Port Lockroy blog 6: A stitch in time

From Secret Santa to knitting lessons, general assistant Lisa Ford reveals how the team are using their downtime at Port Lockroy.

Port Lockroy blog 6: A stitch in time

From Secret Santa to knitting lessons, general assistant Lisa Ford reveals how the team are using their downtime at Port Lockroy.

Port Lockroy blog 6: A stitch in time


From Secret Santa to knitting lessons, general assistant Lisa Ford reveals how the team are using their downtime at Port Lockroy.

Life at Port Lockroy is busy with our daily, sometimes twice daily, visits to the cruise ships. Preparations before ship visits and all the work after returning involving cancelling the many postcards and letters, reconciling the finances from the shop, wildlife monitoring and everyone’s general duties to keep the base ticking along without issue, means we get very little downtime.

However, we have managed to put up some Christmas decorations around the Nissen hut where the five of us are living. Fairy lights are twinkling and a small artificial Christmas tree sits in the window as the gentoos waddle past along their penguin highways. One thing is for sure, it’ll certainly be a white Christmas. 

Surreptitiously making our Secret Santa presents (Credit: Lisa Ford/UKAHT)

We had decided that our Secret Santa presents to each other had to be made, not bought before we left for the Antarctic. There have been some slightly worried, quizzical faces here – with our limited resources, what can be made that is Christmassy and suitable for each Secret Santa recipient? There’s a lot of secrecy and hiding behind large books at the kitchen table with paints, pens, sketch pads and needle crafts all in evidence. We will see what each of us manages by Christmas Day.

Jerome's famous 'dinosaur loaf' (Credit: Lisa Ford/UKAHT)

Before the Secret Santa crafting evenings, there had been some successes with watercolours of the wildlife on the island. Cooking and baking experiments with occasional masterclasses from Jerome have proved invaluable. An amazing porcupine-like loaf of bread has been a highlight of the bread baking so far. Who knew that snipping the dough before baking could make such a difference?

We are unsure what we will have for our Christmas Day dinner but feel sure with our creative skills and maybe a few fresh vegetables and other extras from some of the ships we visit, we will have a culinary event to remember and appreciate the day.

The team and their ski club patches (Credit: Lisa Ford/UKAHT)

There have also been some sewing projects on the go: attaching the Port Lockroy ski club patches on jumpers just as they did years ago and repairing some clothing and knitting lessons for some. There is even a request for someone to embroider a penguin for a cloth serviette. We will see how that one turns out! 

Photographing the spectacular scenery at Port Lockroy, particularly when the sea is so calm and there are reflections of the mountains to enjoy, is a favourite pastime for all of us and of course, the abundant wildlife never ceases to entertain. I don't know how many penguin photos it is possible to take in a day, but the little guys are so entertaining to watch, just one more photo is always worth it.

Shabs learning to knit (Credit: Lisa Ford/UKAHT)

We have a variety of board games to play in the evenings. It has become quite competitive (for some) so there is now a tally of the winners and losers pinned on the wall. The leader for now is Bridie!

Making do with the materials we have and being creative is familiar for life at Port Lockroy. The museum at Bransfield House has original paintings, games and pictures of those who used to live here many years ago.  

Evan Watson, the wintering diesel mechanic in 1960, painted a picture of Marilyn Monroe on the door of the old generator shed and his artistic skills were in popular demand with others at Port Lockroy. Doris Day, Elizabeth Taylor and other film stars were all painted by Watson in the bunkroom. The paintings were only rediscovered in November 2011 as they had been painted over when the bunkroom was restored.

Marilyn on the door of the old generator shed (Credit: Lisa Ford/UKAHT)

In the lounge of the museum, there is a wooden board game made in the image of Monopoly but based on Antarctic bases and notable sites around Port Lockroy. This was originally found at Damoy Hut, the air transit hut last used by scientists in 1993 and repainted to its original orange colour last year by the Trust. This game was likely used to while away the days, sometimes weeks for those at Damoy, waiting for the next aircraft to take off on the glacier and take them further down the peninsular for their scientific work.     

A play on Monopoloy and FIDS/Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey (Credit: Lisa Ford/UKAHT)

A beautiful piece of craftsmanship is still seen in the museum today. Chippy Ashton, the carpenter of Operation Tabarin who crafted the original Bransfield House buildings at Port Lockroy, also spent hours making ship-in-a-bottles for his fellow men at Port Lockroy. 

Finally, just as we have recently made a few sewing repairs, James Marr the leader of Operation Tabarin can be seen in one of the pictures in the museum completing sewing repairs to a sledge harness back in 1944.

The bottled Chippy Aston in Bransfield House (Credit: Lisa Ford/UKAHT)

So, as we tune our artistic and creative skills for the festive season and look forward to the new year, we will continue to love our time here, look back at the history and endeavours of those who lived here before us and enjoy all that this amazing place has to offer.

We will raise a glass on Christmas Day to those who were here before us, who were the pioneers in Antarctic science and endeavour. There will, of course, be another toast to make: to our families and friends whom on Christmas Day, we will miss more than ever. We will have so many tales to tell them when we return. 

Merry Christmas everyone!

– Lisa Ford, general assistant, Port Lockroy

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