UPDATED The new team is now ashore on Gough Island
From left: Alexis Osborne, Chris Jones, Kim Stevens, Michelle Risi, Vonica Perold and Roelf Daling meet up at Gough's helipad; photograph from FitzPsatrickn Institute of Ornithology
Ready to depart: Gough Island Restoration Programme members on the helideck of the S.A. Agulhas II in Cape Town's harbour
From left: Richard Hall, Vonica Perold, Roelf Daling, Kim Stevens & Nini van der Merwe
The annual relief voyage to Gough Island departed from Cape Town on 19 September under strict COVID-19 health protocols to maintain the long-term meteorological record by the South African Weather Service (SAWS) and seabird monitoring by the UK’s Gough Island Restoration Programme (GIRP) that aims to eradicate the island’s introduced House Mice. All members of the overwintering team (G66) were quarantined for 10 days and then tested for the virus before departure in an approved quarantine facility in accordance with South African Department of Health requirements (click here).
Five GIRP members are aboard South Africa’s Antarctic research and supply vessel the S.A. Agulhas II. Three of the programme staff will stay on Gough Island for the next year, taking over from the current field team (Chris Jones, Alexis Osborne and Michelle Risi) who have spent two years on the island. Kim Stevens, Vonica Perold and Roelf Daling will continue the long-term monitoring of seabirds (including the Critically Endangered Tristan Albatross Diomedea dabbenena) on the island (click here). Six months after having made the decision to postpone the 2020 mouse eradication, GIRP is now working towards making an attempt in 2021, although it reports that the increase in project costs will be substantial with the need for new contracts for personnel, vessels, helicopters and insurance.
At risk to mice: a Tristan Albatross guards its chick in a monitoring colony on Gough Island, photograph by Michelle Risi
The S.A. Agulhas II is expected to return to Cape Town on 16 October. The Gough sailing comes just two days after a field team sailed from Cape Town for South Africa’s other sub-Antarctic base to restart monitoring of albatrosses on Marion Island placed on hold due to COVID-19 (click here).
With thanks to Laura Beasley, Nini van der Merwe, Michelle Risi and Kim Stevens.
John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 23 September 2020
Postscript: no COVID-19 masks will be needed on Gough Island!