Antarctic Aggregation

A collection of my images from remote places are going to be on show in The Boiler Room at the Jam Factory in Oxford from mid-November.

Over the next few weeks I'm going to publish a blog post about each of the regions I've included in the exhibition where I’ll tell the stories behind a few of the images.

Little bit of Empire, Port Lockroy, Antarctic Peninsula

I think this is the furthest south I’ve seen the Union Jack flying. 

Port Lockroy is on Goudier Island part of the Antarctic Palmer Archipelago.  The island was named for a French politican, and although the bay around the island was used by whalers in the early years of the 20th Century, the base on the island wasn't built until 1943.  In the 1943, despite or (more likely) because of the war, the Admiralty decided that it would be a good idea to establish a permanent British presence in the Antarctic.  Operation Tabarin resulted in three bases, on Deception Island, at Port Lockroy and at Hope Bay.  The Port Lockroy base was operated continuously until 1962 when it was essentially abandoned.  In 1996 the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust renovated the base which now operates (in the southern Summer) as a museum, post office and souvenir shop.  I visited the island very early in the season, so there was still plenty of snow on the ground, and the penguins were busy building nests – and stealing pebbles from each other.

Penguins at Dawn, Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands

One of the highlights of my first visit to the Falkland Islands was sharing the beach with the penguins.
Each morning the penguins, on Sea Lion Island mostly gentoos, set off from their nesting sites for their morning swim.  If you go out early, and sit down on the beach (so you’re not too much taller than a penguin) you might well become the centre of attention.  Penguins are very curious birds, and they will inevitably come and investigate anything that’s on the beach and doesn't look like a threat.   On this morning, the crowds gathered and for a long time the penguins just shuffled closer and closer to see what this new visitor to the beach might want (or indeed taste like).

Salisbury Plain, South Georgia Island

There are a lot of King Penguins on South Georgia.
Salisbury Plain is one of several beaches that are home to big colonies of King Penguins, in this case perhaps as many as 500,000 birds.  The beach is named after the other Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, although I really did struggle to see any resemblance.  I visited Salisbury Plain at the height of the breeding season in December.  At this time the beaches are covered with adult birds, both nesting and moulting, and with last year’s chicks who are in the final stages of shedding their brown down.  The juvenile penguins tend to gather together leading to the colony appearing to have stripes of brown and black/white.  The early explorers couldn’t quite get their heads round the breeding cycle of the King Penguins, so for several years the juveniles were thought to be a separate penguins species (the woolly penguin).
St Andrews Bay, South Georgia Island

When you’re a young King Penguin, still with a thick winter coat, and the temperature starts to climb, it’s good to have a nice cool pool to dip your feet in.  This pool on St Andrews Bay is just the thing, so lots of brown-coated juvenile penguins loiter around the waters edge.  Far into the distance are thousands and thousands of both juvenile and adult penguins.

The pool looks beautiful with mountains of South Georgia reflected in it, but I wouldn't suggest the pool as a swimming stop for any human visitors no matter how warm the weather got.

The Exhibition

If you want to see these pictures and more, the exhibition runs from 12th November 2013 to 12th January 2014 – there is more information about the exhibition on the Jam Factory website

These images are also available on the new NorthSouthImages website

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