White Nights in Port Lockroy
This week has seen us hopefully wave goodbye to ice-based disruptions and welcome in the beginning of regular ship visits.
The ice paid us another disruptive visit on Monday. Our morning ship, Sea Adventurer, managed to push through the ice in the bay and we were able to welcome their passengers ashore. The ice had worsened by the afternoon however, and through valiant efforts from the Ortelius team we were able to hand over our mailbag for delivery to the Falkland Islands and were also able to conclude the saga of Fran’s glasses! One of the Ortelius team was able to take them to return them to Fran in the UK. The ice closed in quickly and prevented passengers being able to visit. We spent the rest of the day digging ice away from the landing site and organising our storage areas in the boat shed, ready for a cargo delivery on Tuesday.
On Tuesday we looked out the window to see even more ice in the bay and we were not that hopeful that our cargo would make it. In the spirit of being prepared for every eventuality, we flattened and levelled two potential landing sites as we were unable to judge which site might be the most accessible given the ice conditions. Unfortunately the worsening ice meant that our cargo couldn’t be delivered and we were only able to wave as Fram left the bay. Our cargo and mail bag will have to wait until their next visit!
Being icebound for the afternoon did give us the opportunity to undertake some work on our artefact survey. Each year the team at Port Lockroy survey approximately 200 artefacts. This work is carried out in partnership with the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) in Cambridge and we had all received training there, before our departure south. We were instructed in how to handle the artefacts and also how to recognise different types of deterioration in various materials. This allows us to judge how stable the artefacts are and feed this information back to SPRI. It’s a real privilege to handle the artefacts up close. We each took a room which most attracted our interest. I surveyed items from the Ionospherics room, Lucy looked at artefacts in the bathroom and bunk room and Hannelore assessed items from the kitchen. Adele was our chief photographer and each item was carefully photographed in order to provide a visual record for the artefact catalogue. We all really enjoyed spending time in the museum and increasing our knowledge of the wonderful wealth of artefacts we have on base.
Wednesday proved that conditions down here can change, quite literally, overnight and we awoke to see the bow of National Geographic Explorer looming over the roof of Bransfield House. The ice had cleared overnight and we were once again able to welcome visitors to Port Lockroy. In the afternoon Ocean Diamond brought us a visitor from the Penguin Lifelines project – Tom Hart has two cameras on Goudier Island and they monitor and store images of the gentoo penguin colony here. The project allows the public to help with the research by counting penguins from photographs taken here. Lucy, as our chief penguin monitor, enjoyed picking Tom’s brains for the afternoon.
Conditions remained clear on Thursday and National Geographic Orion were able, not only to land their passengers, but also to deliver a small intermediary cargo drop for us. The Orion team were a huge help and the cargo was delivered and stored away in record time! Our afternoon visit from Le Soleal also went well and we enjoyed seeing for Lockroyan Florence again.
Friday was a busy and unusual day for us! We hosted Le Boreal in the morning and then were lucky enough to be offered a ride to Damoy from the Midnatsol team. It was the first time all four of us had left Goudier Island since our arrival in mid-November. Damoy Refuge in Dorian Bay is another of the sites looked after by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. From 1973 to 1993 it served as a summer air facility and transit station for stores flown to Rothera base, and it’s one of our tasks to visit the hut during the season. We were able to take some equipment and carry out a general survey of the condition of the hut and also an inventory of some of the artefacts. We all really appreciated the change of scenery and it was great to get the opportunity to finally visit Damoy after we had heard so much about it. Hopefully we will be able to return and carry out some further work later in the season.
We also experienced another first on Friday. We were invited on board Midnatsol in the evening to give some presentations about Port Lockroy and also to offer an on board shop. Some larger ships are unable to visit Port Lockroy as we have certain limits in place in order to conserve the buildings and minimise disruption to the wildlife. We can welcome a maximum of 350 guests in one day and therefore larger ships are not able to land, however we were delighted to go on board and share some information about the history of Port Lockroy and the work we do today. It was a new experience for us to make up a mobile shop and be able to offer a taste of Port Lockroy to people unable to visit. As we left the ship, Tudor took us home via a twilight cruise of the Peltier Channel and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery before retiring for the night.
We had no morning visits on Saturday so enjoyed a slightly later start and bacon and eggs for breakfast, kindly donated by one of the ships. A relaxed afternoon visit from Silver Explorer preceded some evening work. Today we were excited to meet a group of all-female scientists aboard the Ushuaia. The women were equally excited to meet our all-female team. The weekend was concluded with a visit from Expedition and a pre-Christmas mail bag for us!
As the ice has cleared and we’ve been able to receive more ships, our volume of mail has increased, so this weekend we have been busily cancelling mail and filling mail bags to get everyone’s postcards in the mail as quickly possible.
It’s been another busy and varied week for us here at Port Lockroy and we’ve been incredibly touched by the generosity of the visiting ships. We’ve enjoyed meals on board, gifts of fresh food, baking, wonderful showers and general goodwill from all our visitors. We look forward to preparing for Christmas and our next week of visitors.