As I write I am enjoying a beer, which is a rare treat at Port Lockroy, and a very welcome one indeed after what has been a very busy week. But, this is no ordinary beer. The beer we are all currently enjoying a bottle of is an Ice Breaker, brewed in honour of the HMS Protector, the Royal Navy's Antarctic Ice Patrol Ship and the very same who have been anchored (sorry, held on their dynamic positioning system) in our little bay for the past 24hr hours. They were here on important business, not least taking away some of our waste materials too bulky for the cruise ships to handle, but also to land an international delegation in order to carry out an inspection of our base under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty. We're sure they were impressed by the operation we are running here, particularly by our almost exclusive use of solar and wind energy.
HMS Protector was also carrying a group of hardened Royal Navy Marines, here to carry out drills in cold weather and extreme environment survival. A dozen or so young men looking to test their mettle, set up camp across the water from us at Jougla Point to spend the night sleeping on the ice. We didn't have the heart to tell them that a similarly sized group of slightly more senior men and women from a visiting cruise ship would also spend the night outside, just around the corner, a popular excursion which features regularly on many of the cruise ship schedules!
We have had a different flag flying on base this week, albeit inside the Nissen hut. Florence draped the Dutch flag over various items of furniture as we celebrated the Dutch festivity of Sint Nikolaas. A traditional Dutch meal of "boerenkool met rookworst" (farmers cabbage and smoked sausage) was served, followed by a game of Antarctic charades. Florence was surprise to awaken to sweets and an orange inside her boots, having believed that old St. Nik wouldn't make it so far south.
I think postmistress Flo experienced a mix of emotions on Friday as she lifted the last bag of mail off the Zodiac and onto the cruise ship that would take it to the Falklands. I'm sure that in part she was happy to see the back of it, each individual card, letter and parcel has had to be cancelled by hand. But also she was concerned about letting it go, like a mother leaving her child on their first day at school.
The symbiotic relationship we have with the visiting ships and yachts is essential to operations here at Port Lockroy. After a visit from Fram (the ship which last week delivered our cargo) we took time out to invite the expedition team into the Nissen hut. It was great to see people's faces, revealed from beneath all their polar gear, and share a brief half hour over tea and popcorn.
Also this week, we took the yacht Australis up on its offer of a trip round to Damoy, giving us chance to open up the base for visitors, and check everything had survived the previous winter. A very productive morning was spent removing the shutters, photographing artefacts, and installing the new fire extinguishers. However we still found time to hike up to the ridge of the old BAS ski-way, and were rewarded with a spectacular view of our little island with Mount Luigi and the Seven Sisters in the background.
If much of this report doesn't sound at all like hard work, I can assure you it is. At the same time however it is fantastically rewarding, and we all take time to savour those rewards whether it be a a good meal, a beautiful vista, or an ice cold beer.