12 December 2016

Ship Visits and 'Operation Gentoo’ 

On Monday we woke up to an unexpected morning visit from Ocean Nova. At 09.00 the zodiacs were heading for Port Lockroy, Base A. Spirit of Sydney, whilst we all quickly wolfed some lunch on rota style. During the afternoon we were visited by Ocean Diamond, who finally made it to Port Lockroy having previously tried three times. It was a beautiful afternoon spent with enthusiastic passengers. Ocean Diamond returned our clean laundry, before sailing off into the evening light. Although the day was coming to an end, the day wasn't finished for us as we needed to be ready for the next day ship visits; cleaning and closing down the museum, restocking the shop, preparing the steps at the landing site and the paths on the island which we have laid out for visitors.

The next day was almost a déja vu of Monday, but this time with National Geographic Explorer, Le Soleal and Santa Maria Australis visiting Port Lockroy. Lucy and Laura enjoyed breakfast and delivered a briefing on board National Geographic Explorer. It was a pleasant visit, and Laura was thrilled meeting Peter Hillary. The afternoon was spent with the visit from the yacht Santa Maria Australis, followed by Le Soleal. It was nice meeting Florence, another former ‘Lockroyan’, who now works as expedition assistant on board Le Soleal. We want to thank all ships for treating us so well by providing treats and fresh food, doing our laundry and for allowing us to have a shower on board as we don't have running water at Port Lockroy.

Living at Port Lockroy means adjusting to nature and changing plans all time. Although the bay was clear of ice the day before, we woke up to a beautiful day with the bay full of ice. But this didn't stop Le Lyrial from visiting, as we saw her pushing through all brash ice. What a view! Although they arrived delayed due to ice, they managed to land. But as ice conditions kept worsening, they had to interrupt their visit, and had quite an adventure getting back to the ship, where the zodiacs were welcomed by an applause from the passengers standing on deck. What an adventure!

The day after, ice was preventing ships from coming, and both Silver Explorer and Ocean Endeavour had to cancel their visit. As we were having beautiful weather, we took the advantage for continuing maintenance on Bransfield House: scraping paint, removing bad putty and priming. Important work for preparing the historical building for the harsh Antarctic winter and keeping the history alive. It is so nice to hear when people thank us and the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust for all the work we do. 

A whole maintenance day was shortly interrupted by a lovely outdoor lunch on the warm rocks at the zodiac landing site, in addition to an afternoon teatime and pancake surprise. What a wonderful scene on the ice-filled bay!

No ships were scheduled on Friday, and as it had been 5 days since the screen gentoo colony reached 95 % of nests having eggs, in addition to being fortunate with the weather, we were ready for 'Operation Gentoo'! We split into two teams and headed for the different colonies. Laura and Lucy surveyed the control and anemometer colony, while Adele and I started in the screen colony, followed by the mast and Bransfield colony. We all finished in the boatshed colony, the biggest with 151 nests, including 2 nests with 3 eggs! After a day of counting, Lucy calculated the final numbers, which at the moment are 548 nests and 993 eggs on Goudier Island! The successful 'Operation Gentoo' was celebrated with my very own homemade Nissen - pizza and a glass of wine. We are all waiting for the arrival of the first chick and looking forward to sharing this exciting news with you.

Saturday saw us with another busy ship visit day, as both Ocean Nova, Polar Pioneer and the yacht Pelagic Australis visited. It was really nice to see the Ocean Nova team again so soon after their last visit. The team had spotted Shag chicks on Jougla Point and Lucy, Laura and I were fortunate to get a quick zodiac ride across to see them – which was lovely! After a delicious lunch we prepared for an afternoon visit from the Polar Pioneer. We were happy to welcome them as they hadn't been able to land during their last trip and we had to wave goodbye both the ship and the mailbag. Laura was awaiting mail, and was extremely thrilled when she saw the big mailbag. We want to thank both Ocean Nova and Polar Pioneer for on-board showers, which was much needed as we all were smelling Penguin poo after yesterday’s penguin count. The day ended with the super excitement about opening the big mailbag. Adele, Lucy and Laura received some mail, but I on the other hand, was lucky enough to get some philatelic requests.

And what could be better than ending this busy and fantastic week with a well-deserved rest day on Sunday? We all spent the day with all sorts of activities; writing postcards, emails, and doing some other necessary tasks. Lucy and I also took the opportunity to walk over to Bills Island at low tide for doing a penguin count. The four ‘Lockroyans’ are ready for another busy week!




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