, the animals change and have babies in some parts of Antarctica. So that makes spring and autumn. Here at Rothera we don’t really talk about spring and autumn though, just summer and winter.

How are all my penguin friends and their carers? I would love to hear from you all. If you have any other questions please do ask,

Love

Pearl xxx

 

 

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