So for Christmas week we got penguin chicks, Michael and Rachel back from Wordie House and a fixed incinerating toilet! All Ylva’s hours spent struggling underneath the Storburn have finally paid off, with a little advice by email from the very helpful manufacturers. Kim was keen to stay with us for Christmas, but had to head north after her hard week with us, mopping, shoveling and sipping pisco on the rocks, and we waved her a fond goodbye on the 18th. Thanks for a fun week!
We then chatted through the jobs list. It was during one of these discussions that Ylva surreally said that “the wind turbine is underneath the bunkbed of Elizabeth Taylor”. She was of course referring to where the power source for the new webcam is currently stored, under one of the bunkroom murals in Bransfield House, and made complete sense to us!
We’ve got a lot of work done this week, despite snowy and windy weather. Kath put her paintbrush to the ionospherics room ceiling, and also her face. Claire worked her way round 2 sides of Bransfield House applying the thick black bitumastic paint to the walls and quite a bit to her hair. Cat finished off photographing everything in the museum for the forthcoming guide and cancelled the week’s mail. We’ve asked for a new delivery of stamps from Stanley Post Office as some sheetlets and first day covers are proving very popular. She also continued with sanding the priming the front windows of Bransfield House. Ylva installed the anemometer readout in the ionospherics room after making her final heroic ascent of the tower. She also took an ice axe to the path, as the snow has now melted down to the bottom more solid ice layer. Kath has also put protective black caps on every nut on the Nissen roof and also finished the last patch of paintwork on the roof of Bransfield House. Claire began the big job of returning the workshop to it’s 1950s layout, starting to move all the current tools to a safe place. Ylva, Claire and Cat
then got sanding and scraping off the many old layers of paint.
Expecting a couple of ship-free days, we re-stocked the shop just in case of unnannounced visits – a good principle as within an hour we had a surprise visit from the polish yacht Selma. The sailors invited us to eat with them on board and we enjoyed fresh beef and sea shanties improvised in both Polish and English. On Tuesday we enjoyed our first morning off since arriving almost 2 months ago. Claire and Cat chose to catch up on some much-needed Zs and pencil a few postcards home, whilst Ylva and Kath took the offer from the yacht to head over
to Jougla Point to see the blue-eyed shag chicks and walking up some higher rocks for a different view of our small island.
We did our first beachcomb of the season at low tide, when the island almost doubles in size and there are many beached icebergs to admire. Walking in a line and scanning the rocks and pools, and happily we found very little human debris. This week Kath also encountered a live glyptonotus antarcticus – a giant kind of marine woodlouse, 8 inches long, that eats anything – dead or alive.
On 21st December, we celebrated Mid-Summer’s Day in style, with an excellent dinner from Claire, with some improvised canapés, followed by a few choice Antarctic-themed parlour games. As we are just above the Antarctic Circle here, the sun does go below the horizon but not for long, so at the moment iy is never dark.
The first penguin chicks we saw were up by the anemometer tower, where we sat and patiently watched at the end of an evening for the parent to stand up and reveal the new hatchlings. One was still tapping its way out of the egg and you
could clearly see the eggtooth on the end of their tiny beaks. The eggs are a bit larger than a chicken’s. Every day now there are more peeping away and learning how to put their tiny grey head right up inside the parents’ beak to feed on regurgitated krill. If the food gets dropped on the ground, the penguins won’t touch it, and a sheathbill will be straight in there to gobble
it up. The skuas and sheathbills have been mating, noticeably later than the penguins, ready to feed their own chicks on unfortunate penguin young.
Throughout the week we eagerly read Michael and Rachel’s emailed ice updates from Wordie House, with the one chance to get them back to Port Lockroy for Christmas being with National Geographic Explorer. It wasn’t looking promising, until the 23rd when NGE managed to get one zodiac to the shore, whilst the ship fended off large ice floes, and Michael and Rachel gratefully leapt aboard. Rachel is now headed back to the UK to dive straight back into the office side of the UKAHT, while Michael will be continuing his carpentry job list at Port Lockroy until he heads south in early January with Ylva to do restoration work on the hut at Detaille.
Christmas Eve saw Cat baking some mince pies, then all of us tucking into turkey, sprouts, games and dancing on board National Geographic after a kind invitation from the crew. And in a steamy end to the week, Kath found out what happens when you use an incineration toilet before it’s fully cooled…
We’d like to take this chance to thank Tudor and Anna back in the UK, who support us daily with logistics, good advice and good humour, even when they are supposed to be on holiday!
We wish everyone following our blog a very merry Christmastime and all the best for 2012.