Bow Valley Naturalists present:
“Signy Island – an Antarctic Oasis”- Stories and Images from the Penguin Highway with Alex Taylor
Tuesday, March 27, 7:30 pm
Banff Seniors Centre, 101 Bear Street
Free Admission. Everyone is Welcome!
Three different penguin species numbering in the hundreds of thousands, fur seals, elephant seals and numerous nesting seabird species all call Signy Island home in the Antarctic summer. This accessible, ice-free landscape provides just the right conditions for Antarctic wildlife to breed and rest in an otherwise inhospitable environment. And this also makes it an excellent place for field research.
Alex Taylor has worked as a polar guide for the British Antarctic Survey for many years on glaciology and geology projects all over West Antarctica. Most recently he has been travelling to Signy to combine his skills in the field with those as a drone pilot to conduct penguin surveys and map important habitat.
Alex will share stories, photographs and video from his last three Antarctic summer seasons living and working on Signy Island; monitoring the penguins and other critters on this unique locale in the Southern Ocean.
BVN had a chance to catch up with Alex to ask him more about his diverse experience working in polar regions.
(BVN) How long have you been working in polar regions?
I have been working in the polar regions since 1992, when I started my first contract with the British Antarctic Survey as a polar guide working on a glaciology project. I sailed all the way from England to Antarctica on their research vessel to get there and spent over 5 months on the continent. I thought it would be a one-time adventure but I fell in love with the place and have been back almost every year since. Between supporting researchers, working with film crews or in the adventure tourism sector, I think I have been south 25 or 26 times now.
What draws you to work in these environments?
The geography and wildlife are magnificent in both scale and abundance, like nowhere else on the planet. That’s the draw; the physical beauty of the place, the icebergs, the unique animals that are everywhere, unafraid of your presence. Throw it all together and it is hard to beat.
Tell us about something you’ve learned during your time on Signy?
Probably the most unique thing about working at Signy is the ability to witness the full cycle of the penguin breeding season – from beginning to end: from the laying of eggs to the grown fledglings heading out to sea for the first time. We see countless examples of their toughness and resourcefulness, as well as their idiosyncrasies and the subtle differences between the three species on the island. And the carnage from predation and starvation too – it’s all part of it. It is a special place and we are pretty lucky. Very few people get to be present and see the full cycle of these animals’ incredible lives.