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Polychaete research in the Falklands by Teresa Darbyshire - The Penguin blog

Landrover trek
Photo 1: The reason it takes 2 hours to do 10 miles.
King Penguins
Photo 2: Part of the King Penguin colony at Volunteer Point.
Tubeworm casts
Photo 3: Tubeworm casts on a kelp bladder.
Sealion taking a Magellanic Penguin
Photo 4: Nature in action!
Falklands map
Photo 5: Location of the penguin colonies.

Luckily by the time we left Friday night the rain had moved off although the wind had been left behind. I had been told it would be a 3 hour drive to Volunteer Point so when we arrived at a gate into a field at a group of houses I said “Wow that was quick, are we here?” “Oh no, this is just where the road ends!” Cue 2 more hours of bouncing over peaty grassland following any one of numerous tracks picked mainly by virtue of which looked less boggy. There were four 4x4s in the convoy (photo 1) and there was nothing to worry about because we had a new towrope (apparently the last had snapped recently, no doubt dragging someone out of a bog). Getting ‘bogged’ was just a general hazard that didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary. I hoped I wouldn’t have to see the new towrope in action.

A bit less than 2 hours later we bounced up to the warden’s house at Volunteer Point (actually only 10 miles from where the road had ended!) before moving on to put the tents up.

The wind actually died down later in the evening but was howling again by morning. The sun had arrived though with a bright blue sky and I went off for a bit of penguin spotting before breakfast. I’ll skim through all of the details but basically there are 3 species of penguin at Volunteer Point: King (photo 2), Magellanic and Gentoo. We spent Saturday over at Cow Bay just across from VP. A large expanse of beach with several Gentoo colonies bizarrely located up a very large, steep hill away from the sea. The reasoning for building nests in a place that must be an enormous trek for such non-flying birds with legs of only a few inches was unfathomable.

And the body-boarding, yes three people did go in, I did not. They all said how much fun it was but it did also take an hour for the feeling to come back to their toes afterward.

Volunteer Point is a spit of land with the sea on both sides. Just down from the campsite was a sheltered lagoon with a gravelly shore leading into sand. I did some sieving in here on Sunday morning and was pleased to find it contained many worms. My only worry was that I will find something incredibly exciting in it and only had the chance to sample it once and it’s a difficult journey for anyone to go back to.

An afternoon stroll on the main exposed beach later saw me picking up some washed up bladders off giant kelp. As I sporadically bent down, picked one up and shoved it in a pocket someone eventually got round to asking me why. I pointed out the encrusting spiral tubes of worms attached to the bladders (photo 3) and received some sympathetic nods in reply. This was all then forgotten as we witnessed nature in action in the shape of a sealion appearing suddenly out of the surf intent on grabbing a penguin off the beach (photo 4). Not a happy ending for the penguin I’m afraid. This was probably a major highlight of the weekend and I have to admit I did spend the next hour hoping another penguin might be sacrificed for my camera although I was to be disappointed.

So we bounce, bounce bounced back from Volunteers Point stopping twice along the way to change flat tyres on different cars as the tracks took their toll. Still it was worth the trek.

Back to reality with a 6am start for the early tide!

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