A beautiful sunny Monday morning started rather suddenly for us with a 6.30 radio call. National Geographic Explorer had been trying to email us all the previous day to say they would like to come and visit, but we had been having some email problems (since resolved) and had not received their notification. Nevertheless we were up and ready and enjoyed a friendly visit with their passengers before a quick lunch prior to readying the shop for Le Boreal in the afternoon.
Because of the lovely weather Helen spent a couple of hours during their landing puttying the windows while Kristy and Jane manned the shop and Sarah answered questions in the museum. We are hoping now that the sheathbills will not eat too much of the putty before it dries ready for painting! In the evening we took a few relaxing moments at the landing site on the rocks, enjoying the sunshine and the spectacle of a minke whale in the bay surfacing in front of the Dutch tall ship Oosterschelde while it made its way to anchorage. In the background lit up by the low sun were the columns of blow from humpbacks in the Neumayer. A beautiful end to a busy day.
Oosterschelde visited us for the second time this season the following day, and we were invited on board to give a briefing and have lunch. The interior was amazing, the hold had been converted into a huge open dining area and bar with leather-covered benches. It was unlike anything we have seen on any other ship. The weather continued fine and we carried on with our other tasks too, preparing a batch of artefact crates mostly full of old tins of food to go to the new museum site at Stanley, and also some for Wordie House, one of the other historic sites that the Trust looks after. The crates were tucked into all the dark and dirty corners of the boatshed and in the process of sorting and labelling these Helen and Sarah became so covered in itchy dust that a quick dip in the sea seemed like the best option at the time! It was definitely refreshing and we emerged feeling fairly well cleansed after some vigorous towelling down.
Wednesday was a remarkable day, a typical crazy Antarctic kind of day that begins quite calmly and then just gets busier and busier! We had Silver Explorer landing passengers at 8am as we expected, followed at the end of their landing by the yacht Ile d'Elle. During the morning HMS Protector also arrived, they had very kindly offered to help us with the transport of the artefact crates, many of which were too heavy for us to lift by ourselves. The contingent of marines who we had met in December came ashore, it was great to see them all again. They made light work of moving all our crates to their landing vessel before putting them in one ton bags to be craned aboard Protector. Nothing was too much trouble for them. They also collected a 40kg 12V battery from Bransfield House for disposal as well as some of our other bulky waste items. We owe them all our gratitude. Close to the end of this operation we received a call from the Chilean Navy ship Achilles asking if it was possible for them to come ashore for a visit. So we squeezed in a landing from 100 of their personnel and families as well as the passengers from another yacht, Louise, before the Chileans gave us a lift to HMS Protector where we very much enjoyed Chinese night in the mess. A lovely evening, many thanks to all on HMS Protector for your outstanding hospitality.
The next day we were back to our normal routine, if there is such a thing as normal down here! A 6.30 radio call, a ship in the morning, one in the afternoon and around 7pm when the landing finished we had a lovely dinner of French bread and English cheese gifted to us by L'Austral and HMS Protector respectively, before a very early night!
We had another very special ship visit us, the Bark Europa, a tall ship that makes frequent trips to Antarctica. As with the Oosterschelde it is stunning to see these ships coming into the bay, looking just like the expedition ships of old. Bark Europa was built in 1911, and we had an evening on board being given a wonderful tour of the ship, through all the nooks and crannies of underfloor storage.
On the wildlife front we have some exciting news! Our first fluffy brown sheathbill chicks made a brief appearance, poking their heads up from behind a rock just under the corner of the Nissen Hut. We had been hearing a lot of sheathbill chatter from underfloor while in bed at night and now we know why! There was no successful breeding from the sheathbills last year for unknown reasons so we are very happy to see them having a better year this year. We wouldn't like to think of Lockroy teams of future years being deprived of the patter of tiny feet on the roof all night! The penguin chicks are growing fast, some are almost as big as their parents, and when they are not pestering their parents for food or arguing with their siblings they just sleep. Typical teenagers. There are regular sightings of whales now, minke and humpback, and a number of crabeater seals. Ruth and Andrew have been away for a few days in Pelagic, looking for good spots to film leopard seals when the penguin chicks start to fledge and make their dangerous first venture into the water.
The rest of the week has continued with visits from ships and yachts making for busy days, and in between the visits the everyday jobs of cancelling mail, cashing up, keeping up with email communications, and building maintenance. Whenever we get the chance we are painting, inside and out, inventorying more of the buildings contents and making our way through the job list. We are almost in a countdown frame of mind now, knowing that these last few weeks will fly by. We need to fit in as much as possible, not only work
but hopefully also the unforgettable experiences and memories that we
can take home with us.