I am norwegian doctor who worked as expedition doc on the Antarctic research station Troll for the summer season 2007-2008. NB: This blog is intended as a personal and ecological account from The Ice Planet - fully independent of the Norwegian Polar Institute, their official web page being: npweb.npolar.no
18 Feb 2008
Yesterday I was exploring Nonshøgda, the low mountain immediately to our north, looking for life both tiny and small. The weather was splendid - blue skies and around -7 degrees, slightly unexpected because over the last weeks we've have had a gradual yet marked change in light and temperature: we have sunsets now, night temperatures drop below -20, and most of our bird neighbours seem to have left us.
The last transport train, number 8, approaching Troll. Every last container has now been shipped to station from the ice shelf. Fuel, food and other supplies for the 6 overwinterers - it's all in place. The main mission for the summer season has been accomplished. We're now wrapping up for the season, doing building repairs and improvements, and in my case the overlap period with my replacement, the overwintering doctor, has begun.
In 10 days I'll be back in Cape Town with the rest of the summer team.
It's been a fantastic 3 months, possibly life-changing, and I can't believe how fast it all went.
Climbing the hill further, I came upon a small patch of green, almost salady stuff, scattered amongst the rubble beneath some big boulders. This is a multicellular algae, I think belonging to the genus Prasiola. It usually grows in small cracks like this, small wind-deposits of snow providing liquid water for the brief summer months.
Suddenly - a thin creak, sounding like old scissors, just 1 meter further up, from between the boulders:
They're not easy to spot, these tiny snow petrel chicks. He was sitting in a small "cave", generations of guano piled up by the entrance, small bits of which provide plenty of fertilization for the Prasiolas below.
No sign of parents. With a healthy-looking chick like this, they are probably not far away, either on their way to, or coming back from the ocean, crops bulging with supernutritious krill-oil. The skuas will not be able to pull the chick out of his narrow hiding place.
In a few years this chick might be greeting newly arrived station crew members, while busily squabbling for the best nest site and some female attention - warm childhood memories coupled with genetic conditioning will have brought him back here, to within meters of his own birthplace.