Stonington Diaries week 5

As our team are conserving Base E on Stonington Island we will be updating live diary entries from the team. #StoningtonDiaries will keep you up to date with what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen with this remarkable base. 

All images from 1948 have been reproduced courtesy of the British Antarctic Survey Archives Service. © Crown

29 January 1948
Base E Journal

More work around Base. Walton, Butson and Elliott returned from their climbing trip, on the way home they ran across several open leads over which Walton’s team insisted on going regardless of width., the result was naturally an enforced bath for the driver. In the evening we went over to the American base to see a film show.


29 January 2018
Base E Conservation Team

We awoke to a calm morning, the weather giving us a window to work on the roof of the main hut. As Torb had completed the rigging on Saturday in preparation we were set to get started as soon as the opportunity presented itself and we grasped the chance with both hands working from 8am to 7pm. After a brief training and rescue exercise in the morning we spent the whole day re-felting and weatherproofing the roof. It has been a long day and the weather wasn't always on our side, but the satisfaction of having completed the highest section on Base E in one day is well worth the hard work in the end.


30 January 1948
Base E Journal

Even with the wind we had yesterday there appears very little change in the ice situation, one lead has opened up in the pack ice off Neny Island buy beyond in still appears quite firm much to the despondency of the Americans. The ice on Neny Fjord is still about 4 feet thick but to the north of Neny Island it appears to be rotting fairly quickly. The motorboat has now been launched in the open crack in front of the Base and is running quite well. Butson had an extremely busy day doing dental work.


30 January 2018
Surveying to 80's Classics

Work is progressing well at Base E and whilst Jo might look like she's about to conduct an orchestra, she is actually completing survey work and architectural drawings of the hut interior. She has, however, been accompanied by a selection of 80's music on her mp3 player (the variety is lacking somewhat). Having spent so much time in the hut, with the brightly coloured rooms and music to lift the spirits, she has actually started referring to the hut as 'the house'. It is beginning to be possible to imagine how Base E may have felt when it was in use.

31 January 1948
Base E Journal

Routine work around Base. Jones and Choyce working on the motor boat. Tonkin and sundry assistants erected flag pole on the rocks at the back of the Base.


31 January 2018
An old Tom on the catwalk

The late and great John Cunningham, the Base Commander at Stonington and other British bases, left an indelible mark at Stonington through his climbing of numerous mountains, travelling many miles with the dogs and the overseeing of the construction of the new Base E in 1961. He would be proud to view the hut today with its new covering of felt completed after a hard push by those involved under trying conditions at times. The catwalk, a setback in the joint between the ground and first floor, has been the hut’s Achilles heel for a number of years as it allows water to rain down inside the rooms and onto the artefacts. However, it is with great satisfaction that we have stopped this ingress and all can look forward to the hut becoming dry once again just like it was back in the day. John Cunningham left another memento here, every time we step through the front door we see a cat’s outline scratched into the concrete plinth!

01 February 1948
The Base E Journal

Sunday once more and a fairly quiet I think. I think the only news of any importance was received by Terry in the form of ‘operators chat’ it was that the John Biscoe had sailed from Stanley and that the Governor is on board HMS Snipe, being Leader of the last person to receive such news.



01 February 2018
Toby's Special Stew

First early knock off today due to building winds (gusting 40kts), the physical work gave way to high level discussions on conservation philosophies. Reviewing a handful of historical photographs took on new meaning now that we are familiar and intimate with the construction of the buildings that comprise Base E. By contrast, today we have completed the photogrammetry survey with over 3500 photographs. We are now battening down the hatches in preparation for the 'biggest storm in 25 years' and we are fortifying ourselves with Toby's latest creation which was delicious however, at the end of the meal we did have to ask ourselves what it was.... Can anybody guess?

02 February 1948
Base E Journal

Another day working around Base. Tonkin and sundry assistants started to paint the motor boat. Adie joined Nichols the American geologist on a local trip to Neny Island where he is going to work for some days. Gave the Americans assistance in calibrating their D.F equipment on the ship.


02 February 2018
3am drama at Stonington....

Wind speeds increased overnight resulting in a night of loud, turbulent gusts battering our tents. Quite an experience for the non-campers and first time Antarctic 'explorers' of the group! However, we were to experience even more drama in camp when we were awoken at 3am by Michael shouting for assistance. Having heard the winds picking up he had taken a look out of his little red cocoon to notice the toilet tent in a state of partial collapse. A flurry of activity followed as Toby and Al emerged from their tents, bleary eyed, to help in taking down the tent before any damage occurred. We don't believe there has been any damage but continuing strong winds with significant gusts today has meant we have not yet been able to assess the damage and re-erect it. In the short term we returned to the 'alfresco' toilet which we all remember so fondly from our first few days on the island.

In answer to last night's question - the delicious meal prepared by Toby was actually a chicken Frey Bentos pie!! Who'd have thought it. Unfortunately our oven is currently not working meaning no baking and all meals cooked on the hob. A smashed up pie cooked in a saucepan was a first for us all.

03 February 1948
Base E Journal

Everyone seems to have been pretty busy around Base during the past few days although nothing of any great importance has been done, except of course to those concerned. This state of affairs makes it extremely hard to write an interesting diary. Tonkin and Jones are making a  most professional job of the boat which is being painted and varnished up to no mean extent, they appear at mealtimes literally dripping battleship grey and white paint from every pore.


03 February 2018

Today we were visited by "The Fram" expedition ship and in true cruise ship day fashion we had excellent weather and an abundance of wildlife visiting the island. We had an extremely busy afternoon showing visitors around the huts and to our Post Office, which was a roaring success!

After being invited onboard for showers and a BBQ, Michael hosted another excellent Q&A session for the passengers and, when we returned to the island, we were joined by a handful of guests who were camping for the night. Our return ashore was with mixed emotions as we bid farewell to Al (who has been an excellent mentor and advisor and will be greatly missed) and Nathan (who has successfully completed the photogrammetry of the huts and now has to move on to his next project at Rothera), and welcomed Lizzie to the team who will carry out an audit of the artefact collection and will undertake any emergency conservation required. We also returned with 7 boxes of new food, albeit minus the cheese (sad face). After a fantastic day and late evening we are all looking forward to our day off tomorrow.

04 February 1948
Base E Journal

Overcast and snowing most of the day so most of the activities were restricted to indoors. Butson completed his medical and veterinary reports and was also busily engaged on photographic work. Most other personnel working on reports. Adie returned from his short trip with Nichols.


04 February 2018
Gardening in Shorts...

Geoff and Michael were up early this morning to bid farewell to our short stay neighbours - 30 passengers off the Fram.  We were all greeted to the fantastic sight of Adelaide Island basking in glorious sunshine. Not long after our new friends had left, the overnight clouds parted and we were soon basking in sunshine of our own - in fact it got so warm during the afternoon that Geoff returned to his normal attire of shorts, the first sighting of bare knees this season!  The afternoon progressed along the lines of a typical late afternoon with a spot of digging in the garden - in fact Michael and Geoff both decided that it was time to sort out the foundations of their tents.  We had hastily erected these almost a month ago when we first arrived on the island on a nicely sheltered patch of snow - the sunshine over the last month has made the tent skirt gradually sink over a foot into the snow whilst the snow under the base has stayed at the same level.  They are both now wondering what to do with the new found space!

Read next week's blog

Read what the team got up to in week six of their journey

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