Signy and the sunset on my time in Antarctica

Today we arrived at Signy, a small island at 60° 41’ S 46° 27’ W, where BAS operates a small station during summer to conduct zoological surveys on the island’s rich wildlife. There was a small resupply run, as well as some work at the emergency shelters dotted around the island. The weather was calm and overcast, the hills of Signy boasted a sprinkling of snow and the larger mountains of the adjacent Coronation Island loomed from the distant shore. Using the smaller Humber boats the crew ferried 4 of us across rotating the island visitors every 30-40 min to allow most people to get onshore without overwhelming the station. After a 2h wait and ready in my oversized boat suit I climbed down the rope ladder into the small boat and after a 2 min scoot across the water I finally stepped on land for the first time in 14.5 months.

The station consists of 4 sheds with all the workshops and accommodation for the 6 summer staff. Huge elephant seals were lying about the shore ignoring the visitors including some multi-ton males and some younger 1-2 year old juveniles. We went on a quick stroll up a hill past the elephant seals, a Weddell seal, a few chinstrap penguins, and a group of playful fur seals. The island itself only has a few hills up to 300 m, but the view onto the neighbouring Coronation Island with a few icebergs in the bay was stunning. The fur seal pups whined and yelped while chasing each other leaving the adults to lazily nap on rocks. The sheds themselves were utilitarian and the staff were eager to entertain us, but sadly there was only enough time to frank our postcards and slip back into our boat suits for the ride back.

While a few people who had some jobs to do one the island stayed the day, the rest of us went for a tour on the Shackleton around the bays and the iceberg graveyard to the north, while the Humbers went to the huts to pull down old seal fences. The mountains were stunning with dramatic glaciers tumbling down the rock faces into the sea. A dozen spectacular icebergs in varying states of melting floated around the bay, some harbouring penguins, while others were sculpted into improbable shapes. When the bergs roll the underside is saturated with water and almost glows bright blue against the grey backdrop of clouds and ocean.

Later on we headed back to the station to pick up the day visitors and head out again for a last circuit between the icebergs. The sunset was just visible on the horizon in front of us and grew into one of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen. The orange glow seeped out between the clouds and the sea silhouetting the fantastical shapes of the icebergs. In the fading light we completed one last lap around the double arched berg before continuing our journey home.


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