Letter from Lockroy - December 16th 2009

Letter from Lockroy - 16th December 2009

Port Lockroy never fails to  surprise us! We've had an eventful ten days since our last diary update and continue to wake up every morning wondering what excitements might be round the corner. Early in the week we were spoilt with dazzlingly bright skies which forced us to shed the ski jackets. We took advantage of the dry conditions and all climbed the old meteorological tower to enjoy the views of our little island and the surrounding mountains and glaciers. Some of us were braver than others and even managed to snap a few pictures of Bransfield House from above – we are rather obsessed with seeing our home from as many different angles as possible.

                                                         Bransfield House - view from anemometer tower
We also started our very own Desert Island Discs in the evenings after dinner, fondly named Goudier Island Discs, and took it in turns to play our favourite and most personal tunes to each other. We all of course started off insisting that we couldn't possibly choose seven songs but all triumphed in the end and some of us promptly needed a glass of vino or two to recover from the ordeal (it was quite emotional for some of us!).

Early in the week, we were all very sad to say our farewells to Tudor who has done a fantastic job of setting us all up for our very first Antarctic Season. Tudor, your fun loving spirit (and culinary skills!) are greatly missed and your enthusiasm for everything Antarctic spurs us on in our very own Antarctic adventures. You'll be glad to hear that we are 'just getting on with it' and not only that but we're 'having a blast!' at the same time. Our thanks to Clelia II and all the expedition team for Tudor's safe passage home and a special thanks to Christian the chef for the most amazing steak we have ever tasted!

 The daily schedule here at Lockroy is surprisingly full! We are always amused by some of our visitors politely asking: 'But what do you do all day?'. We have had one, if not two, ship visits a day this last week and when we're not working in the shop, post office and museum there are endless tasks to keep us busy round the base. Peter Hillary also made an appearance this week as he has been lecturing aboard the Clelia II and Rachel, who has always admired Sir Edmund Hillary, was absolutely ecstatic to meet him, show him round the museum and speak to him about his father.

 The Polar Pioneer also stopped by for a visit and the team was especially happy to welcome two friends who were amongst their visitors. Rick Atkinson and Joe Leavy were on board and made a stop on their way to Wordie House – another historic site being looked after by the Trust which is this year being re-roofed and re-floored by the UKAHT.

 We always find the time to enjoy a bit of wildlife spotting here and this week we were lucky enough to see a lone female orca swimming in the bay and making its way out towards the channel. Jaba, the elephant seal, has also been making himself at home and has even been known to greet our visitors at the doorstep. The visiting chinstraps and adelies are still dropping in, much to our delight as we never know when they might return again.

 Our big news this week though is that we have had our very first gentoo chick! And we are all very proud, as you might imagine! We expect that over the next week we'll be spotting many more chicks and before we know it, it will be time for another whole island nest count. And for those of you have been following our weekly diaries, you will be glad to hear that the gentoo that had been nursing a limpet shell now has her very own egg (limpet still in nest though and not forgotten!).

Our first chick
The Bark Europa, a beautiful Dutch tall ship built in 1911 anchored in the bay early in the week and we enjoyed showing the fun loving crew and passengers all round the island and the base.  As we do not have our own boat, they offered us a ride to our neighbouring island, Jougla Point, to get a closer look at the blue eyed shags and their chicks. This was the very first time we have all left the island (except when we visit ships for briefings) and it was also an opportunity for us to take a longer walk than normal as Goudier Island is only a mere 1 acre.  Bark Europa also kindly offered as dinner on board and we had the rather surreal (but wonderful) experience of a barbecue on deck with Hawaiian style shirts, Caribbean music and sunglasses whilst drinking 'Antarctica' beer! Our thanks to Dan, expedition leader, for the grand tour of the beautiful Europa and for a fantastic day.

 There have been two yachts travelling in tandem anchored in the back bay this past week; the Spirit of Sydney and Podorange.  Their crew has included 14  students from Geelong Grammar School in Australia (Prince Charles once attended). They are here on the most amazing school trip -  having sailed the Drake Passage, traversed the ridge along Mount Jabet and experienced 50 knot winds! Not only that but they are also supporting the UKAHT by carrying out much needed maintenance work at Damoy Refuge in Dorian Bay. Our thanks to Kath and Darryl of the Spirit of Sydney and all the children for their enthusiasm and hard work. Damoy is a newly designated historic site along with Detaille Island.  The Antarctic Heritage Trust has recently taken on the custodianship of these two sites on the Peninsula along with Wordie House. 

Geelong Grammar School students at Damoy Hut

The wonderful weather here at Lockroy seems to have left us for a short while.  This is much to the delight of the gentoos who do not relish in the heat as much as we do. We have had a few overcast days here with snow showers and strong winds and the solar panels on the roof have needed a helping hand from our trusty little generator! Yesterday morning we woke up to the sound of 50 knot winds and timidly poked our heads out the door.  Port Lockroy is a natural harbour and the weather here is generally fine so this was probably our very first experience of proper Antarctic weather and much as we all wanted to stay in bed and drink tea it was time to done the old overalls and fantastic Tog 24 waterproofs and venture outside. The building materials that are currently on the island for the Nissen hut reconstruction had blown over in the night and required urgent rescuing.  Although we could barely hear each other speak over the howling winds we worked together and managed to restack and waterproof the worst of the pallets. The winds died down in time for us to have a quick lunch and greet the passengers of the Prince Albert II who were blissfully unaware of our dramatic morning. The day continued in the usual manner and after a late night ship visit from Corinthian II we were were thrilled to be invited on board for dinner with the Captain and the wonderful expedition team. Another eventful day in the Antarctic but all in a day's work for the Ladies of Port Lockroy!

Anna

Eleanor, Rachel, Anna and Claire onboard the Bark Europa