Letter from Lockroy - 20 February
This week started with an exciting event that we had all been very much looking forward to: the visit by the Royal Navy on board the ice patrol vessel HMS Scott and the official opening of the Nissen Hut. HMS Scott arrived at midday on Monday, and amongst our guests of honour were Dafila Scott, artist and zoologist as well as grand daughter of Captain Robert Falcon Scott. Onboard also were Stuart Doubleday from the FCO’s Polar Regions Unit and Ronnie Allen of the Marine Conservation Agency, who had both come to visit Port Lockroy as part of their official duties (the FCO oversees and permits all activities in the British Antarctic Territory).
While the Navy and their distinguished guests came ashore, we were also hosting a visit by the expedition vessel Antarctic Dream. Coincidentally, she was also carrying an important guest: the great grand daughter of Captain Lawrence Oates, one of Captain Scott’s companions on his Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole 1910-1912, the centenary celebrations of which are just ongoing in the UK. Of course it was Oates who uttered the famous words “I am just going outside and may be some time”. The descendants of these great Antarctic explorers were delighted to meet each other – what a historic moment indeed on little Goudier Island.
Next followed the official opening of the Nissen Hut in the afternoon – on Valentine’s Day, 14 February - by Lt Cmdr Phil Newell, the Executive Officer from HMS Scott, accompanied by Stuart and Dafila, with the Port Lockroy team and Tudor Morgan also present. Very many thanks to XO Phil for cutting the red ribbon, and for the other guests for joining us at the opening of our cosy Antarctic home. The Nissen Hut marks an exciting step forward for the Trust.
After the festivities, Nikki, Tudor and Ylva went on board HMS Scott for a delicious lunch (including bacon and eggs!) and a tour of the ship, also setting up a small mobile shop for the enjoyment of the Navy. Tudor was also delighted to meet his old boss John Hall from the British Antarctic Survey. Hannele and Hen meanwhile stayed on base to look after visitors from Ocean Nova, so it was all in all a very busy start to the week, filled with memorable occasions. Many thanks to HMS Scott for bringing down various supplies and for assistance with removal of some trickier waste items.
Mid-week we unfortunately realised to our horror that we have exactly four weeks left of the season. None of us really wants to leave Base A, but the inevitable departure is looming on the horizon: we are now constantly reminded about it as we have this week started the final stock take and inventory lists. This means counting everything that there is on base so that the necessary provisions can be brought down next season. We have now almost finished the Nissen Hut stock take and will soon move over to Bransfield House and the boat shed.
Anyway, enough talk about departure for now – we still have plenty of time to enjoy our stay here. This week we have been lucky to welcome back to Port Lockroy several former base members: Rick Atkinson (whom we were delighted to see again this season) and Nigel Milius onboard Ocean Nova, as well as Rod Downie onboard Bark Europa. Nigel was manning the base with Dave Burkitt during the summer of 1998/99 and Rod was down here twice in 1997/98 and 1999/00, also with Dave. Our ship visitors were very pleased to have so many Port Lockroy experts around and all our former base members were excited to share their stories from their time at the base.
Otherwise, we have taken every opportunity this week to try and finish all the painting work at Bransfield House as well as the boat shed. Sunny days are few and far between nowadays, so whenever the sun comes out, even temporarily, we run out, get into our work overalls and get on with the painting (if we don’t happen to have ship visits, that is). Tudor was a great help with all maintenance work during his week-long stay with us and for instance painted the whole boat shed himself! Sadly, we had to say our goodbyes to him again on Wednesday, when Fram came to collect him on their way down further south, but luckily we will see him tomorrow once more when Fram returns to Port Lockroy on their way north again to Ushuaia.
The week - filled with so many special events - had one more happy occasion: Hannele’s friend Eva from Helsinki, who had visited us in December, came back to Port Lockroy on board Bark Europa. She really has been bitten by the Antarctica bug big time. Bark also brought along a famous Finnish climber Patrick “Pata” Degerman along with a fellow cameraman. The two gentlemen were making a documentary about Antarctica for a Finnish TV channel and were also featuring Port Lockroy in it, including an interview with Hannele.
Finally, we can all feel that winter is soon coming to Port Lockroy (it was a bit chilly this afternoon when we did an Antarctic fashion shoot for our sponsors – posing for the camera outside just in our base layers!). Evenings are now colder and darker and we even saw a few stars on Thursday night, for the first time during the season. The penguin chicks are growing fast and have chosen the front of the Nissen Hut as a good place to hang out - they make us smile every time we step out of the hut. We will all surely miss them very much when we leave, but meanwhile, we will all try and make most of the rest of our time at this magical place.