It was a busy start to the week, with a three-ship day and only a few minutes in between - leading to manic restocking in the shop and preparation. Ylva has been skilfully juggling the many ships that want to visit at the moment, to make sure our guideline on maximum numbers is not exceeded. Our sale of the week was the hoodie off Claire’s back, as it was the last one in that size (with a small discount due to it’s unwashed state)!
Lots of small jobs have been ticked off the list. Ylva headed up the tower for the final time this season, to re-install the anemometer on the top platform. Cat tidied the cables under the counter in the shop. Michael masticked the small gaps in the Boatshed walls to prevent fine snow blowing inside as we found happened last winter. Michael and Kath sawed up lots of waste wood to be taken away on a ship, and cleaned and oiled the final sledge. Kath also tapped all the remaining screwcaps onto the outside of the Nissen and sorted through at least 70 different tins of paint, disposing of the unusable ones and sealing and labelling the rest. Cat and Kath went through the worklist and photographed everything that has been done. Claire transferred some duplicate tins from the kitchen into the Boatshed, to improve the museum kitchen. Cat also cancelled a lot of philatelic mail, including an old stamp with a hand-drawn picture of Bransfield House on it, showing the old wooden signs and radio aerials of the 1950s.
One big job that needed all of us and a fine day, was to cover up the conduit that protects the cables that run between the anemometer tower and the Nissen, and then to Bransfield House. We did this by placing stones over the pipe, so the penguins can cross easily, and so it is protected but easy to find in the future. All of us became penguin nest-builders for a few hours – ranging over the island selecting rocks that pleased us, stealing them from each other, carrying them a long way, and then inexplicably not using some of them.
We received a lot of cargo that was intended to be unloaded at Detaille in early January by the ever-supportive National Geographic. Ylva and Michael unloaded it back into the Boatshed with help from the Vernadsky team, and Claire has sorted it back on the shelves. This has restocked some of our Port Lockroy food-stuffs and we’re particularly looking forward to enjoying a flavour of tinned stew we’ve not had before. On this note, our Vernadsky visitors kindly brought some food to share with our supplies, so we have been eating some tins from Poland with no idea really what they are. On their last night the Ukranians cooked us a great traditional dish – grated potato, onion and oil, slavered in raw garlic, which was a filling treat.
Valentines Day saw Polar Pioneer collecting our friends from Vernadsky, and in the evening Cat cut up some tortillas into hearts, and fashioned red hearts made of Smash potato powder for dinner.
Ylva, Kath and Claire made the most of a rare few fine days and finished the painting of the bitumen on the walls and also the distinctive red and white on the windows. All our water-based paint needs to be stored in the Nissen over winter, to help prevent freezing when the temperature falls, so Claire brought them up. The evenings are drawing in and it’s been less than 1 degree in Bransfield House during the day.
As Michael will be heading home to New Zealand soon, he began his inventories of the tools, timber, workshop, electrical – and also tackled the Boatshed and equipment lists with Ylva. These inventories are critical for next season’s team to be able to order and ship south everything they need - and only what they need - to run the base. The rest of the team started on other parts of the base and began to go cross-eyed in front of spreadsheets…
We had several yacht visits this week, including one from a French family, the youngest of whom was only 2 years old! They had visited some of our sites much further south - Stonington, Horseshoe and Blaiklock – and taken photos which they kindly shared with us, and we’ll be examining to see the current state of the buildings and contents.
We saw for the first time two skuas attack and eat a sheathbill, and the leopard seal has been eyeing up several zodiac pontoons, puncturing one moored by a yacht over 20 times. Our teenagers are all getting more and more curious about the island. The little sheathbills are turning from brown down to white feathers and we can see the parents help pulling the down off them. The penguin chicks have been enjoying snoozing on our outside decks, and often tap on the back door of the Nissen. One even hopped into the doorway before being gently shooed out by Michael. Now they are losing their down, we can see their adult faces emerging from the fluff, and along with the adults who are having their yearly complete moult, it has truly been snowing feathers here.
And finally, several personal records were smashed this week, when, courtesy of Sea Spirit, we had our first shower in 12 days. They radioed to say they were coming into Back Bay at 20:30, after dinner, and getting cold and dark, but we’ve never got into our immersion suits and out the door faster!