This week started with waking up unexpectedly on a sofa bed and massage benches on National Geographic Explorer when we got stranded due to unforeseen ice movement, and ended with welcoming the New Year while dancing in the snow on Polar Pioneer. In between we had a period of nice weather, where we got on with a lot of the outside jobs but also spared a couple of moments after work to enjoy the extraordinary setting that we are privileged to live in.
Although the visit of National Geographic Explorer meant a reunification with Michael and Rachel who were coming back from Wordie House in the Argentine Islands, it also required saying goodbye for this season to Rachel on Christmas Day, as she was kindly taken back to Ushuaia by them. Even though she was missed in all ways at home by the family, loved ones and the office, it was very difficult for us to wave her goodbye. We distracted ourselves by diving into our Christmas celebration with Christmas cake, games, flute orchestra of Christmas carols and a wonderful dinner with roasted vegetables and a bottle of wine.
Early this week Sea Spirit offered a short lift for Michael and Claire to Damoy Hut so that some work could be done at the old BAS transit hut by the former snow runway. The visitor signs were updated, manfood boxes were sorted, a pots box was completed for display and some sleeping gear, including an original pair of BAS Bluey underpants, was made available for visitors to admire. We all would like to be a fly on the wall listening to the comments of the visitors on the latest Bluey fashion! Within these two hours the wind and waves picked up unexpectedly, as typical for the Antarctic, and Cheli, the EL from Sea Spirit went personally in a Zodiac to get Michael and Claire back to Port Lockroy. Thanks a lot for that big help and the safe return!!
After the rather poor weather we have had so far with strong winds, grey skies and loads of precipitation either as rain or snow, clear blue skies came along the next morning and stayed more or less for the rest of the week. We jumped on painting the outside, scraping old paint of the windows exposing the wet wood to a good dry in the sun before priming and coating it again to make it resistant to the 'ice' blasting from the wintery storms that are due in a couple of months again. The nice weather also melted loads of snow and ice away exposing the rocks of the path from the Chains Landing to Bransfield House. That means that our daily chores are expanded with scrubbing the rocks clean before each ship visit. This requires carrying full buckets of water from the sea up the rocks to the 'rock brusher' of our team who is trying to remove the dried penguin guano to help keep Bransfield House clean. At the end of such a lovely sunny day not only we were enjoying a rest on the rocks with a gin & tonic but also accompanied by a resting young Weddell seal, snoozing in the evening sun.
Furthermore Michael prepared new frames for the interpretive poster displays in the bunkroom. We also invented the penguin factory in the lounge, which is actually preparing the cuddly toy gentoos with the tartan scarves in large amounts, to increase efficiency for a quick restock when necessary. Claire was the lucky one this week to follow up an invitation of Silver Explorer on a day trip through the Lemaire channel and gazing at the awesome mountain fronts. Ylva repaired the silicone sealing of the Nissen hut windows, Kath got on with painting the outside walls of the Bransfield House and Cat tackled the philatelic mail that was sent on from Stanley Post Office, together with our first major personal post of the season which arrived here on December 29th. We admired all the very interesting old British Antarctic Territory stamps that were sent by the philatelists requesting signatures or our base cachet. Claire also lead the new series of screen colony penguin counts as more and more chicks are hatching everywhere. Visitors often complain about the guano smell on the island which we have become immune to by being surrounded by it all the time. However our noses were tickled this week, by the nice smell of fresh laundry which one motor yacht offered to us.
This week ended with an unexpected invite for the New Year’s celebration on Polar Pioneer by Gary Miller their EL. We appreciated that very much and had an enjoyable time and danced all night on the outside deck in the falling snow. The New Year cannot start better than being in Antarctica with friends all around. Happy New Year and a big thanks to all of you who made this last year i.e. end of last season and beginning of this season, such a success. Without you the operation of Port Lockroy would not have been possible!!!