Letter from Lockroy - February 28th 2010

Letter from Lockroy - 28th February 2010

In this penultimate Port Lockroy Diary entry for the 2009-10 season, we've had reminders of the manmade world that awaits, with visits from well-known names, film crews and flying machines, whilst continuing to enjoy our natural surroundings which we, like others before us, have had the privilege to call home.

 It was good to see Agustin, Expedition Leader (EL), on Ushuaia and to hear all about their previous voyage the week before, when Juliette Binoche was on board.  The actress was darting around Port Lockroy in a zodiac shooting scenes for her latest film and so unfortunately never landed on Goudier Island.  However, this cannot be said about Bill Gates who spent an hour looking around the living museum and the Gentoo penguin colonies whilst eating a custard cream courtesy of Eleanor one afternoon this week.

 We've been filmed ourselves, with Anna guiding in the museum, Claire serving customers in the southern most Post Office in the world and Rick recalling tales at Damoy Hut for Discovery Channel's 'Globetrekker' and Rachel stamping passports for Australia's Channel 9 'Get Away'.  We've also welcomed the assistant producer and cameramen from the BBC's Frozen Planet team for a brief tour of the museum.  It was great to hear of their recent filming of orcas when they joined us for tea and biscuits afterwards in the bunkroom and see them take a photo of our funny Sir David Attenborough cartoon sketch on the wall to show the man himself.  They also kindly offered to take a mail bag to the Falkland Islands.  As Golden Fleece is probably the last to take our post this season any postcards placed in the E II R red post box from now onwards will be sent by next season's Port Lockroy team!

 It was fantastic to receive our own last mail bag via Dave Fletcher, EL on the Hanseatic. The Lockroy Ladies were thrilled with their individually parcelled Valentine chocolates from Rachel's friend Honeybun (thats his surname) and ate them together with delicious sweets from Eleanor's sister while watching 'Creatures from the Deep' from the BBC's Life series.  We've also enjoyed some gorgeous chocolates sent by Eleanor's Mum in a previous mail delivery.  Many thanks to family and friends for writing – its being great looking forward to and receiving post from you all.

 Another delivery this week was courtesy of the Hanse Explorer which brought us a large box from our neighbours at Palmer Station wishing us a 'Happy Winter'.  It contained a scrumptious homemade apple pie, freshly baked bread and a selection of fleeces, body warmers and t-shirts.  Its been great having contact with the American scientists working on Anvers Island (See letter 5th Jan) and research vessel, Laurence M Gould (See letter 29th Jan), and likewise wish them all the best for the winter ahead.  Captain Berndt, who delivered the goodies, had a cuppa with us before our dinner and then his colleague Jens, joined us for drinks in the late evening.  This together with Graham coming across with Joe one night to show us photos from his time with the British Antarctic Survey at Bird Island and Halley stations, make them the last guests to be entertained in the atmospheric glow of tilley lamps and fire by the last team living at Bransfield House.

This week we were moved to meet Kate Reece, travelling on Orlova, who exclaimed in the lounge “That's my Dad” when looking at the group photo of men from Operation Tabarin on the display boards.  She also worked out that Alan Reece was probably one of the gents in another photo of the guys transferring timber from ship to shore for the Bransfield House build in 1944. 

Kate Reece - standing next to a photograph of her father Alan, one of the original Tabarin men.

From next season the UKAHT staff will be living in the reconstructed Nissen hut which is coming along merrily.  The corrugated roof is fitted, the side walls watertight, the outside decking is taking shape, some internal walls are starting to fill the vast spaciousness inside and the last item, 'The Wilderness Comfort Station' complete with wooden seat, has been lifted up the path by four of us and placed in the throne room. This effort deserved a couple of beers on the front deck, whilst enjoying the 180 degree views of the Fief range, Mt. William, beautiful icebergs in the bay and penguins porpoising home in the glorious evening sunlight.

                                                      The Nissen hut will provide comfortable accommodation for staff in future seasons!

 It was lovely to see Ben and Skye again from Australis who were moored in the back bay for a few days.  They came across for drinks in the Nissen hut to inspect progress made since their time on the build and another evening we went across to theirs to enjoy a meal sat on sofas around the turny table.  Their clients have been spotted on the top of Mt. Jabet and climbing the first of the 'seven sisters' next to Mt. Luigi on the Fief mountain range (otherwise nicknamed 'Snow White and the seven dwarfs').  Another sad farewell for the season was to the lovely John Frick, EL, and expedition team and crew on Corinthian II.  We were all invited on board for showers followed by dinner at the Captain's table.  It looked like we were coming into a small town on the zodiac ride home, with lights from about five yachts, Antarctic Dream and the Chilean Navy ship, making it the busiest we've known Port Lockroy to be. 

The Chilean Navy ship, Lauturo, has been at Port Lockroy for around five days completing bathymetry work in the area.  They have erected several temporary and permanent survey markers on Boogie and Woogie islands and on the hill at  Dorian Bay respectively and one day flew their helicopters over Goudier Island.  A crabeater seal lying by the boatshed that morning, being tormented by sheathbills that had persistently pecked at one point on its body to pierce the skin and devour from the open wound, fled for the water at hearing the noise and our gentoo chicks formed a 'safety in numbers' creche, like they do when a skua flies overhead.  Also on the wildlife front this week, we've seen a couple more adult gentoo penguins being thrashed inside out by leopard seals in deep water and storm petrels skimming the surface for a morsel or two. 

   Crabeater seal fending off pecking sheathbill   Claire, Rachel, Eleanor and Anna on the Professor Multanovskiy

The gentoo penguin chicks are continuing to lose their down feathers and with the adults coming ashore to moult theirs it looks like a snowstorm here at times,  We woke one morning to a heavy gale and persistent rain all day and on another looked out the window to find our penguins walking about on a thin layer of snow.  This has subsequently melted and so Goudier Island smells delightfully of ammonia again due to the penguin guano becoming wet.  We thought we were set for bad weather for the rest of our stay, however Professor Multanovskiy brought great weather with them and so a fabulous time was had by all with a BBQ and dancing on deck.  There was a spectacular sunset behind Goudier Island, with pinks lighting up the glacier and Fief range beautifully and the full moon making a brief appearance later on made Mt.William sparkle in the dark.

 From 21-28 February we've had visits from nine ships and four yachts, which has meant some more 'good-byes til another time' to expedition teams who've become familiar friendly faces over the season.  We are especially grateful to Fram for doing our laundry and bringing in construction supplies throughout the season, Orlova for taking away our segregated cardboard, glass, tins and food waste, along with Fram, Pod Orange and Australis on occasions, The students of Geelong Grammar School on Spirit of Sydney for assisting in painting Damoy Hut and again Spirit of Sydney and Plancius for delivery of our new Iridium Open Port for next season (after the previous had fried (Blog 9)) and many ships for filling up jerry cans with fresh water.  Special thanks to all ship and yacht crews for a fantastic Austral summer in Antarctica!

 Rachel

Spectacular sunset looking out to Doumer Island