Penguins and ice – the South Sandwich Islands do not disappoint

January 8, 2015

Dr. Tom Hart runs the Penguin Lifelines project at Oxford University and the Zoological Society of London, through which he monitors Antarctic wildlife using camera trapping, volunteer photos and population genetics. Tom’s PhD at Imperial College and the British Antarctic Survey investigated penguin foraging behavior around South Georgia.

Tom is just coming off of the Sea Spirit where he was our special guest lecturer, and conducting research for Penguin Lifelines. 
 

We landed on Saunders Island, part of the South Sandwich Island chain, to recover a camera with the first breeding data – we’re trying to look at the timing of breeding. It’s seldom studied away from scientific bases, which means that the whole of the productive South Sandwich Island chain has escaped attention.

A camera we placed last year on an expedition ship has been recording vital data ever since. The South Sandwich Islands are downstream of the krill fishery and therefore of prime importance in determining the impact of fishing on the Scotia Sea. Here are some of the images we’ve recovered.

Chinstrap penguins on the slope of Saunders Island, recently arrived and pairing up to breed.

Chinstrap penguins on the slope of Saunders Island, recently arrived and pairing up to breed.

Mid-winter storm in South Sandwich – temporarily ice-free.

Mid-winter storm in South Sandwich – temporarily ice-free.

Cordelia Bay in August, largely frozen-in.

Cordelia Bay in August, largely frozen-in.

The ice retreats from Cordelia Bay and the sea steams in front of Brothers Rocks.

The ice retreats from Cordelia Bay and the sea steams in front of Brothers Rocks.

A crisp spring morning in South Sandwich – mid September and still over a month before the penguins return to breed.

A crisp spring morning in South Sandwich – mid September and still over a moth before the penguins return to breed.

Penguins have returned! Pairs lie side by side in the snow until the first egg is laid.

Penguins have returned! Pairs lie side by side in the snow until the first egg is laid.

Chicks poke and huddle under adults – one parent is out at sea foraging while the other stands guard.

Chicks poke and huddle under adults – one parent is out at sea foraging while the other stands guard.

Rediscovering the “leatherman” left behind when placing the camera. It still works, but needed a clean.

Rediscovering the “leatherman” left behind when placing the camera. It still works, but needed a clean.

Find out more about Dr. Tom Hart and his work with Quark Expeditions:

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