Feb 23rd was our first attempt at putting in camp at Tay Head peninsula, Joinsville Island along the Firth of Tay. I woke up multiple times throughout the night to crunching and growling around the boat—when I got up in the morning we were surrounded by ice—floes and bergs loosely packed together, pressure ridge seams between some, and occasional patches of dark open water with smaller ice bits floating around. The Gould is an “ice-reinforced” vessel—not a true ice breaker, but did just fine in the loose ice and floes we had on the way in.
We saw lots of penguins and crabeater seals along our slow route towards Joinsville. The crabeaters are true seals—funny looking critters, especially when they try to move across the ice, inch-worming from place to place. We saw mostly adelie penguins—in small groups and one big group that hurried away as our boat approached to the side, alternating between sliding and waddling, arms prone, in a long line of black and white. One time we directly hit a small ice berg with an adelie on it—at the last second it jumped into the water and sped away in front of the bow.
We made slow progress towards the island through the morning—the closer we got, the more the water opened up. Finally we were in fairly clear seas, and lots of whales appeared in the distance, including a pod of “type B” killer whales (orcas)—the black and white “free willy” whales. The type B ones have a slightly yellow tinge and eat fish and seals mostly, according to the whalers on board. Apparently the pod was surrounding a humpback—not to try to attack it, but just checking it out/harassing it.
The rest of us ate lunch on the boat, and then got ready to head to shore. We may be the first people to set foot on this part of Joinville—at least the first Americans likely! The geo crew plus a couple whaler volunteers got suited up—base layer, fleece layer, helly hanson overalls (waterproof), steel-toed “xtratuf” rubber boots, float coats (waterproof coat with foam on the inside—act as a life jacket), hat, mittens and sun glasses. We also each had an orange waterproof emergency bag with us each time we went to the island—extra layer, glasses, water, and snacks.
Finally it was time to go—we all loaded on to the zodiac (nothing to worry about, turns out), and headed to shore. The MTs found a path through the icebergs and we pulled into the black, cobble beach. We unloaded the gear we had brought, dropped a layer (it was very warm—I ended up in only my base layer for most of the day).
Everyone on the LMG spent the day helping us start putting in camp-- loading gear and helpers into the zodiacs, hauling gear to our camp site (which was a ~15min walk from the beach... more with heavy stuff), digging 2ft deep pits for our tent stakes, etc. etc. The geo team is incredibly grateful to the crew, MTs, and volunteers who sweated and suffered to keep our little camp standing and steady throughout the next couple weeks! We got camp about half up before sunset, and all headed back to the LMG for another night on the boat. For more pictures and description about our put in, see Mary's blog entry: https://mlparkermedia.com/blog/the-pago-files-field-camp