November 28, 2013

365 days in Antarctica !

For my 365th day at DDU station, on November 8th, I throw the meteorological baloon for the first time. Meteorologists at the base throw such a baloon every day to mesure various parameters in the atmosphere (temperature, pressure, wind speed, etc.), to improve meteorological models.

So, one entire year now ! And few more months still. Summer started again: a lot of adelies, less emperor penguins, a lot of petrels, and a lot of humans ! We are now 48 persons at the base I think, and will be much more when the next boat arrives.

Summer time, and planes arrivals were also a great opportunity to get few boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately not enough, we will have to wait a bit longer, we already ate them all...

Soon, a post on emperor pengiuns breeding cycle !

October 11, 2013

Antarctic Film Festival

From July to September, time flew very fast. Bad weather conditions marked most of the weeks, but fortunately, the Antarctic film festival began early August. Every year all (or most) Antarctic and Subantarctic stations participate in this event by producing one or more movies. Subsequently the best movies are elected internationally by these same stations. There are 2 categories for the movies: open, and 48h hours. As the name suggests, the open category can include any type of movie with the only constraint of 5 minutes duration. For the 48h category, it is a bit more complicated: all stations got, on August 2nd, the same 5 elements to include in their 48h movie (maximum duration 5 minutes again). The project had to be submitted on August 4th.  The 5 elements this year were: the gingerbread man, a real sneeze noise, a bath tub, a ping pong ball, and the sentence “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir ?”.

We had a lot of fun preparing the 2 movies we submitted, and watching the other stations pieces of art.

To have a look at the movies, follow the links:

DDU station movies:

-    Open :
  - 48h:

All movies for the festival:

One year after…

Every year, the French polar institute organize a seminar with all people preparing a winter-over in the French Antarctic and subantarctic territories (Kerguelen, Crozet, Amsterdam, and Adelie land). By tradition, one year after we take a picture at the base, to show how hairy we got ! 

July 13, 2013

An Adelie's Life...

Wawwww I haven’t been writing in my blog in a long time. Thanks to a really good friend who motivated me, I will start again (hopefully more often)!

Last summer, the station was full of adelie penguin, petrels, skuas. Now they are all gone, and the emperor penguins came back.

Before presenting the emperors, I wanted to sum up life in Antarctica for an adelie penguin. OK it is not the season anymore, but afterall, they come back in October!

In October, males arrive first, and choose a nest for the coming reproductive season. Their nests are located more or less at the same spot every year. Their nests are made of small rocks; this allows the snow to melt faster and consequently to avoid the egg or the chick to be wet and probably die.

Snow can be a serious problem for them, sometimes covering them totally. But it also hydrates them which is critical for their survival ashore.

Afterwards, the females arrive, and courtship display starts. They sing together, heads up, flippers opened. I cannot say much about this period, as I arrived too late in November. Once in pair, they will continue these courtship calls anytime they met again (after a travel at sea), and with the chick as well. Calls help them recognize each other, together with visual cues.

Once they copulated and the female layed 1 or 2 eggs, she will leave to fish, and the male will incubate the egg for 15 to 20 days. 

Then the female will come back and they exchange role. Male can be very durty after such a long time spent ashore. You can differentiate them from coming females just by their plumage color.

Once the egg hatches (December), everything is going very fast!

Especially chick growth. At the beginning, the chick is too small, and stays below its parent. The parents exchange guarding shifts.

But once the chick is thermically emancipated, it gathers with other chicks in small huddles, and the parents are both at sea fishing, and coming back more often to feed him.

In February, the chicks molt, to get adult plumage.

When the chicks are ready (mid-February), they leave for their first swimming attempt. They look terrified until they put their head below the surface. And then they swim naturally.

An immature adelie penguin, around 1 year old still do not look as an adult, and miss the black spot on the chin.

Adults come back ashore to molt as well late February and March, and they leave as well eventually, to come back the next season.

I hope I summarized well an adelie life in Antarctica!

At DDU, as in all other Subantarctic and Antarctic stations, we celebrated Midwinter on June 21st. We extended the celebration between June 18th and June 24th. It is a great opportunity to unify the group, play games outside when the weather is ok, and enjoy the fact that we spend already/only half the time planned at DDU! 

It is too late to wish you a happy midwinter, so happy post-midwinter and enjoy your summer in Northern Hemisphere !