This week we have all been immersed in the inventories. Claire has even been counting the shop stock in her sleep, much to everyone else's amusement. Luckily for Claire, the stock is rapidly disappearing, so there will not be much left for her to count by the end. We are having to be quite creative to fill up all the empty shelves. Cat, inspired by Claire's hoody sale last week, has now put her own one on display, complete with a sign explaining its unwashed state.
In between all the counting, we have still had a large number of ship visits. We were expecting one ship-free day before the end of the season during which we were planning to get a lot of the end of season jobs finished. Our plans changed however, as it ended up being a one ship and four yacht day! We have learned by now to expect the unexpected, and we were more than happy to leave the spreadsheets for a while when each group of visitors arrived.
Michael finished off his last jobs and packing on Monday and left on the ever-supportive Fram. Everyone went on board to see him off (not just for the meal and shower, although that was a bonus and could well have been our last shower of the season...).
The running of the shop has had an added challenge recently, as the Iridium Open Port antennae has been recalled by the manufacturer. We normally run all the credit card transactions through this and, in its absence, all payments have to be done in the old-fashioned manual way using paper slips that will have to be carried back to the UK to be processed. Everyone helped get the antennae down from the Nissen hut roof and Ylva packed it up so it could be taken away on M/V Expedition.
Everyone has been getting ready for the last mail ship of the season. Cat has been manically canceling all the mail ready to dispatch it with Fram on Monday. All mail posted after this day will have to wait until next season, so we will be reminding passengers to include their Christmas greetings on their postcards.
Pancake day was remembered thanks to Claire's diary. Cat won the prize for messiest pancake toss! We luckily had all the necessary ingredients after receiving a large tray of fresh eggs from Sea Spirit. Ylva heroically managed to carry them during the bumpy zodiac ride from the ship without breaking a single one. Egg shells are disposed of carefully here, they are boiled and kept separate from other waste to ensure there is no chance of any transfer of avian viruses.
The penguin chicks are almost ready to fledge. There have been several tentatively splashing around in the shallows, but we have not yet seen any make their first leap into deeper water. We have also seen a large number of curious chicks that have managed to get limpet shells stuck over their beaks. This is quite uncomfortable for them, they are not able to close their beaks fully and it makes feeding difficult. As part of our environmental permit we are permitted to release the animal so there has been lots of penguin rescue operations to remove these shells. With instruction from the British Antarctic Survey we have got our technique down to a fine art, with one person holding the chick, and another covering its eyes to keep it calm, whilst gently removing the shell.
As the days get shorter, we are enjoying some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. On Wednesday evening, we took advantage of the amazing light to take some promotional photographs for Tog24, who have generously provided us with our kit. The penguins seemed a little bemused as we posed on the beach in just our thermals!
We saw Hen again on Thursday (disguised as Kath), when she came in one last time on Le Boreal. There have been lots of goodbyes this week, as we see each ship for the last time. The end of season checklist is up on the wall and thoughts are moving towards packing, although we still have plenty to keep us busy during our last few days here at Port Lockroy.