I got fried today. Toasted, roasted and turned on a spit. Or at least my face

did. For a team of caucasians who haven’t seen the sun for six months, and,

when they have, have had every inch of flesh covered, I didn’t think we were

that pasty. Before today. Now, as I glance in the mirror on my way to the shower,

I see black hair (freshly dyed, it was faded orange yesterday) above a bright

red face outlining dazzling white panda eyes. From my chin down again, luminous

yellow-white. Another example of how few comparisons and benchmarks we have

here. There is no perspective.

I visited the penguins again today, thousands of them cooing and trilling,

so many that an entire ice cliff was grey with their shadow. The same feeling

though: I have no perspective. The first time I saw an Emperor I was over-awed

by its majesty. Now, as my friend so succinctly put it, visiting them is like

going to the park to feed the ducks. Very pleasant – but surely there’s

something not right?!

Perspective did however visit us on our return to the cliffs, in the form

of a rogue Adelie. Scurrying about the ice, he was a mucky scruffy little thing

but I love Adelies cos they make me laugh. I can’t look at one without hearing

the clown theme-tune in my head. And next to this little buddy, the Emperors

stood tall and proud again, magestic. I guess we all serve our purpose on this


Another thing that made me laugh was the queue that formed behind our backpacks

while we walked among them. The abseil access point is perhaps 800m from the

main gaggle of penguins but there is always a small welcoming party that comes

to meet us. Usually a handful of adolescents sliding on their bellies. Once

we’ve reached the sea ice, they then often wander back to the crowd with us.

Last time, I remember just one stayed behind near the bottom of the rope. He

had obviously led the group out there and not realised that the rest had lost

interest and wandered back. Not to worrry; they picked him up again when they

escorted us back an hour or two later. [In this aspect I feel a strong affinity

with penguins,- my attention span is now so short and distraction by shiny things

so compelling that it has pretty much become part of my persona here. Hmm, I

must tell you about melt-tank someday.]

Anyway, you can see for yourself the line that had formed by the time we returned.

They really are sheep. Metaphorically… though I do like the idea of furry

penguins that bleat. The reason why they find Halley every year is because they

follow our 18km drum-line from the coast thinking each next drum might be a

relative. I believe this entirely now.

All in all, we had a lovely day at the sea-side. There was unfortunately no

candy floss or pub to warm up in but I did at least pick up some colour. And

before you chastise me too much for being a fool, yes, we did take sunscreen

but it fell on the floor of the sno-cat while driving there and was frozen solid

upon arrival.

Oh, and here’s a map for Stefan:

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7 Responses to Sunburn

  1. cathy says:

    hey rhian!! this one must be hot off the press! or maybe i should say cold…WOW, i am totally gobsmacked at those images!! those penguins are HILARIOUS, i think i would pee my pants to see them. and that rogue adelie…it is so cute! it looks like a crazy circus, in all.

    speaking of crazy, i’m here late again trying to data crunch for an abstract deadline on wed, but i thought i’d visit antarctica for a bit while i eat enough to remain conscious. but i’ll email you soon!

    xx cathy

  2. Stefan Geens says:

    So the N9 drumline is a way to catch wayward people if they get lost? Just walk inland, and then to your right when you hit the ropes, to get back to base?

  3. Tina says:


    Just catching up on your blog. Fantastic stuff. Especially loving the pics. I love hearing about all the light you have. It’s depressingly dark here at 5:30.

    We’re all good. Andrew’s on his last official day of parental leave. Madly trying to finish building a shed before the snow flies.

    Thinking about you lots.



  4. Rhian says:

    glad you liked the map, Stefan, it was in response to your earlier query. The N9 drumline leads to a place where there is sometimes open water if the ship can’t get access to us at the ‘gin bottle’ creeks. It’s 55km away however so we really, really, really don’t want to operate Relief from there as it takes the best part of a week on two 12-hour shifts even when the ship comes into Creek 2! As for ropes, I wish,- the drums are a few hundred metres apart and in bad weather would still be easy to miss.

    See you soon!

  5. How charming and beautiful. Those little guys have a lot to say, don’t they?


    MERRY XMAS FROM RHIAN & THE PENGUINS For those who don’t know, Rhian Salmon has been blogging from the British Antarctic Survey the last year. Recently, she was stunned to see a cruise ship full of touists pull up!…

  7. Blogbat says:

    Total Dysfunction Department

    Hoofing it in not-so-merry old England     -Martin Kite-Powell   Horse-lovers will enjoy the recollections of one rider who fondly describes her memories of misty mornings taking horse and hound out on the hunt. The bond which exists…

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