OP1, nearly the end

After PJDA, the rush of PO (Port Operations; the "real" first stop-over of the boat of the year) 1 started. It was the end of the trip for me since the boat this time brought me back to Reunion Island. The debriefing, the packing of scientific samples and luggages, the fabrication of a few souvenirs for people staying on base (thanks for your big help, Pascal!)... All that went on really fast and I felt taken by surprise when the boat reappeared in Port-aux-Français on the 27th of March.The logistical operations went on in order to get things ready for the fifty people about to overwinter. They'll stay on base until at least August without provision of new supplies. So they had to take care of the fuel, the last repairs on the huts, the provision of supplies to the huts, the return of the scientific equipment, the scientific studies needing the helicopter to take place, the movements of tourists who were doing the cruise on the Marion Dufresne... and much more! For us, field assistants, we had to manage the Drop Zone (to help load/unload passengers and equipment when the helicopter touches the ground) and other tasks like laying the tables, bringing the food to people for lunches and dinners, helping with the dishes... People from other districts (either coming from Crozet or going to Amsterdam) got on the island and spend some time with us, as well as the persons in charge of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. We spend a few more nice evenings in Totoche (the bar, for those who have not read the other articles). Saying goodbye, on the 31st of March was hard; harder than I'd imagined. A short helicopter ride later we were back to the Marion Dufresne and to our cabins.  We talked to the people overwintering on the radio for a while; they were gathered at the chapel and the port to say goodbye (with smokes, that was nice!). After our last messages and songs, we left Port-aux-Français at the end of the day. We enjoyed for the last time the landscapes of the Passe Royale before it was too dark and we got into our rut on the Marion en route to Amsterdam. For me, it was the repeated counts of marine birds every hour (and I wanna thank all the people who have helped me!!), a few naps and some reading.
We arrived in Amsterdam, a small volcanic island, on the 4th of April. I got off the boat on the same day and I was happy to meet Jeremie again, my colleague birder (thanks for your warm welcome, Jerem, if you read this!). I have been surprised by the heat (I was glad to get my flip-flops, tee-shirts and light trousers out again!), but also by the vegetation (at last, trees and flowers after a few months of "desolation"), by the size of the island and the difference of the general atmosphere compared to Ker; probably because the base in Amsterdam is so small (and cute!! it looks like a holiday camp!!). The first thing I did after dropping off my stuff in my new room was to go to the pier where I could observe lots of Amsterdam fur seals and their pups, as well as elephant seals. After the welcome buffet (with the famous Amsterdam lobsters), I went for a walk with the people from Crozet. We went to the crater of Antonelli for a start. A forest of pines, apple trees and phyllicas grows in the bottom of the crater and it really is a beautiful place. We then went to Pointe-Bé where we went down a small cave leading to a cliff facing the ocean. We got caught out by the rain (I had been told that the weather was always nice in Amsterdam.... I checked with locals and actually it appears that it is always nice, except during the POs....hummm) and went back to base. We spent a nice evening with the people of the base. The next morning, the programme was: a visit of BMG and the Phyllica "Forest" (an endemic tree). In BMG, the cliffs are impressive and the view on the fur seals at the base of the cliffs is surprising. There is also a nice little cabin. The alternation of rain and sunshine gave rise to wonderful rainbows all day long. At night, the barbecue, at the Cabanon (the hideout of the guys of Amsterdam working for the navy), was really nice (thanks again for the welcome guys, it was really nice!). On the 5th, we went back on board and left to go to Saint-Paul Island, a crater partly collpased, 50 miles away from Amsterdam. We reached it the next morning. Once again, we discovered beautiful landscapes, although we could not get on land because the operations were so fast. We saw the Austral (a fishing boat), a few killer whales and a lot of birds (shy albatrosses, grey-headed albatrosses, Amsterdam albatrosses (one of the rarest birds on Earth), and others); some people fished for a while and we went back to Amsterdam. We reached the island in the afternoun; the last people who had to get on the boat came back and the boat left, with killer whales escorting us. We went round the island to the west to discover beautiful cliffs, and especially Entrecasteaux, of which we could catch a glimpse through the thick fog.  After those amazing landscapes, we headed for Reunion Island. We were busy with a lot of interesting presentations, as well as nice evenings and aperitifs (thanks to the tourists and the operation manager!), a barbecue on the Drop Zone, a photo competition, and bird counts that were less and less fascinating because of the rarefaction of species until we arrived in Reunion Island on the 12th of April. End of the adventure...

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Amsterdam Island: Antonelli crater

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Amsterdam Island: subantarctic fur seals

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The Marion Dufresne anchored in Amsterdam

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Saint-Paul Island

Kerguelen return trip end Amsterdam Saint-Paul

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