Q&A with the Damoy team

Between coats, the Damoy team field questions from UKAHT followers about their work on the Peninsula.

Q&A with the Damoy team

Between coats, the Damoy team field questions from UKAHT followers about their work on the Peninsula.

Q&A with the Damoy team


The Damoy conservation team have returned after 26 days on the continent and over seven weeks away.

While there, heritage carpenters Martin Herrmann and Sven Habermann, with more than a little help from field guide Jo Bradshaw, repaired, repainted and restored Damoy Hut – formerly Damoy Point Air Transit Facility, AKA the world’s southernmost waiting room – to its original bright orange.

Between coats, they managed to answer questions sent in from UKAHT followers.

Your questions answered

What is the biggest misconception people have about your job? 
Kia Abdullah, @kiaabdullah via Twitter

“As heritage carpenters, people think we have to come up with creative solutions to fix issues in a modern way but it's really all about problem-solving and preserving the integrity of the artefacts and buildings to get them through another 50 years.”
– Sven and Martin

Are any of you letter writers? Do you send letters to friends and family, and if yes where’s the nearest postbox?
Handwritten Letter, @letterappsoc via Twitter

“I have written postcards to my friends and family and will post them at the Post Office at Port Lockroy when we get back there. They may take a while to get home but what a place to write and post a card!”
– Sven and Martin

What is your favourite pastime in the evening when all the painting for the day has been done? How do you relax as a group? Who is the best cook?
ChrisDailly, @ChrisDailly2 via Twitter

“We don't have much downtime as we are working long hours to get the job done. When we do have a spare minute or two we will go for a walk up to Tombstone Hill to see the penguins and fur seals from a safe distance.”
– Sven

Inside the mes tent

Inside the mess tent – the team's home away from home

¿Qué se siente estar en el desierto blanco en el confín del mundo? (How does it feel to be in the white desert at the end of the world?)
Nono, @NonoMartinezArq via Twitter

“It is a very snowy and wet desert here. In fact, we are experiencing the snowiest and wettest summer since the early 1960s! I have climbed Vinson (the highest mountain in Antarctica) which is very dry and cold and a true Antarctic desert. Whereas here on the Antarctic Peninsula, it is cold, extremely windy and very wet from the snow or rain. However, it really is an incredibly special place to work and we feel immensely privileged to be here.”
– Jo

What happened to the "Fidopoly" board that I saw in 2006? It wasn't there in 2020. Hopefully in a safe place.
Andy Willett via Facebook

“The Fidopoly board was moved to Port Lockroy in 2013, along with the wooden penguin, for safekeeping. Unfortunately, as few items have been taken from the hut as souvenirs over the years and UKAHT felt it was best to preserve these iconic pieces in the safety of the museum at Bransfield House.”
– Jo, Martin & Sven

What's the current temperature, and what has been the most rewarding experience since you have been there?
Ray Wright, @ravenvmw via Instagram

“As I write from our mess tent, we are being battered by 50kmph winds, which is quite mild for here, and it is a balmy 2°C. The temperature has only gone down to -5C with the wind chill so not so bad.”
– Jo, Martin & Sven

“We have achieved what we came out to do and now have an orange hut!” – Sven
“Coming up with innovative ideas for problems that we encounter on a daily basis.” – Martin
“Living amongst the wildlife and being a guest in their territory.” – Jo

Martin up a ladder painting

Martin hard at work

What has surprised you the most about spending time at the Demoy hut?
Ellen Piercy, @randogirl42 via Instagram

“The hut is now 48 years young and despite the harsh Antarctic conditions, it remains in great shape compared to what a building back home would be like by now. Every time we go inside is like stepping into a time warp where you can feel the hustle and bustle of what went on in yesteryear.” 
– Jo, Martin & Sven

What do you do as everyday painting motivation? Do you play some music, do you sing, any milestone games?
Wera Morgan, @weramorgan via Instagram

“The paint-stripping was the harder and much more physical part of the job but we simply got on with it knowing that we were under great time and weather pressures. It was quite a moment when Sven and Martin stripped off the last pieces of blue paint. No music due to our environment and also we have had a fair number of visiting ships. Also, no singing as no one would like to hear that but plenty of coffee as our milestone markers!”
– Jo, Martin & Sven

Que aves están viendo? (What birds can you see?) 
Eduardo Militello, @militelloeduardo via Instagram

“We have a small number of birds which are around us daily including Skuas (one pooped on Jo's head!), Wilson's storm petrels, Arctic turns, kelp gulls, blue-eyed shags and plenty of Gentoo penguins which come and visit us regularly at the hut!”
– Jo, Martin & Sven

Martin with a skua
A skua pops by to say hello to Martin

Do you get homesick, and if so, how do you cope?
Mahala, @majilily via Instagram

“No, we don't get homesick as this is now our home from home. We have named the mess tent ‘Home’ and the hut is ‘Work’ so on the radio we say we are either at ‘Home’ or at ‘Work!’ We have limited contact with loved ones and know that this job is only for a short amount of time – which is racing by!”

What extra care (if any) has to be taken to paint the hut?
Hannah Ashby, @wandererlustering via Instagram

“The main issue has been the paint flakes and collecting them in a tarpaulin when we are stripping the old paint off the hut. We then go around the hut with a handheld vacuum cleaner and are literally sucking them up to make sure we collect everything we can as we do not want to harm the environment. We have also used a water-based paint so no solvents are needed.”
– Jo, Martin & Sven

Do you have a list of the books still inside Damoy? Are there any other comics?
Hannah Ashby, @wandererlustering via Instagram

“Alas no list that we have here with us at Damoy but we have spied a cookbook by Delia Smith! We haven't really had time to have a good look around at the artefacts but hopefully will do before we leave to soak it all in.” 
– Jo, Martin & Sven

How many cruise ships have visited since you arrived?
Martin Gruselle. @schiehall2 via Instagram

“We had 21 ships visit Damoy over the first three weeks which may sound like a lot but they are generally only here for a morning, afternoon or for camping overnight. Port Lockroy is visited more often with mostly two ships a day as well as visiting yachts. I sometimes go on board to do a talk before or after their landing and they look after us very well with showers, food and the odd bottle of red wine! We have met some amazing expedition teams and passengers but also relish our solitude when there are no ships around.”
– Jo

Two tins of specialist Tikkurila orange paint
The specialist Tikkurila orange paint

How does the paint not freeze?
Lisa Murphy, @leesa_travels via Instagram

“The paint is kept inside the hut – where it is above freezing – in sealed tins until it is used and we apply it only when the temperature is above freezing. We have only had a couple of nights when the mercury has dipped below zero and that is only when you are outside in the fresh air.”
– Martin & Sven

Do you see many penguins?
Ian Cameron, @hey_its_me_ian via Instagram

“Plenty of Gentoo penguins! On our first night here I stepped outside the hut to be greeted by Pepe the penguin who had come over from his colony to check us out. A few penguins wander up to see us now and then but mostly they stay in their colonies close by or can be seen diving and cleaning themselves in the bay. Alas, we have had no chicks here this season due to the high amount of snow but they are still busy keeping up the nests and generally doing what penguins do.”
– Jo

Three Penguins near Damoy

Penguins occasionally pop over to inspect the progress

If we could send you one piece of food from home, what would you choose?
Caroline Whitehouse, @cazzy2004 via Instagram

“Fresh seafood.” – Sven who lives on the west coast of Ireland
“Brown cheese from Norway.” – Martin who lives in Norway
“My Mum's homemade marmalade.” – Jo

What is the hardest thing to deal with?
Taz Szulc, @tazszulc via Instagram

“24-hour daylight is something I struggled with in the beginning but have become used to it very quickly.” – Sven
“It is very wet here!” – Martin
“The unpredictability of the weather. Despite good forecasts, the weather is very fickle here and can be sunny one minute and stormy the next. We have a flag flying next to our mess tent so use that as our weather indicator. We see which direction the wind is coming from, look in that direction and see what weather is coming our way. Simple but remarkably effective and we have to be on standby for bad weather all of the time.”
– Jo

A flag flying above the tents

The team's weather indicator