08 March 2017

Homebound and goodbyes

“Our eyes are gliding over the surrounding glaciers and mountains. Watching the penguins, listening to nature and wildlife sounds.  Capturing the final impressions and moments as we make our way down to the zodiac's which are waiting down at the chain's landing site. One zodiac is loaded with bags, backpacks and two peli cases, in addition a box marked 'rigger boots' and some waste. Although the sun is shining bright at Lockroy and the surroundings are stunning and beautiful as ever, there is a noticeable sadness in the air when we take place in the empty zodiac. We silently watch whilst we cruise around Goudier Island, seeing the Boatshed, the Nissen hut and Bransfield house from every angle, which are shining in a new paint coat. The cruising circle is completed and we head out into the bay, leaving behind Base 'A' Port Lockroy as a little dot in the horizon in front of the mighty glaciers and mountains. Goudier Island, which had been our home and workplace for four months disappears when we enter the Neumayer channel towards the Dorian Bay, where the Akademik Ioffe is waiting to take us to Ushuaia.”

Dear followers and readers, the summer season at the historic site Base 'A' has come to an end. We have already taken our goodbyes with Port Lockroy, but before we say goodbye to you, we will share our final days and moments.

On Monday, we waved off Tim, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust’s Operations Officer, after he had been a fifth team member for 3 weeks, spending his time with inventories and getting quickly into Lockroy's operations.  For us there was no time to sit around as the final ship visit of the season with Ocean Endeavour was due to come the morning after, with an unknown challenge awaiting us... Night frost had given the path a thin sleek ice cover. So, this time the path wasn't attacked with brooms and seawater as usual, but instead with ice axes and seawater. Luckily the sun did lend a helping hand when her rays melted the final sleek spots. It became a beautiful day and a lovely final ship visit. In addition, we finished some final tasks and closed the base, preparing everything for the winter.

Artefacts have been taking down in the museum. The smaller and most vulnerable ones have been carefully wrapped and stored in boxes. All other artefacts have been covered with big sheets. Everything has been cleaned and scrubbed; mats, metal steps, shovels, boot scrubbers, buckets, ladders, tarpaulins, and the interior of each building. Tills have been dismantled and stored in peli cases, ready to be taken back to Ushuaia where they, along with some communication equipment, are being stored during the winter.

On our final day, we were blessed with sunshine and calm weather. Although a sentimental moment of lowering the flag which had flown since the start of the season, conditions were ideal for taking down the flagpole and remove communication antennas off the Nissen roof. Whilst Adele and I were busy taking down the VHF whip and BGAN antenna, and waterproof bagging and protecting all connections, using plastic bags, cable ties and tape, Lucy and Laura where washing the tarpaulins after this seasons cargo delivery, making sure they are nice and clean for next season. As they were scrubbing, they witnessed a real life wildlife movie, when a Leopard seal grabbed a penguin off shore just 5 metres away. And Laura and I even got a closer encounter later, when we went down to the chains landing site to clean some buckets and a boot scrubber.

Laura was standing next to me chatting whilst I was finishing off cleaning the boot scrubber. Suddenly without any warning a Leopard seal popped his head out of the water right in front of Laura's feet. What an experience, although a bit too close for our taste. One of the many experiences and moments we will never forget, even our final night on the island became a memorable one.

It's only a few weeks ago when we were able to witness the first stars and constellations, but as the evenings have become noticeable darker and we were working late we took the opportunity to check if we able to see a few more stars. What awaited us was just magical! The Milky Way stretching from the Thunder glacier nearby Mt. Luigi over the Nissen and Bransfield towards Anvers Island. As there is no light pollution it looked like a golden band stretching over us, so clear and bright! Adele and I stayed outside until two o'clock taking pictures and looking at the magical sky, wondering if the men during Operation Tabarin and FIDS days would have been standing outside watching the very same stars. A magical night followed by some spectacular days on board the Akademik Ioffe.

After some amazing days with whale encounters, cruises and landings, we crossed the Drake Passage heading to Ushuaia. We want to thank One Ocean and Akademik Ioffe for their continued support to the Trust and a fantastic northbound trip we've had. In Ushuaia we'll finishing all reports and spreadsheets, before we each head our own way. It will be strange leaving each other after having spent every second of the last 4 months together. An incredible 4 months, which many people have contributed to.

Thanks to the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, Base 'A' was once again turned into a busy living museum, bringing the place and its history alive. Thank you to all ships and visitors for memorable times and support this season. Now Port Lockroy is closed for the winter, but we've heard that the applications for next season have just closed, so who knows, it might be you who will be working and living at Lockroy next season, turning Base 'A' once again into a thriving hub of heritage, history and wonder.

The Port Lockroy team; Adele, Lucy, Laura and I, hope that you enjoyed following us and reading our blogs throughout the season. With this we want to send our goodbyes and best wishes.

 

Hannelore

 

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