That was it really. Seven weeks in Antarctica was a wonderful experience.
Current Location: Kim Sejong Station, Antarctica
Project Title: Benthic Ecosystem Function under Different Climate Conditions in the Polar Region
Partner: Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI)
That was it really. Seven weeks in Antarctica was a wonderful experience.
We only have 1 more sampling day in the final week here, it sounds achievable but it is actually quite tricky considering this is the Lunar New Year’s week, which means 2 days off for preparation and celebration. And yes, of course the weather always a major factor.
This was the most successful week for us. We were able to go sampling nearly every day. That’s very rare in Antarctica.
Apart from our routine benthic sampling, we also went sampling to measure the seawater characteristics (such as salinity, temperature, and chlorophyll-a). This time we went with other group who work on plankton. Since boat work is of interest to many people, there were also 2 terrestrial (land) ecologists came along to join us. And, not to forget, an assistant cook who also turned up to give a hand.
Don’t get misled by the title!
This week kicked off with the leaving of a group of 12 person (scientists, artists and media people) to Korea (or to be more precise to Punta Arenas, Chile; and after 2 nights there they would fly to Paris and subsequently to Korea – a very long yet must be exciting journey to get home). Dr Ahn was also in the group, and so was one of the divers. A reduced number of team members had somewhat taken a toll on us here in Antarctica, but it was not that bad since that was the plan and we have a comprehensive upcoming plan of what to do.
In previous report, I briefly explained about the study my collaborator and I are doing in Antarctic Peninsula. Our works here are basically involving field work (or sampling) and laboratory works for sample processing and storage. All field works are done by the aid of SCUBA diving. These have been the routines of us here although at times we were unable to carry out our planned works due to weather condition. However, there are some social activities too.
The journey to Antarctic Peninsula started from Punta Arenas, Chile, where I met the KOPRI’s team, and we departed for Antarctica using a chartered flight on 16th December 2012. The journey took just 2 hours. Flight stopped at the runway close to Russian and Chilean stations. From there, we went across the Marian Cove to King Sejong Station.
My Antarctic research is a collaborative work with Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI), in particular with Dr Ahn In-Young. This research is supported by a funding from Yayasan Penyelidikan Antartika Sultan Mizan (YPASM). My research is to determine the impact of glacier melting (due to climate changes) on the functioning of benthic communities (Benthic – is the vertically lowest zone in aquatic ecosystem, including the sediment or seafloor. Organisms inhabiting this zone are called benthos). Or in simpler word, when the melted ice finds its way to the sea, would it affect the life and activities of benthic communities?
Current Location: Signy Research Station, Antarctica
Project Title: The Relationships Between Penguins’ Diet and Gut Microflora, and the Influences to Their Habitat
Partner: Bristish Antarctic Survey
31st Jan – 6th Feb
The week of Chinese New Year was welcomed with stunning weather. However, I did not have holiday on Chinese New Year. The 2nd chinstrap penguin diet sampling had fall on the 30th Jan (Chinese New Year Eve), and I had been working overnight that day, and more laboratory work to do on the next day. Still, I was pleased that I could find some time for baking cookies to get my stomach satisfied. Well eventually, on the 6th Feb (the 7th day of Chinese New Year), we had the yusheng meal (raw fish salad, a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigour) as a starter of our dinner for celebration.
24th – 30th Jan
People might think it should be easy out to the field to collect samples but now I can tell you that this is not true especially field sampling in the coldest, driest and windiest place: Antarctica. Apart from difficulties walking on deep snow and slippery rocks, and burning feel on my fingers while collecting samples due to the freezing temperature, I also have to beware of the terrifying fur seals. It would be very unpleasant if I got bitten by them as they have sharp teeth and their saliva is full with germs. There were more than hundreds of them along the penguin pathway in Gourlay this week.
BAS emphasise a lot on the safety issues. There was a first aid refreshment talk and a search and rescue (SAR) exercise on the 18th Jan. In the SAR exercise, I acted as a casualty who lad loss contacts during my way to the field, whereas other people were separated into two teams. Team 1 was responsible for searching the casualty. Once the casualty was located, they examined casualty’s condition and reported it to the base commander. Team 2 was then carried with them an insulated casualty bag, cascade stretcher, technical equipment and static rope rucksacks to assist Team 1.
10th – 16th Jan
The week started with a stunning day. There were more elephant seals gather in front of the station. Thanks to the great job done by Matt with the fence, in this season the building is not surrounded by smelly elephant seals, which make our moves around the station much easier.
3rd – 9th Jan 2014
This is my second week living at Signy Research Station, Signy Island or known as South Orkney Islands, Antarctica. My life here is quite busy but very organising. All of us work from 8.30am till 6pm on the week days referring to the working schedule suggested by base commander, Matt. However, I will need to have a very long working hours when comes to the penguin diet sampling day, which is once in every 5 days subjected to the weather. I usually depart to the sampling site, Gourlay around 11am to collect samples. By the time I’m back at the base would be about 9pm and then I need to do immediate lab work until 4am the next day. Well, despite hard work, we do have some nice games to play and a proper 3 course meal on every Saturday evening to release our stress.
In the early morning of 27th Dec, I eventually arrived at Signy Research Station, Signy Island, Antarctica after 7 days living on the ship. Upon my arrival, the base commander Matt gave a tour brief about the station, the duties of each and every base member and the rules of the station. Basically, other than the routine morning and night watch and cook duties, I need to do gash work (or known as cleaning) every day after dinner and a scrub-out (thorough cleaning) every Saturday. This is because Signy Research Station is a small station where there are only 8 people which including me.
My Antarctic project is a collaborative work with Prof. Dr. Peter Convey and Mr. Michael J. Dunn from British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Prof. Dr. David Pearce from Northumbria University, United Kingdom. Most of the laboratory work are conducted in National Antarctic Research Centre (NARC), University of Malaya under supervision of Prof. Dato’ Dr. Azizan Abu Samah and Prof. Dr. Irene Tan Kit Ping. Special thanks to the fellowship award funded by Yayasan Penyelidikan Antartika Sultan Mizan (YPASM) and funding from National Antarctic Research Centre (NARC), University of Malaya
The journey to Antarctica started from Cambridge, United Kingdom where the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) building is located. I arrived at Cambridge on the 13th Dec after a 13 hours flight from Malaysia and a 3 hours coach. It was winter and the temperature was about 11°C. Before departure to Antarctica, I need to attend a maritime Personal Safety Techniques (PST) course which was held in Norwich on the 16th Dec. It was a one day course which comprises 2 sessions.
The journey from Falkland Islands to Signy Research Station, Signy Island, Antarctica was on British Antarctic Survey (BAS) ship named James Clark Ross (JCR). While waiting for JCR to get ready for sailing, I grabbed the opportunity to visit a few attractions around Stanley, the town of Falkland Islands. My life on JCR was simple and relaxing but sometimes adventurous when the weather was bad and the waves were rough. Despite of seasickness, people onboard might get difficulties in walking around. Not many activities on board except watching films and reading. 3 meals were provided per day on the ship which inclusive of a full English breakfast, 3 course meals each for lunch and dinner. BAS emphasises pretty much on safety issue and therefore people on board again need to undergo some ship safety briefing and training. On the 25th Dec, people on board celebrated Christmas Day on the ship with a traditional Christmas lunch which includes a turkey meal and Christmas pudding.