Hello for the final time this season from the 2018-19 team. Sorry for not posting a blog last week, we were busy closing down the base and then sailing away back up to Ushuaia where we’ve been writing our end of season reports. And as we all go our separate ways to travel now, before meeting again back in Cambridge for our debrief at the end of April, we thought we’d wrap up our blogs by giving you a final insight into our season at Port Lockroy.
We’d been able to get on with ticking off tasks from our six-page end of season checklist before we welcomed our final visitors. For the inventories, everything that could be counted had been, the artefact sledges had been stored away, and the deep cleaning had begun – thankfully, Port Lockroy has been able to benefit from its first vacuum cleaner this season – revolutionary!
Our last ship day saw HMS Protector visit, who also helped by removing some final waste for us, and then after our final onboard shop on Midnatsol, we bid a fond farewell to Sally as she stayed on for her ride back home to the Falklands.
Our final few days involved packing away the museum and shop, turning Bransfield House into a bit of a ghost town with white sheets draped everywhere. Signs were taken down, the flag ceremoniously lowered, and shovels placed ready for the next year’s team to start digging their way in. To make our last meal a memorable one, we decided to crack open a tin of Spam and use the last of our plentifully gifted cabbages for not just our last dinner, but our final lunch too – it was that good!
Then with several trips back and forth to carry our impressive leaving cargo, and having said goodbye to each and every one of our penguins, seals and birds, we sat on the landing site, ready, but not wanting to leave behind our incredible home. But alas, the time had come.
Before long, our zodiac had arrived and we bid farewell to our tiny island home – the ride was poignantly quiet and sunglasses were well positioned over some tearful eyes. We weren’t silent for long though as we boarded the Akademik Sergey Vavilov who would be carrying us north, and were swept straight into ship life, meeting all her lovely crew and passengers.
We were lucky enough to be joining their trip mid-way through a Marine Mammals tour, and we woke on our first morning to over fifty Humpback whales at Charlotte Bay in glorious sunshine, followed by similarly spectacular scenes in Cierva Cove in the afternoon. The next day came the leg stretch we had all been dreaming of. Inside the caldera of Deception Island, we landed at Telefon Bay, and hiked up through the volcanic sand and rock for over 3km, giving our legs and lungs a rude awakening! A final landing at Half Moon Island and we were truly on our way homewards, beginning our Drake crossing that evening.
Having been the source of some very ripe odours on every ship we stepped on for the last few months (you only realise how bad you smell once you’re surrounded by the freshness of a ship) we finally dunked our outer layers in vats of warm soapy water and scrubbed and scrubbed, ready for reintroduction to non-guano infused life.
As we walked off the pier in Ushuaia, the ‘real world’ felt like sensory overload! Cars, tarmac, buildings, dogs (that was a happy rediscovery), trees and oh so many noises - I’ve never been so excited to see a fly! As the days pass though, this is once more becoming the norm as we readjust, and our simple island life is left behind with the very happiest of memories.
Having left, we have been going through all the memories of this amazing season. From being with the Conservation Team to being four, to being five, to being six… All those people we met from the ships, from the other bases, from the sailing boats. As Sally was saying in one of her blogs, Antarctica is a big family and it is not something we expected to be that true. For example, going for a barbecue at Yelcho Base was an amazing unexpected experience and a good cultural mix, highlighting the international, close-knit community we have been welcomed into in Antarctica. And this is only focusing on the people! It was truly heartbreaking to leave our feathered friends behind us. After spending so much time with Gentoo Penguins we became companions of a common adventure: a Summer at Port Lockroy.
I’m sure I’m speaking for all of us when I say this has been an experience we will never forget. We have stories to share for a lifetime and although many of the things we experienced you cannot really explain to somebody who was not there, I’m certain everybody can feel how special this little island is through our excitement and love for it. Families and friends – I’m sorry to say but for the next few decades many of our sentences will start ‘When I was at Lockroy…’!
We could not have done this without all the help and support from many different people and companies in Antarctica and at home. We would first of all like to thank all the ships, yachts and expeditions teams for their help over the season. The shower doors were always open for us (except when Kirsty got stuck inside one), they kept our fresh water jerry cans full, brought cargo to the island and took waste away and sometimes invited us on board to enjoy a dinner or BBQ that didn’t come out of a tin. In a place like Port Lockroy, you really rely on other people and we have found the most helpful and friendliest community in Antarctica where help is always offered. We really do feel like we are part of this special family now.
Special thanks to the whole UKAHT Cambridge team who gave us this amazing opportunity and helped us on the journey. We had a great season with a great team and will always keep a piece of Port Lockroy with us wherever we go.
Port Lockroy 2018-19 team over and out!
Hannah, Kirsty, Guillaume and Heidi.
As with our first blog, we have finished the same way by each contributing to this final blog.