Visitors and Chicks - 17 February 2013

Things took a wintery turn this week. With no trees to signal the changing hues of autumn, it felt as though someone flicked a switch to bring winter's howling winds to Port Lockroy. We recorded wind speeds of around 60 knots, a gale force 11 storm on the Beaufort scale, prompting four yachts to take shelter in the bay behind us. Still, we haven't felt the full force of what an Antarctic storm has got to offer, a passing ship reported wind speeds of over 100 knots in the nearby Neumayer Channel, and former base leader Alan Carroll (in the latest weather forecast he kindly provides to us weekly) recalled a night in 1955, lying awake in bed wondering if the walls around him would still be there in the morning, when the hut was blasted by 112 knot winds.

The burgeoning Antarctic cruise industry has opened up a continent that was previously accessible only to the fearless explorers, to thousands of visitors yearly. But with fate's sad irony, the recent turn of weather prevented the descendents of two of the of the heroic age's greatest men from reaching us. We were eager to welcome both Falcon Scott and Jonathan Shackleton to Port Lockroy, but the high winds and turbulent water meant no-one would be able to come ashore.

Flo Gets Stuck in to the CleaningThankfully, we were able to welcome the team from Detaille Island back to Lockroy. Anna, Tudor and Michael have had a highly successful four weeks carrying out much needed restoration work at the former British Base 'W'. But it was only a passing visit for Anna and Tudor, who were returning to Ushuaia on the National Geographic Explorer. They both seemed sad to be leaving Michael with us, but we've promised to look after him, and are glad to have him onboard.

 

It's seemingly the week for the descendents of heroic explorers. Florence was delighted to meet the granddaughter of Jean-Batiste Charcot, after she visited the Florence Kayakingbase on Monday. It was Charcot who first discovered the bay in 1904, naming it after the French politician Edourd Lockroy who had helped fund his expedition. He also gave names to many of the geographic features in the surrounding area, including our very own Goudier Island, named after the engineer on his ship the Francais, which itself gave name to one of the highest mountains on the peninsula, Mt. Francais.

We completed the final count of the penguin study this morning, to determine the number of chicks who have survived to leave the nest. Flo read out the instructions provided by BAS over breakfast, including helpful tips such as, 'wait until the chicks are reasonably still before commencing your count', no mean feat with over seven hundred of them now curiously exploring their island. However the weather this time came to our aid, as many of the chicks were grouped together sheltering from the wind, their grey down standing out clearly, a contrast against the covering of fresh snow. And so the results are in; apparently we've lost very few to the ever hungry skuas, the 786 chicks we now have being only 12 less than when we counted them in the nests.

The Ever Hungry Skua Curious Chicks

 

Whilst Flo has been counting penguins, Kath has been counting visitors, and we had our 15,000th here this week. It's surprising just how many people do make it through the doors of our little museum, and we hope they take back an appreciation of the human story of Antarctica, as well as it's landscape and inhospitable weather.

Team on Board for a BBQ

 

Ben