Happy New Year!
Being, of course, at the centre of Antarctica's (not so) busy social circle, we at Port Lockroy found ourselves in the fortunate position of having three invitations for new years eve. Firstly, an invitation for Champagne on the super yacht Suri. A vessel almost as large as some of the smaller expedition ships we see down here, but catering for only twelve guests, and equipped with a whole host of toys including a helicopter, a selection of smaller boats and even a submarine! By contrast, our second invitation was from the rather small sailing yacht named Providence. With only five people on board, they were half way through an epic voyage from Scotland to Australia, taking a wee detour to see Antarctica on their way. Our final offer came somewhat late in the day from the MV Hamburg. A last minute request to visit on new year's day, starting at 8.30AM(!), was softened with an invitation to spend the evening dining and partying with their 300 passengers. With three such varied and interesting offers on the table, we did the only thing we could, and declined all three, opting to see the new year in on Goudier Island. But, taking pity on the cold and weary travellers in the yacht Providence, we decided to invite them ashore to see the year in with us.
Pisco sours were served, and champagne corks popped as we celebrated first the Dutch, followed an hour later by the British, and finally our own new year, all whilst listening to old records on the gramophone in Bransfield House. It was bizarre to see the new year in with near daylight, but frivolities were brought to an end before sunrise in preparation for the early new year start.
Our hard work on new year's day was rewarded with a day out on the 2nd. As luck would have it, a ship free day coincided with a generous offer from the National Geographic Explorer to take us to visit the American research station Palmer.
Once we had got over that feeling of, "did I lock the door?", "have we left the gas on?", it was great to be the tourist for a change. Palmer Station is home to some 45 scientists and support staff, mostly researching marine ecosystems.
Built in 1968, a few years after Port Lockroy closed, the base is quite different from the few small huts we have here. The men and women on base were shocked to hear that we didn't have running water, flushing toilet or wireless internet, and we were equally surprised by their big screen television and outdoor hot tub! It was great to get to know our neighbours. First exchanging gifts, and then stories over a beer at the post visit BBQ. We thank them kindly for the amazing cookies they gave us, even though they wouldn't share the recipe!
With all the comings and goings at Port Lockroy, we are well used to new
arrivals on the island, but none have been more welcome than the one we had on Friday. Our very first Penguin chick poked its slimy egg covered head through an opening in the shell and out into the fresh Antarctic air. Kath was fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of it shortly after this moment, during a busy visit from Sea Spirit. You will be pleased to read that little Saluka (named for reasons I'm afraid I haven't the time to explain here) has thus far avoided the skuas and over zealous visitors, and now has a penguin sibling to keep it company in the nest.
This historic hut located so far from the civilised world, took a step into the future and towards being a bit more accessible this week. The fish-eyed lens of Google's streetview camera took a peek inside Bransfield house, and will soon allow virtual visitors from all over the world to do the same. A triumph of the internet age no doubt, but one I'm afraid will not match the magic of being here myself.