05 March 2018

Leaving our lovely Lockroy

With just a few days left before we leave Port Lockroy, the time has come to write the final blog. We have our last ship visit today, which then leaves us two days to finish closing down the base at the end of another successful season. We have welcomed over 17,000 visitors since November, from almost 150 ship visits, and around 60 yachts. We have seen everything from a solo yachtsman to a 500 passenger cruise ship, as well as super yachts complete with submersible and helicopter. And as our young penguin chicks are now enjoying their first baths and swimming lessons, we feel like we really have experienced a full season of life at Lockroy.

This week we have been starting to tick off some of the many procedures on our end of season checklist in order to close down the base and prepare it for another Antarctic winter. We have packed away the most delicate artefacts, and have started counting everything, be it the stock in the shop, stamps in the post office, or food left on our shelves. In fact, in our efforts to use up any already opened food items, we have had to come up with some interesting dishes, including Hannelore’s delectable Smash potato lasagne. Outside, we have put away our old artefact sledges to winter in the boatshed, and the wind turbine has been ‘mummified’ in bags and tape to weather-proof it and roped down to prevent it from moving. The radio aerial has been taken down, and the satellite communication beacon wrapped up. We have also just lowered our rather weather-beaten Union Jack flag as our predicted windy weather forecast could make such tasks too hazardous to put off until the last minute.

Despite a lack of sunshine, we still managed to have a lovely afternoon tea yesterday at one of our favourite spots on the island, the landing site. It’s a wonderful place to watch the penguins splashing around in the shallows, and whizzing close by underwater, and also to see the soaring elegance of the Southern Giant Petrels, the graceful swooping of Antarctic Terns, and to admire how the tiny Wilson’s Storm Petrels have also chosen to make Antarctica their home. And it’s not just the wildlife we enjoy; it’s also appreciating our beautiful surroundings, with the thunderous glacial calvings we hear which then result in stunning ice floes floating by, perhaps used as a temporary rest site for a seal, or breaking up into smaller pieces accompanied by the sound of air popping like that breakfast cereal I’m sure you all know. I think the whole team would agree that these moments, and appreciating our spectacular back garden, form many of the special memories that we will take away with us from Port Lockroy this year.

At this stage, there are many events that are happening for the final time this season at Port Lockroy. For instance, Sally is happily celebrating getting rid of the remaining waste, while I seal my last mail bags which will go with her back to the Falklands when she leaves a day before us. Hannelore’s email inbox is calming down as the ships depart for the last time, and Sophie is preparing to close the shop just one more time. Our Operations Manager, Lauren, has experienced three weeks of Lockroy life with us, and as well as offering a fresh look to the displays in the shop, she has also helped declutter our Nissen, thus making Sally’s job of finishing the inventory of everything on the base a little easier.

Over the final days we will have the opportunity to go round the corner to Damoy Hut, another of UKAHT’s sites, and close that up too. We’ll be giving it a clean, taking down the tools which are displayed outside, and putting up the shutters on the windows. That will then just leave us with the remaining jobs to do back here, such as writing notes for visitors who wish to post mail after we have gone, leaving food ready for the new team to cook, and water in a pan (which will invariably be frozen solid by the time they return in November).

On reflection, we have had many memorable times here this season: from our adventures of trying to land on the island back in November due to bad weather and ice conditions, changes in team personnel half-way through, to witnessing the transformations from eggs to fledged Gentoo chicks, we will leave not short on memories or photographs from our football pitch-sized island. While we have not had so many sunny days, those that we have had have given us stunning seascapes, and glorious sunsets. And of course, where would we be without each and every one of our visitors. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has come ashore and helped support the Trust marvellously this year, and also to all the ship staff and crew who make those landings possible. To the ships too, thanks must go for all the help they give us throughout the season, be it transporting us to and from the base at the start and end of the season, carrying our cargo, offering lovely hot showers and filling jerries with water, or giving generous donations of food and meals on-board. We thank them for welcoming us onto their ships to give our pre-landing briefings, and assisting us on the island by counting their guests in and out of the shop, and helping keep boots clean before entering the museum. It has been lovely for us to speak to so many passengers from all over the world and to get to know the wonderful staff too. We also rely on help in Stanley from Russ who deals with our cargo, and Lindsay who processes our mail, not to mention also Jonathan, our IT consultant in Ushuaia. And finally, thanks must go to our team back in Cambridge who chose us to come down to Port Lockroy this season, and who have dealt with all the logistics to make everything run smoothly from start to finish.

On that note, the 2017-18 Port Lockroy team of myself, Hannah, Base Leader Hannelore, Sophie, Sally, and Lauren, would like to wish everyone associated with Port Lockroy and UKAHT the very best, and hopefully our paths will cross again soon, perhaps even back here again next season.

Hannah and the Port Lockroy team

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