Letter From Lockroy - 21st January 2005
Time for another installment from an increasingly crazy Port Lockroy (that's the place, not the team....)
There are certain things you soon learn here:
1.Ships are like buses - you don't see any for a while, then three come at once
2.If a tourist asks to "go to the bathroom", on discovering the bathroom is a bucket, 90% of them can wait until they return to the ship
3.Matt will eat chilli sauce with anything
4.No matter how many times you tell them, some tourists will always use the passport stamp to cancel their mail
5. Sheathbills can aim
6. If you sit down for a quiet moment, something unexpected will happen
Since I last wrote three weeks ago, much has happened - some episodes have been annoying, one has been tragic but most have been fun. Through it all, life at Lockroy has carried on in its own entertaining way.
On 7th January we expected a reasonably quiet day with one ship visit during the morning. It started well, with Andrea inviting us on board for breakfast and a shower then bringing their passengers ashore for a pleasant visit. Soon after they had departed we had visits from two different yachts, then several officers and crew from the Argentine naval vessel Aviso Castillo arrived for an unexpected visit. The old gramophone was put to good use and the sailors all seemed to enjoy the chance to look around. Soon afterwards we got a call from "Rubber Princess". "WHO?!?!" we thought....it turned out to be an inflatable canoe being paddled round by the Dorian Bay campers. Finally, the day ended with and unexpected but very good visit from the cruise ship Vavilov who also invited us onboard for dinner. We declined the offer of a shower as two in one day seemed rather extravagant - little did we know that it would be over a week until our next one! A busy day, but typical of life here as you never know who or what might be round the next corner.
The next few days were relatively free of ship visits as everyone seemed to have gone to Ushuaia or South Georgia en masse. This enabled us to get on with some of the maintenance jobs around the base. Matt spent one morning cleaning the kitchen area until everything was sparkling. The main outside job at the moment is scraping the old paint off the window frames and the priming, filling, undercoating and glossing them. Matt and his two apprentices have been hard at work on this whenever we've been free. The window job is obviously very weather dependent but if it's too wet or windy outside there are plenty of indoor tasks to be done. Some updated display posters arrived this season and Matt adjusted the poster mounts to fit the new posters. The frames are currently being painted. Pete has been doing some artefact work and our favourite artefact from Danco has been unearthed - the Danco TV! This needed some slight repair work but now has pride of place in the bar.
One gorgeous sunny day about 10 days ago, we dealt with a couple of yacht visits during the morning and watched the large cruise ship Marco Polo landing passengers just across the way at Jougla Point (she is too large to land here). It was such a beautiful day that we decided to go for a picnic. So, we put together a "hamper" (i.e. old crate) of quiche, jaffa cakes, ginger beer, cheese and biscuits etc. and stepped across to Bill's Island (which we can reach at low tide). We tucked into the food and enjoyed the spectacle of the jagged peaks surrounding us with not a cloud in the sky. To complete the picture, Tim Hall from the Dorian Bay camping party came over in his paramotor and gave us a dazzling display of what it could do flying in front of the cliffs. The Weddell seals lying nearby were interested but appeared unconcerned. All in all, it was a blissful afternoon.
The following day, three tour ships visited Port Lockroy. Towards the end of the last ship visit we got a message to say that a member of a yacht party had had an accident on Thunder Glacier next to Jougla Point. We provided some medical items and snowshoes for the rescue party and helped relay radio messages. Sadly, despite the help of a nearby yacht and the cruise ship Orion, the casualty died. Incidents like this are rare but obviously extremely tragic and certainly all our sympathies are with the family of the yachtsman.
The past few weeks have been quite rich in terms of wildlife spotted. Several whales have been sighted including a minke whale very close to Goudier Island. One day there was a crabeater party going on somewhere, with 5 crabeater seals crashed out on ice floes in the vicinity. Weddell seals are commonly seen although now the fast ice has broken out from the bay behind us it is harder to predict where they might be. Visiting chinstrap and adélie penguins are sometimes spotted - the adélies looking very nervous and lost but the chinstraps looking very much at home. The gentoo chicks are growing up amazingly fast and the whole island hatched chich count took place on 18th January. With my trusty assistant Pete, I spent the morning noting the contents of all the nests in both the visited and the control colonies. Pete spotted two nests containing three chicks each, it will be interesting to see whether all the "triplets" survive to fledging.
Well, that's most of the news from here. Port Lockroy always throws up unexpected moments, such as rubber canoes appearing round the corner or an army of zodiac boats approaching having motored up from the Lemaire Channel further south (their ship's crane was undergoing repairs). Other highlights for us these past few weeks have been the ship full of ladies, the passengers on Andrea who gave us a bag of much appreciated reading material, and "interesting" evening out on a yacht, the visit of "Sir" Dave Burkitt (champion of Port Lockroy) and the evenings spent sitting in the sun with a beer and some tunes watching the wildlife go by. The Antarctic, after all, is not such a bad place!!
Love and best wishes as always to our friends and families, and a special "Hi" this time to everyone in the Geocaching world....
Bye for now,