16 Dec 2013 - In for the krill

Ruth here, I have hijacked the Port LockroyPostmistress painting the postbox blog for the week. It may be somewhat more birdy than usual and for that I make no apologies - apart from to the UKAHT (thanks again for allowing me to be part of the team this year!).

Visitors often ask what we do here... how can we cope without TV.. don’t we get lonely? I look at them, and then beyond to the penguins and laugh. “How can we possibly be bored or lonely with a backyard like this?!” I say in return. As I type now, a rather plump snowy sheathbill is tapping on the window and curiously looking in. I am sure we provide as much entertainment for the wildlife as they us. Like the penguins, we trip up in the snow; like sheathbills, we pick up anything that has been dropped by passers-by; and like skuas, we patrol the island looking for changes and watching out to see how all the penguins with eggs are doing. My personal favourite thing to watch here is penguins porpoising just offshore. It is still breathtaking to see them move through the water in this way as well as when they snorkel and spin to wash themselves. Of course, it is not just me watching them at the water’s edge - our overly-friendly neighbours the sheathbills also observing. Like penguins, they also seem to have quite a taste for krill but as they can’t catch it themselves, they wait for any that passes through our lovely black and white friends.

Sheathbills themselves perhaps provide as much entertainment for the team as the penguins (I can’t believe I wrote that either)... conversations over dinner about what on earth they are doing on the roof, tapping back at them as they peck the windows of the Nissen Hut, watching our feet as we walk over the decking outside Bransfield House (they have just started pecking the Sarah decorates herself for Christmasunderside of our boots). The entertainment seems to be Antarctic-wide for today we heard a story from the captain of Corinthian who had his boat hijacked by a sheathbill with a taste for his navigation system!

Ok, that’s probably enough about our feathered friends - here comes the news of the week... It started as the last ended, ice-bound and therefore ship-free. The team made the most of the opportunity to continue to make a dent in the season’s job list, under Base Leader Helen’s guidance, and decorate the interior of the buildings for Christmas - the latter with the help of some delicious mulled wine made by Sarah. We also all got involved in the annual gentoo egg count, which is an important part of the penguin monitoring work that takes place here on Goudier Island. Despite the large amount of snow still present on the ground, we have almost 550 nests and over 950 eggs and we are very much looking forward to the arrival of chicks early next month!

With the ice excluding ships from the bay,Setting off on nest count it was a pleasant surprise to see Hans Hansson (a lovely-looking motor vessel) forge its way right into the pack ice on Tuesday afternoon. We were delighted to welcome these new neighbours onto the island on Wednesday and were very grateful for the offer of a shower and supply of fresh water (after 6 days without delivery). The ice continued to play havoc but, after some to’ing and fro’ing, Icebird made it in to the bay and settled sufficiently for a super evening visit. As the winds changed to north easterly clearing the landing site for ships later in the week, Captain Bryce, crew and passengers of Podorange all helped us greatly with the unloading of the final shipment of cargo that Fram very kindly delivered on Friday. They helped us make light work of what would otherwise have been a very tough job and then brought over drinks in the evening to join us in celebrating the end of cargo for the season.

The week has more or less continued as itHans Hansson getting close should, with ship visits bringing wonderful smiling passengers galore, stamped postcards being cancelled and even the odd bit of filming happening! On the Penguin Post Office front, all going well - penguins on eggs and skuas now the number one enemy. The week has ended perfectly, with a lovely visit from yacht Sarah W. Vorweck, which included a little gramophone party for Kristy, Sarah and the passengers, and a delicious meal of spaghetti bolognese cooked by Jane.


16 Dec 2013