I've been at Halley for two weeks now and on Sunday we went on our first recreational trip. 35 kilometers from Halley is Windy Bay, a natural cove in the ice shelf where sea ice forms in the winter.
We headed out in the morning aboard one of the SnowCats, the people carrier of the Antarctic. Driving at a slow but steady 10mph, the trip to Windy Bay took about two and a half hours during which time we listened to music and played games, excited to see the Penguins.
The ice shelf drops 20m down to the sea ice, and the only way down and back up is on a rope. As we walked closer to the edge of the ice shelf we first heard the penguins, a chorus of chirps from the chicks and high pitched throat clearing from the adults. A couple of metres further and we saw the discoloured sea ice and an army of penguins. At the edge of the ice shelf the field assistants set up anchor points to abseil down to the sea ice and walk among the penguins.
Down on the ice we walked freely among the penguins, while sitting down they were cautiously curious about their new visitors.
Many of the adults had left as it was late in the season, the chicks that remained need to shed their feathers to allow them to swim. While some chicks are fat and almost the size of the adults, unfortunately others are small and have slim chance of making it off the ice.
The day after we visited the Windy Bay, another group attempted to get on the sea ice, but in only 12 hours the ice had started to break up. A shift and increase in wind was to blame.