Pictures!

Gentoo penguins, surf, and glaciers at Corinthian Bay, Heard Island.  Image credit: Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).
Gentoo penguins, surf, and glaciers at Corinthian Bay, Heard Island. Image credit: Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).

Heard Island is a pretty magical and dramatic place. I’ve been very busy with my IT duties, radio duties, and general camp upkeep. However, I’ve managed to take a few pictures in spare moments, and the highlights are posted here.

First glimpses of the Laurens Peninsula, Heard Island, after twelve days at sea.  As this image was taken, our ship was being welcomed by large numbers of birds, particularly albatrosses.  Image credit: Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).
First glimpses of the Laurens Peninsula, Heard Island, after twelve days at sea. As this image was taken, our ship was being welcomed by large numbers of birds, particularly albatrosses. Image credit: Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).
A Heard Island cormorant flies in front of the Laurens Peninsula, Heard Island.  A tall waterfall can be seen cascading down the cliff.  Image credit: Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).
A Heard Island cormorant flies in front of the Laurens Peninsula, Heard Island. A tall waterfall can be seen cascading down the cliff. Image credit: Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).
A southern giant petrel, one of the more commonly seen birds over Atlas Cove.  This individual is a juvenile, with a wingspan nearing 2 meters.  Image credit: Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).
A southern giant petrel, one of the more commonly seen birds over Atlas Cove. This individual is a juvenile, with a wingspan nearing 2 meters. Image credit: Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).
King penguins at Corinthian Bay, Heard Island, are caught in a very dusty squall.  High winds over the nullabor, a large, flat expanse of volcanic sand, bring lots of grit with them, and are strong enough to make walking difficult.  On the other side of the bay, glaciers flow down the flanks of Big Ben.  Image credit: Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).
King penguins at Corinthian Bay, Heard Island, are caught in a very dusty squall. High winds over the nullabor, a large, flat expanse of volcanic sand, bring lots of grit with them, and are strong enough to make walking difficult. On the other side of the bay, glaciers flow down the flanks of Big Ben. Image credit: Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).
Big Ben seen in twilight from Atlas Cove.  On unusually clear nights such as this one, the summit of the volcano can be seen from sea level.  Under ordinary circumstances, the low clouds would be too thick to see up more than 1000-2000 feet.  Image credit: Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).
Big Ben seen in twilight from Atlas Cove. On unusually clear nights such as this one, the summit of the volcano can be seen from sea level. Under ordinary circumstances, the low clouds would be too thick to see up more than 1000-2000 feet. Image credit: Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).
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Farewell, Cape Town!

HDT Airbeam tent being loaded onto the Braveheart.  The tent is also blocking a nice view of Table Mountain.  Image credit: VK0EK team.

We are in the final breakfast and boarding process for departing Cape Town. Above is a picture from yesterday, where all the inspected expedition gear was loaded onto the Braveheart.

Cape Town has been very nice. Our hotel is within an easy walk of the ship, and there are many shops nearby where we have acquired food, groceries, clothing, outdoor gear, and souvenirs. Weather has been quite warm (26 °C, 79 °F) with a breeze. The local Cape Town team has been extremely helpful and have made much of the project move more smoothly. Crew from the Braveheart have also been wonderful to work with, and I’m looking forward to getting to know them more in the next six weeks. As the ships were loading, a seal was playing in the harbor, gulls were flying around, and even a few terns were spotted.

As can be seen in the photo above, there is some interesting geology around Cape Town. Most noticeable is Table Mountain, which is primarily made up of the Table Mountain Sandstone. Closer to the hotel is Signal Hill, which has slates that have been tilted nearly vertical. We were able to see these up close yesterday evening after the ship was loaded and things were under control. It’s quite a view from up there (sorry, haven’t had time to process pics). For more on the geology of Cape Town, take a look at this post by Dr. Evelyn Mervine, who writes one of the AGU blogs.

Internet connectivity on the ship is likely to be minimal, but with luck I’ll be able to get a post or two up from Heard Island! More frequent news updates can be found at vk0ek.org.

Heading Out!

Ready for departure.  Image credit: Stuart Mitchell.
Ready for departure. Image credit: Stuart Mitchell.

After a long day of backpack tetris, I was able to fit just about everything on my list in. One shirt has to stay home, and the headphones coming with me aren’t my favorite—but they work. I even managed to find space for some M&Ms!

Now I’m all packed and departure for the airport is imminent. It’ll be a long series of flights to Cape Town, but the weather looks good at all airports along the way, so at least that shouldn’t be an issue.

Heard Island, here I come!

***

If you’re wondering about the weather on Heard Island, here’s a forecast. I’d take it with a big grain of salt, but it seems to have the general idea (cold, wet, windy).

Plan for Updates from the Field

Southeastern Heard Island in true color, February 20, 2016.  Image credit: data from NASA EO-1/ALI (public domain), processed by Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).
Southeastern Heard Island in true color, February 20, 2016. Image credit: data from NASA EO-1/ALI (public domain), processed by Bill Mitchell (CC-BY).

For what I hope are obvious reasons, during the Heard Island Expedition posting around here could get infrequent or disappear entirely. I will try to get updates in when I can. Here’s the general plan for when and where to expect updates:

  • VK0EK.org will be maintained by our mission control team, and will be the best source of information. It is reasonable to expect they will be in contact with us at least daily.
  • We have a GPS tracker, which you can follow here.
  • My blog here will be updated as I am able to do so. I’ve been told that internet connectivity aboard the ship is extremely limited (few text-only emails), so don’t expect much March 10–20 and April 10–21. However, on Heard Island (est. March 21 to April 10) the situation should improve because we can aim antennas at the geostationary satellites from stable ground rather than a pitching and rolling ship.
  • This post is going to be pinned to the top of the front page, so you will need to scroll down for updates.
  • I may post things to Twitter (@i_rockhopper), but I doubt it will see much use beyond linking back here.

Here are a few reading suggestions in case you’d like some additional Heard Island flavor while I’m gone:

  • Fourteen Men by Arthur Scholes. It’s an account of the 1947-1948 Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition to Heard Island, which established many of the scientific baselines from which changes are measured on the island. I enjoyed it, and it was available at my local (large city) library. The book is written for a general audience.
  • Heard Island: Southern Ocean Sentinel, Ken Green and Eric Woehler, eds. (2006). This book has the latest research on Heard Island. It is written for a scientific audience, and is effectively a collection of research papers or review articles. The print run was small, and your local library probably doesn’t have it. However, I ordered a copy from a bookstore in Australia, and I’ve found it an invaluable resource for preparing for this expedition.
  • Heard Island 1986-1987 Scientific Expedition Report, including significant geologic and Earth science research. Open Access
  • Heard Island 1987-1988 Scientific Expedition Report, including excellent hand-drawn maps raw population counts for several species of birds, and other great early-stage science! Open Access