Listful thinking

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Hanging out in Western Australia

It has been an inordinately long time since I have posted anything on this blog.  And I have been feeling guilty about it for a while now!  I can’t even claim that I’ve been too busy because those that are in the know while know that I blog almost every week.  Just not here.  I started a research blog as part of my new job in Melbourne to document the work that I do.  And then I started a Wildlife Wednesday tradition where every Wednesday I post a photograph of some interesting critter that I seen and write a little story about its ecology (mostly paraphrased from Wikipedia as they are often things I know nothing about).  Which means that I spend a lot of time writing blog posts.  Which means that I feel less inclined to post things over here.

But I thought I’d better at least let you know I’m alive and kicking and getting out and about.  So here is a slideshow of photos from my recent trip to Western Australia over Easter  It was largely spent camping and tramping and sitting at the top or bottom of crags watching people climb, along with some funky wildlife (read all about western spotted frogs and weird marsupials over at my research blog).

Hopefully I’ll be back again soon!

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Happy 2013

I’m sitting in our little hut out at Cape Bird seeing in the new year, watching minke and orca swim out the window and a leopard seal drifting past on the ice.  It’s a pretty good way to end what has been a spectacular year.  All the best for 2013 from the penguins and their wranglers at Cape Bird!

Happy 2013 big

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Cous cous bread

One of the nice things about living in a remote place is that you get to try out lots of inventive recipes.  This is partly because you have time to do things without the distractions of modern life (she says writing a blog post from a field camp in Antarctica) but also because the selection of ingredients is often somewhat eclectic.  We bake a lot of bread out here at Cape Bird and we’ve been experimenting a little this year.  One of the winning recipes is an adaptation of Alison and Simon Holst’s rice bread recipe from their excellent New Zealand Bread Book, bought about by a seemingly never-ending pot of leftover cous cous.  It’s particularly good if your cous cous has bits of sundried tomato in it like ours did.


Cous Cous (Rice) Bread

3 t Surebake yeast
1 cup warm water (plus a little more depending on how wet the rice/cous cous is)
2 t sugar
1 1/2 salt
2 T oil
3 T non-fat milk powder
1 cup wholemeal (or country grain) flour
2 cups high grade flour
1 cup cooked rice (i use brown rice or cous cous)

  1. Mix yeast, water and sugar in a bowl and leave for 5 mins.
  2. Mix in rest of ingredients and knead for 10 mins.
  3. Cover and leave to rise for an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. Knead again and place in a greased loaf tin.
  5. Leave to rise for another hour.
  6. Bake at 200C for 30 mins.


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Cape Bird

Flying into Cape Bird hut from Scott Base felt a little like flying home – being greeted by familiar faces, sites and sounds, slipping into familiar routines around the hut and out around the colony.  It is certainly nice to be back.

Ross Island

Cape Bird is often referred to as the Riviera of Ross Island and for good reason.  We probably have the best weather as we’re relatively sheltered from the southerlies by Mount Bird and Mount Erebus and we certainly have some pretty sweet accommodation compared to some of the other field camps.  Our hut is pretty palatial, with a large living area, a lab, two bunk rooms and a shed complete with clip-on outhouse.


There’s even a wringer for when you need to wash your stinking penguin socks.


The pantry is well-stocked and, as long as you don’t look at the expiry dates, you can find most things you want (as long as you don’t want anything fresh or have a particular fondness for tinned fish, surprise beans or christmas pudding).


There’s even a secret stash of marmite, which made me happy!


But it’s hard to believe how fast the time is going.  Already, I’ve been here for over two weeks, making today the halfway point for me this season.  This year we have seven people for what the same amount of work we did with three the first season, so while the hut is super-busy, we’re getting way more done and not working ridiculous hours.  We also had a pretty slow start this year as the birds seem to be running a bit behind schedule but it has nice to ease into the work and get settled in before it got all crazy busy.

I’m going to leave you with a pretty penguin picture to wet your appetite for stories about penguin work in the new year.  Happy nearly 2013!!


*Thanks to Papa John for the use of his photos from last season!

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Heading south

It seems slightly wrong to be able to send blog posts from a remote location in Antarctica but it does mean that I get to tease you all with photos, so it’s not going to stop me!

This year we flew down in a C130 Hercules which made for a different experience. Imagine sitting in a deck chair for eight hours with your knees touching your neighbours, inside a cake tin, next to the cake mixer. Not the most comfortable of flights and definitely limited inflight entertainment.


So it was a grateful plane of well-insulated sardines that landed at the Pegasus airstrip out on the ice shelf.


From the plane, it was a 60 minute trundle in Ivan the Terra Bus around the edge of the iceshelf to Scott Base and McMurdo. That’s a door to door service of about 13 hours.DSC_0267

We’ve spent the last few days at Scott Base organising our field gear and getting ready for heading out to Cape Bird for a season of wrangling Adelie penguins.

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Penguin wrangling in Antarctica

In a few days time, I’ll be heading south for another summer of penguin wrangling in Antarctica. It’s going to be a bit of a stark contrast from cruising the city streets of Melbourne in 30 degrees to stalking the beaches of Cape Bird at -15 degrees but I’m looking forward to it.

Hopefully this season will be a bit more relaxed work wise, with nine people doing the work that three of us did the first season but it will make for a super busy hut. There are rumours of internet access this year which I’m not sure I’m that happy about. It seems a bit weird to disappear to one of the more remote parts of the planet and still be able to check facebook. But on the plus side, I will hopefully be able to tease you all with pictures of penguins.

But just in case the technology fails us……

Merry Christmas from Cape Bird!

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Everywhere but Melbourne

As usual I keep promising to post about my adventures in Melbourne to date but it hasn’t happened.  Mainly because I spend most of my days sitting in front of my computer in my office thinking about maths.  Not a highly exciting blogging topic.  I’ve taken a couple of photos of the garden but that’s about it.  I’ve made it to the museum and a lot of homeware shops but really not a lot else has happened that seems worthy of writing about.  Which doesn’t mean that I’m not having fun but it’s all been a bit on the domestic/work side thus far. Except for a couple of trips that have taken me further afield in the last week or so.

The work that I’m doing is related to conservation and development in around Perth in Western Australia and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales.  Which means that I need to visit these regions from time to time to meet with people and see the areas we are working with. Which is all rather convenient when the boy lives in the Perth and work pays for me to visit.

This was my third trip to Perth and with just four days and a meeting, there wasn’t a lot of time to be lazing by the pool.  So we set off on a short jaunt south to test out the new Hilux and see if we could get it dirty.

the new hilux

We took it for a spin around an easy 4WD route about an hour south of Perth, and while it didn’t really get put through its paces, it was fun.  And there was lots of fun wildlife, including


GIANT skinks


(the little guy is a normal sized skink!)






splendid fairy wrens,

DSC_0230    IMG_0526

and people pondering streams.

There were also trestle bridges in varying states of rickety-ness

DSC_0234A little bit rickety but safe to walk over

IMG_0517quite rickety but okay if you step carefully

IMG_0514Far too rickety to be standing this close to the edge

It was an entertaining drive.  The rest of the weekend was filled in watching films about climbing, having drinks with climbing people and pretending to be a climber myself by scaling a slabby wall at a local quarry of a terrifying grade 14!  Oh, and eating cherry tomatoes from in the pool (which has nothing to do with climbing but was a tasty treat).

Then it was off to Newcastle in the Hunter Valley for a couple of days of meetings and some tripping around the countryside checking out littoral rainforest and beaches.  And some very impressive phosphorescent algae causing the surf to glow blue!

 Next week is a conference and then it’s time to head south for another five weeks of penguin wrangling.  So stories of Melbourne may still be some time.  But they will come one day soon……

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Scott’s Saddle

The end of May was looming rapidly and featuring a distinct lack of outdoor adventures.  So we decided to grasp the last weekend with both hands and set off into the wilderness for a weekend tramp.  Only the weather didn’t get the memo, with a last minute check of the forecast on Saturday morning sporting a giant red blob of nastiness descending over the South Island.  
So we ditched the heavy overnight packs and set off for a day walk that would hopefully stay dry long enough to allow May to be crossed off the list.  A quick search on the internet identified the Scott’s Saddle track near Mount Hutt as a good candidate.

After a few geographically-challenged detours, we made it to the start of the track and zig-zagged our way steeply up through beech and rata forest before popping out on to the Mount Hutt skifield road at the saddle.  It was a bit of a grunt and my legs paid the price.
There wasn’t much snow for skiing (oh how things will have changed – I currently have 15cm on the front lawn) but the views out over the Canterbury plains were pretty.
The pizza lunch was tasty and the company pretty good.

The norwester was starting to blow, so we hightailed it down the hill, stopping briefly to poke a huhu grub.  Luckily for him, we were all pretty full from lunch! 
May: done.  Just, by the skin of my teeth!  And June too.  But that’s a different story.