Letter from Lockroy - November 27th 2010

Letter from Lockroy  - 27 November 2010The team continues to dig out the building

 Yet another week has passed amazingly quickly. Time definitely seems to flow differently from normal life here. We’ve only been on base for 2-3 weeks (team members arrived in stages on different ships), but it seems like we’ve lived here forever! We got into our daily routines quickly after we arrived and have become very efficient in our individual tasks. The days have just flown by while we have been constantly busy working.  Days have also lengthened since we are quickly moving towards summer, so we have a lot more light in the evenings now. Soon we won’t need headlamps any longer.

 One also loses the concept of weekdays or dates here. The post mistress (Hannele) seems to be the only one who always knows what date it is since she needs to make sure the official post office cancel has the correct date on each day (Oh, and we did have a 'Pizza Saturday' about 7 days ago, so it must be approximately Saturday again now)!

 Work has continued on the Nissen hut. Solar panels and power systems have been installed and the hut looks more and more like a real Antarctic home every day. We even have proper beds, bed curtains for privacy and duvets now (it seemed strange at first to use duvets after we had become accustomed to sleeping bags, but they’ve proved to be extremely warm and comfortable).  We also have a sofa bed and an armchair in what has become our living room corner, and we’ve alsoDave Burkitt surrounded by the Lockroy team! made good use of our four ring gas cooker and oven. Ylva baked the first bread of the season the other day, but there’s almost nothing left of it now as it was so delicious. We have so far been very lucky this season to receive fresh bread on occasion from visiting ships. We are very grateful for that as it is a real luxury here and has made our tea breaks very enjoyable (normally all our every-day food comes out of tins that were shipped over with the rest of our cargo and that are now stored in the boat shed).

 Tudor Morgan’s time at the base sadly came to an end last Monday and he did an amazing job of tackling the urgent tasks before heading home onboard the vessel Expedition. We all waved him goodbye from the shore and felt really empty after the ship had disappeared from sight as it had been great to have Tudor around. We have promised ourselves, however, to keep up the good work ethic of which Tudor was such a primary example during our first couple of weeks here.

 On Tuesday it was a delight to receive a visit from Dave Burkitt on board Polar Pioneer.  Dave was one of the original restoration team in 1996 and subsequently worked to develop the museum over the next seven years.  He will be with the Trust later in the season to lead the work on Base W at Detaille Island with Michael, Liesl and Anna who was base leader at Lockroy last season.

 Snow shovelling has continued throughout the week and we have managed to dig out about half of Bransfield House from snow. We all agree that there is a lot more snow here this year than in previous years and the expedition leaders have all made similar remarks.  Interestingly though, there doesn’t seem to be as much sea ice around as previously. And STILL it continues to snow and settle further...

 We have also had the pleasure of welcoming a constant flow of visitors from different cruise ships and the Chilean Navy. First we were visited by the search and rescue vessel Lautaro, and just yesterday we welcomed visitors from the icebreaker Oscar Viel, and were treated to a tour on board as well as hot showers.  We have also received the first yacht of the season when Australis anchored in the bay earlier this week. It had some adventurous skiers onboard and we were all impressed when little figures appeared on the snowy slopes of Jabet Peak, and gradually skied down. Another highlight in Antarctic sports occurred when Antarctic Dream brought along a group of people who participated in an “Antarctic Marathon”. They were running along the ski-way (reached from Dorian Bay) which overlooks Goudier Island and Port Lockroy, and we were all watching from the shore. Who needs a TV when you have a live sports channel outside!Palmer station band

 Michael, Liesl and Hannele had a very special day on Thursday when the National Geographic Explorer kindly offered to give them a lift to Palmer Station about 30 km away (a US research station currently housing 36 research and support personnel). They were very well looked after onboard the ship and had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day dinner. They also had a chance to take part in a tour of the Palmer Station, where Liesl met several old friends from her time at Palmer and the South Pole station – it was a happy reunion. Later on in the evening the group joined a special Antarctic party that took place in the station’s bar. A couple of scientists from Palmer had formed a rock band (although they did play Michael Jackson too) and it managed to attract a wild crowd of fans to the dance floor which didn’t really get empty for the rest of the night.

Hannele had brought along a 'mobile shop' from Port Lockroy for the enjoyment of staff at Palmer, but had unfortunately omitted to take along the white fluffy hats that seemed to have already become popular at Palmer.  She was luckily, however, wearing one herself and was very happy to sell it off to Rex, a member of the Palmer rock band, who wore the hat throughout the gig. He must have been boiling in it, but it certainly looked good!

 Back at Port Lockroy the next day we celebrated Michael’s birthday over some sparkling wine and a lovely cake made by Nikki. Michael was very pleased to receive a useful book on why office work really is bad for us (and working with your hands is good!) as well as a pink fluffy hat.

Michael celebrating his birthday in style!

 Finally, the team has been excited this week by some unusual wildlife spottings.  Several chinstrap penguins have Elephant sealbeen noted in the gentoo colonies in the past few days. They walk and sound very different to the gentoos and are therefore quite an exotic sight on Goudier Island. Yesterday we spotted three massive elephant seals on the rocks near the boat shed, but that took a bit more effort since they look exactly like rocks and can be seen only when they wriggle a bit or lift their head up. At least one of them (a female) is still there and we are reminded of her existence by the occasional grunting (which doesn’t sound very attractive). It even woke some of us up last night. That shows that it never really gets entirely quiet at Port Lockroy: the sheath bills are tapping along the roof all night long and the penguin colonies around us are of course very noisy day and night. Ear plugs therefore come in quite handy!  We have started to spot eggs in the nests but the vast majority of the penguins are still waiting, as we are, for the snow to melt. Until then, we'll keep on with the digging!