24 February 2016

Climbing the Rigging

Having ended last week in style with a trip down the Lemaire Channel, the excitement continued on Monday with a visit from Akademik Ioffe. It was the first time we had seen them since they dropped us off at Goudier Island on the 15th November and it was lovely to catch up with a few familiar faces who were still onboard. Monday also saw us host a visit from Angelique II which we are told is the only catamaran in Antarctica. During the week I was also delighted to meet a passenger who lives in Dollar, Clackmannanshire where I went to school and whose children also went to school there. I even knew one of her sons as he was in my sister's year. I also took the opportunity to show her the 'Dollar Oates' in the pantry which had been discovered by us a couple of weeks ago during the conditions survey of the artefacts. This was very exciting and new to myself and the lady as we hadn't known that Oates had ever been produced in Dollar and it will be facsinating to research the history of the company once I am back in the UK.

Tuesday saw celebrations on the island, as it was my birthday. The others had very kindly put up balloons for me, made a card and wrapped some presents which were lovely to receive before a busy day of ship visits. We were also very lucky to see our first Orcas of the season. A number of people had seen them in the bay earlier in the season so it was great to finally see them ourselves. After a quick radio call to Seabourn Quest, who had inadvertently alerted us to their presence we were informed that they were Type B1's. Due to this excitement it only left a brief period of time for a birthday dip in the sea for me before continuing with our afternoon visits. In the evening, Ocean Endeavour invited us on for dinner and showers. We gladly took them up on their offer and had a fantastic evening onboard with the crew. They even sang 'Happy Birthday' and brought me a cake with candles.

As the week progressed it seemed to get busier and busier with ship and yacht visits, with a number of familiar faces returning to the bay. Wednesday afternoon saw the Fram kayak expedition arrive as well as Pelagic Australis. In the evening Laura and Adele hosted a lovely dinner with the kayakers in the Nissen Hut, whilst myself and Rachel went aboard Pelagic Australis to catch up with the crew. By all accounts a fantastic evening was had by everyone.

A rare break in visits came on Thursday morning so we conducted our third and final penguin count of the season. The weather was kind, giving us a little warmth and sunshine so, as per usual, we split into two teams. Myself and Laura heading to the control colonies whilst Rachel and Adele set off to the mast colony. Thankfully the heat made the chicks sleepy so they were very accommodating to us and didn't move around too much. This certainly made counting them easier. At a final count we totalled three hundred and sixteen chicks on Goudier with three chicks still in nests and one penguin still on eggs. There were also an additional twenty nine chicks on Bill's Island with one chick still in the nest. Penguin counting has been a real favourite of the team and we are all a little sad to have finished. Having finished we were straight into a four yacht visit before being visited by the Argentine Navy in the evening. We finally finished around 9pm and had a little rest before heading to bed.

During Corinthian's visit the next day they very kindly took us on, what would be our first, visit to Wienke Island (our neighbouring island) of the week. As well as the whale bones which Bark Europa took us to see later on,there are also a number of rocks with historic graffiti on them. One of these is a large flat faced rock which has writing left by members of the ship William Scoresby on it. The writing was painted on and over the years has faded substantially. It is still legible however and next to the writing is the date 1929. Behind the rock is a hammered tin plaque made by the Port Lockroy team of 1951 to 1953. It comprises the names of the team and the dates they were here. This was particularly prevelant to us as they would have been working in what is now the museum. The weather changed overnight on Friday blowing in a storm, which then continued into the next day, this meant that Ushuaia could not land in the morning giving us time to continue with our inventories (preparing for the end of the season). Thankfully it did not last long and by Sunday the weather had faired up again. This meant that Laura and I were finally able to go aboard Bark Europa and were allowed to climb the rigging to the top of the main mast.It was wonderful to see the bay with a different vantage and a memory I am sure we will both remember for a  long time.

To end the week, having squeezed in a visit from the Chilean Navy, we all went aboard Ocean Diamond in the evening to spend our last night as a team of four. Rachel is due to leave tomorrow when she is picked up by the National Geographic Explorer whilst the rest of us will be here for at least another 10 days in order to close down the base. It has been great fun us all working together and will be strange saying 'goodbye' to Rachel.


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