Finally, after 14 days of travelling I have arrived at the French research station Port-aux-Francais at the souther tip of Kerguelen. Safely out of the helicopter we are well received by “DISKER” (head of DIStrict KERguelen) who is France’s official representative on the island (similar to what the ‘Sysselmann’ in at Svalbard). Along with him is also a great reception committee – everybody on the island are of course curious about who the newcomers are and who they now have to live alongside with.
The Research station
Kerguelen Islands is 100% French territory. There’s just one settlement, and that’s the research station. Of the about 70 people on the island there’s only one other who don’t speak French. This is, however, completely unproblematic, as the rumour that French people don’t want to speak English apparently never made it here. Also, the polar research world is very small. DISKER, it turns out, has had a summer job working for the same plant ecologist as me on Svalbard, and has great knowledge about Greenland and Danish-Norwegian polar history (Rasmussen, Nansen, Amundsen, …) and it also turns out we have several of the same acquaintances in Tromsø.
The animal life on the road to work
Everybody eats their meals together in the cafeteria, which give us three nice social event each day. After finishing our meals, we do the dishes. Everybody contributes with a few minutes of work, and with a lot of ‘tra-la-la’ the dishes from 70 men are done in an instant. On the road from the cafeteria to the laboratory down by the fjord I pass more than 100 elephant seals, seagulls, and other birds lying on their nests, and a king penguin, who for the last few days have been standing by himself by the entrance.
First fishing trip
Yesterday we tested the electronic fishing equipment in a nearby stream and I caught my first Kerguelen trout (and no, it wasn’t very big…). All the freshwater fish in Kerguelen are introduced by the French (see Kerguelen part 1). Among other reasons, this occurred as a result of an attempt to start a commercial fish farms, but that endeavour never became a big success. The introduction of the fish (and their future spread to new catchments) is the reason that I am here no and in a few days we will leave for our first field trip, when we will use the electronic fishing equipment to catch young fish for further studies.
For those very much interested in the introduction of salmonids to Kerkuelen I can recommend this article.
See previous blogg post from the Kerguelen expedition.