We began the week by saying our goodbyes to Sophie and Lizzie, our artefact conservators who joined us in Ushuaia. We had bonded over nausea on the Drake and group efforts to move all our gear between different ships during the wee small hours of the morning before we even landed on the island. They lost a precious week of their planned five due to our delayed arrival but quickly got into their stride in the museum where one of their main aims was to catalogue and survey all the artefacts, from food tins to books, gramophone records and even generator spare parts!
We had had several discussions as to how their work might fit around ship visits, they even suggested working through the night and sleeping in the day! It didn’t come to that fortunately and the early season ice worked in their favour giving them time to work undisturbed. They completed full surveys of both Bransfield House and the Boatshed, identifying just over 12,000 objects, approximately 3500 individual objects and groups of objects with an estimated count of 8600 (including letters and naval messages). Items were photographed, catalogued and detailed in a MODES database. They also treated and removed some mould and carried out first aid conservation treatments on some objects, including a number of food cans which were oozing!
As part of the Conservation Team, both Sophie and Lizzie have spent time at some of the other bases the Trust takes care of on the Antarctic Peninsula, but Lockroy is quite different. The operation of the historic site as not only a museum but also a gift shop and post office brings many challenges. Over the course of the brief Antarctic summer from November to March approximately 18,000 visitors get a glimpse of what life would have been like on a base during the 1950’s. They also get a chance to support the work of the Trust when they purchase souvenirs and postcards, as 50% of our income to the charity comes from this source. For those who have visited over the last few weeks, they have seen directly how their financial support has ensured we have a better understanding of the number and condition of the artefacts and are therefore better placed to preserve these for future visitors.
Despite their busy schedule Sophie and Lizzie happily combined to take one of the slots on our wheel of daily chores and made valuable contributions to island life particularly baking bread, cakes and juicing a large gift of citrus fruits into breakfast vitamin shots! We waved them off in true Lockroy style as they stood on the deck of Lindblad's National Geographic Explorer who had kindly offered berths for their journey back to Ushuaia and start of their travels homes.
The day Sophie and Lizzie left we heard and then saw our first penguin chick of the season. For many of the team, but especially Lauren this was a very special occasion, and somewhat fitting that we had some new arrivals on the island the same day others had left! A number of chicks have now hatched and as we go about our daily work we listen and look for their cheeping and tiny wobbly heads as they struggle to support their weight as they plead to be fed. Another new arrival this week was a juvenile elephant seal who found the warmth of the exposed rock a great place to rest. We all enjoyed keeping an eye out for her and wondered how many broom handles we might need to tape together to help scratch her itch’s as she moults.
The return of some ice to the area caused a number of vessels to change plans giving us a bit more time than usual to complete indoor tasks. The team try to fulfil a number of unusual philatelic requests which arrive each season, the most extraordinary so far, a request to send something to the International Space Station! We also had a team effort to cancel first day covers and handwrite postcards, completing over 650 postcards, to donors, sponsors and members. If you are following this blog and looking for a way to support the Trust or perhaps a last minute Christmas gift for the polar buff in your life, you can sign up and become a member online. (Sub note for our friends and families: your postcards have not been forgotten and we are trying to get a few written before bed every night!).
As we have lost significant amounts of snow our daily commute takes us through more penguin guano and boot washing and brushing have taken on greater significance! So we had a deep clean of the Nissen hut, boot room mats were scrubbed, and we even got out the hoover for the first time this season! This is a new arrival on the island since my previous season and only possible due to the upgrade of the capacity of our solar panels last year, however, I had already indoctrinated the team to a secret method of cleaning, so simple but not even documented in the Operations Manual, the humble croc hoover.
Finally, as this is the last blog before Christmas we would like to wish you all a wonderful festive season. We hope you have enjoyed reading our blogs and getting a glimpse into life here. In preparation for Christmas day, we had a small ceremony to turn on the lights on our even smaller tree! This was challenging as we currently have 24hrs of daylight and as part of our decorations, someone had wound tinsel around all the curtain rails so we couldn’t shut them! Unfortunately, we are not expecting any mail in until January 6th so let’s hope Santa Claus has time to detour down here to drop off some gifts!