All good things must come to an end but this is a new start for Base W! Following the gaining of the Historic Site and Monument status in 2009 the 2 work parties that have been privileged to spend time at Detaille for short periods during the summer months have done more than enough work to ensure that the base buildings and structures are structurally secure and weather-tight.
The winds continued to blow from the north and more snow fell as the final days of this season saw completion of jobs inside and out. Small windows of suitable weather were taken advantage of to complete painting the roof, checking and making handles for the window shutters, final cataloguing of the artefacts and checking all works were complete. Boxes were packed, inventories carried out and photographic records taken.
Although we had a little more warning than the 1959 base team it still seemed to take a long time to make sure everything was ready for our departure. Right on schedule the sun appeared (for the first time in 17 days), the wind changed direction enough to ease the sea ice packed into the main landing site and National Geographic Explorer arrived.
We left with mixed feelings after our short stay at Detaille, sad to be leaving such a wonderful place, but happy to be heading north and very satisfied having completed all the jobs on the worklist (as well as the inevitable extra jobs!). When our cargo was safe on the ship with all the passengers that had just visited we had a final walk through, sweep out and put the window shutters in place and shut the doors. Weaving our way through the icebergs to the ship we got glimpses of the buildings, but having made it to the comfort of the ship and wanting to take a final opportunity to get a picture of the island from afar the weather was to have the final say – the island along with everything else had disappeared in a bank of fog that had drifted in from the north.
Ships and yachts will now be able to visit Detaille Island as their schedules allow and enjoy delving into the history and learning of conditions and life at Base W during its heyday. Expedition teams will send condition reports and the Trust can then react accordingly. The next work party to go to Detaille will probably be in about 5 years’ time to re-bitumen the roof and undertake any other necessary works created by all that nature will inevitably throw at the base over the coming winters.
We would very much like to thank Lindblad Expeditions, Hurtigruten and One Ocean for their logistical support, The Government of British Antarctic Territory, and Hapag Lloyd for their financial support and our visitors during the season for their energy and enthusiasm for our work. Finally the base members who built the base, undertook incredible journeys surveying the Loubet Coast and for sharing their memories with us.
Tudor, Michael and Anna