Port Lockroy Diaries week Six

As our team are conserving Base A on Goudier Island we will be updating diary entries from the team. #PortLockroyDiaries will keep you up to date with what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen with this remarkable base. 

25 November 2018
Sledging into History

One of the enjoyable aspects of this years’ conservation programme has been hearing about Michael’s adventures while he worked for BAS during the mid-80s to the early ’90s. While surveying the 3 dog sledges today Michael was able to tell us about their construction and use. He was able to bring these iconic artefacts alive by telling us about his exploits dog sledging over the sea ice. We often joke him that he should be given an artefact number and listed in the UKAHT historic hut database. Lucky he takes this jesting well.

26 November 2018
Predicting the unpredictable

Antarctica is full of challenges – not least of which is the weather.  We are attempting to predict it by observing the clouds, wind direction and speed as well as the temperature. An important part of this forecasting is recording the changes in atmospheric pressure - we are doing this by monitoring the historic barograph located in the Ionospherics Room. This would have been just as the men would have done back in the day.

Al who has worked on remote metrological stations has been giving the new Port Lockroy team a few pointers to help them understand the local weather patterns.  The team has learnt that even if you can predict the weather you can’t control it! Sadly, it continues to snow each day delaying completion the painting of Base A.

27 November 2018
Window on the past

Success at last!  Finally, after waiting 10 days for the weather to come good, we have completed the painting of the doors, facias and windows of Bransfield House.  From reading the historic diaries it is apparent that some things never change – throughout the time that Port Lockroy was an operational base the men had to grab any fine weather window to undertake painting maintenance.   We are justifiably proud of our work and could not resist recreating one of the original Operation Tabarin photographs taken in 1944 when Base A was first established.  The original photograph features “Chippy” Ashton the carpenter who built the base - Geoff one of our Heritage Carpenters stood in for Chippy.  Tonight we propose a toast to Chippy Ashton and the men who built the hut almost 75 years ago. 

28 November 2018
Changing Expectations

It is amazing how many things have remained the same in Antarctica over the past 150 years such as landscape, remoteness and weather. One of the biggest changes has been the type and level of communications. With technical advances, the contact between people living and working in Antarctica and the outside world has changed dramatically.  In the nineteenth century, whalers who frequented the safe anchorages on the peninsula, such as Port Lockroy, left mail and news in tubes attached to poles fixed in place on known islands. In the mid 20th century the mail was the first cargo offloaded when resupplying bases providing a boost to the morale of base staff.  Later in the century, HF radio became in common use but typically base staff were limited to just 200 words a month.  Nowadays in the 21st century, there is an expectation that everyone is connected.  At Port Lockroy the Conservation Team makes daily contact with the team in Cambridge using satellite communications.

29 November 2018
Times are a-changing

Today Al briefed the Port Lockroy team on the operation of the new solar system installed in the Nissen hut. The upgrade was part of the Conservation Team’s work for this season.  This upgrade provides an increased electrical capacity and will be more environmentally friendly as it will reduce generator use. When the new solar system is connected to Base A, next season it will allow solar panels and battery bank to be removed from the historic Hut. Al said the electrical knowledge he learnt during his electrical apprenticeship when he left school in the late ’70s was helpful in undertaking the installation.

Interestingly Al mentioned that when he walked into the Ionospherics room in Bransfield House the historic multi-meter that is on one of the shelves was exactly the same make and model as the one he used during his apprenticeship. With this in mind, Michael and Al often joke that they have become artefacts themselves.

30 November 2018
Changing Rooms

One of our most important and exciting work tasks has been collecting information about Base A.  We are like detectives trying to identify and understand not only the original building materials used but also how the buildings have changed over time.  Armed with historic photographs and reports sourced from the British Antarctic Survey archive plus our own keen eyes we look for the witness marks created by the many changes from which we can interpret the life of the building. We enjoy the Eureka moments we have when the pieces of the historic jigsaw fall into place and we solve the mystery of the building’s history lost in time.   The data collected will be used in the development of the conservation management plan – which will provide guidelines and policy for the future conservation repairs, interpretation and visitor management of Base A.

1 December 2018
Wrapping up!

Today marked the end of our conservation work programme as we started packing, cleaning and weighing our equipment in preparation to head home on the 3rd of December. We feel like migrating birds that have suddenly got the urge to begin their long journey back to distant lands. Not only are we looking forward to showers and a change in diet on our trip north on the expedition ship MV Fram, we also look forward to being back with friends and family to share our Port Lockroy exploits.  Like sledgers’, careful of the constraints with space on their sledge as they prepare to head on an extended journey, we are making the most of every available space in the confines of the Port Lockroy Boatshed where we are storing the majority of our gear.

There is an old saying that carpentry work is not completed until the sawdust has been swept off the workshop floor. In our case, the conservation work is not completed until the conservation reports have been written. Thus, we plan to head north completing this phase of our work programme – fingers crossed for a smooth crossing!

2 December 2018
Uncovering the Painted Ladies

An iconic aspect of Base A is the tastefully depicted Painted Ladies drawn by Evan Watson in the Bunkroom in the 1960s. During this time, it was a male-dominated base and these images were a reminder to the men the fairer sex. These paintings of popular actresses of that era - Diana Dors, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor et al – replicate their images in women’s magazines found on base.

There is a direct link to this interesting story with Michael Powell, a member of the Conservation Team, who was the person to reveal these women that had been painted over in the 1980s. It’s a mystery by whom and why these paintings were covered.

These drawings are one of the most photographed parts of the base and are celebrated on the stamps and first-day covers that are sold at the Port Lockroy Post Office. As a keepsake to each member of the conservation team, Michael signed and wrote a personal message on a Painted Lady First Day Cover. 

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Press Enquiries

We are very keen to promote the important heritage work that we do, telling the story of life in Antarctica both past and present. If you are interested in running a story about us, using our images or films or want to discuss an interview or potential collaboration opportunity we would love to hear from you.  Please contact either Sarah or Lewis at Limewash to discuss your requirements sarah@limewash.co.uk or +44 (0)1223 813 557.