It’s Sunday, or, as we call it here on base; blog-day. Or should I say ‘as we used to call it’? This last week was really a last week. I’m still at Port Lockroy and so is Flo but it’s not ‘we’ anymore. Ben and Kath left on Friday.
Making a remote, deserted island operational is quite a thing but shutting it down is equally intense and complicated. In a couple of days we will give the island back to the penguins and the weather, for the next eight months. And of course we want next year's team to find it in as good a state as we left it in. This terrifies me at times. As we were painting last week, we momentarily left a ladder behind the boatshed, hidden from our eyes. The idea of sailing off in a couple of days, waving emotionally goodbye at the island, only to look in horror at the ladder still standing there…that is what haunts me in my sleep. The scenarios are different but it is all this ‘did I leave the kettle on’ feeling. And the knowledge that nobody can turn it off.
Last week we all worked incredibly hard. Michael finished all his jobs here and together with Ben closed Damoy for the winter. We all recorded countless things like elastic bands and loo rolls, Turkish sultanas and Brazilian nuts. While all four of us were on inventories, Kath was submerged in stock counting. All are important but tedious jobs that gave us the giggles quite often.
But we also had fun this week, despite the ominous approach of the end. We were invited to the Bark Europa for a spontaneous cabaresque full moon celebration. Although we’ve had rather wet and cloudy weather, the full moon did appear and it was very beautiful.
And there was more fun. The team had informed ships about my upcoming birthday and it resulted in a special b-day dinner on Sea Spirit to celebrate my last day of a certain age. All five of us went on board and we had a fantastic evening. My actual b-day was equally great with a team-prepared-lovely-luxurious-surprise-breakfast and lots of presents and messages and passengers wishing me eternal youth.
And then the goodbye days kicked in: Michael left us on the 28th, rather rushed since the weather turned foul and the ship had to leave in a hurry.
The weather remained rough and windy and wet. Winter is definitely approaching. We lit the stove, made a nice meal, got some wine out and celebrated our last evening together. It was a great evening and we all wholeheartedly agreed with Ben when he said that he couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to share this most beautiful place with.
The next day Flo and I did the ship visits and Ben and Kath prepared to leave. For Kath it meant doing spreadsheets until the last minute. Ben checked under his bed fifteen times and said goodbye to everything, including his radio. We had a last walk on the island together. We saw some much wished firsts: a leopard seal catching a penguin, gentoo chicks taking their 1st steps in the sea, and a Minke whale snorting goodbye just by the chains landing...and then, Ben and Kath stayed on Polar Pioneer. Flo and I went back ‘home’. An emotional moment.
The last two days we’ve run the Florence & Flo base. It snows a lot, it is very wet, it’s cold, we work a lot and hard, we laugh, we miss Ben and Kath and we say goodbye to ships . And that’s when, all of a sudden we realise that we too are leaving soon. In two days we will close down Base A. The 5th of March the flag will be lowered and we will step on board Ocean Nova to head back to Ushuaia.