20 February 2017

In the Navy!

This week has been quite a mixed bag for us here at Port Lockroy. As readers will know we are nearing the end of our time on Goudier Island and as a result, are using every spare minute to fit in any outstanding jobs. We have had a couple of mornings free from ship visits which have allowed us to crack on with the bitumen painting of the historic buildings. Despite these odd ship-free occasions we have welcomed 8 ships, 10 yachts and 2 Navy vessels ashore this week!

We had an exciting start to the week as Monday brought us some wild and windy weather. We were expecting a visit from the Royal Navy ship HMS Protector who were supporting us with hazardous waste removal. We were in radio communication with the ship upon its approach and looking out at the wild conditions in the bay, we were initially unsure as to whether the Protector personnel would be able to land. The wind was gusting to 48 knots and conditions looked rough. However, the Protector team were not to be deterred and they arrived ashore mid-morning after what looked to be a very wet and bumpy zodiac ride. We were delighted to welcome them!

One of the challenges we face on the island, is lack of space!  The old boatshed, previously used by the men based here in the 1950s to store the boats used for surveying trips and forays off the island, is now our main storage space. We keep all our food, emergency supplies, shop stock and maintenance equipment in here. Readers may be able to imagine that this requires inventive use of space and often the boatshed can feel like a giant game of Tetris! We have to dispose of all waste appropriately and many of the cruise ships help us with this by removing general waste, organic waste and cardboard from the island for us.

Certain items however cannot be taken by the cruise ship fleet and we were relying on HMS Protector to dispose of these items for us – things such as old equipment and empty paint and bitumen cans. We had pre-packaged and weighed all the waste ready for disposal and were therefore delighted to see all the free space appearing in the Boatshed as the Protector team removed everything for us!

Their visit was notable in a few other ways as well. We were able to welcome the artist Shelly Perkins to the island for the duration of the visit. Despite the wet and inclement conditions she was able to spend some time in the museum lounge, in Bransfield House, looking out to the island and capturing her impressions for future art works. Shelley was on board HMS Protector as resident artist through a joint program between the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) and Bonhams auction house. We all enjoyed seeing her initial sketches and are looking forward to seeing the end results of her Antarctic inspiration.

Perhaps the highlight of the day for us all was getting the opportunity to go on board Protector. We were able to swap out in two groups to go on board. Hannelore and Lucy accompanied some of our waste items back to the ship and enjoyed a cup of tea and a tour. They returned on a different vessel and enjoyed being lowered over the side of the ship into the sea whilst already seated on the Fast Response Craft. Adele, Tim and I were next to visit and received similar hospitality. We certainly enjoyed having tea from a real teapot and felt we'd earned it after climbing the rope ladder to get on board. All in all this visit provided an unusual and exciting start to our week!

We were to receive a few other interesting visitors as the week progressed! On Saturday we were delighted to welcome Selina Fellows, one of the UKAHT Trustees. Selina had come to visit to get a sense of what work and life is like for us here at Port Lockroy, and it was great to see her again after having briefly met during our training week in September. Selina travelled on Le Soleal and was able to spend a good few hours with us on the island, experiencing the museum, having a look around the shop and a getting a tour of our living quarters in the Nissen hut. Thanks go out to Le Soleal for being such great hosts and bringing Selina to us.

Our week drew to a close with another unusual visit. The Chilean Navy were carrying out work on neighbouring Bills Island and had requested a visit to Bransfield House museum. On Saturday evening they were able to come ashore for a short visit in between other ships and it was great to be able to welcome them. They generously gifted us Chilean wine and some maps and information about Chile. This was gratefully received, as Lucy and I both plan to travel in Chile after leaving Port Lockroy and being without the internet means that our planning has been limited. Having hard copy information has been really helpful.

Another end of season task was ticked off when Tim and Hannelore were able to visit Damoy Hut. Akademik Sergey Vavilov, who were cruising in the area, kindly offered to support a visit and sent a zodiac to take Tim and Hannelore to Damoy to install data loggers. These little gadgets record data such as temperature, humidity and dew point and will help inform future conservation works on the hut.

As the time progresses we're becoming very aware of the changes in the wildlife around us. The gentoo chicks are growing bigger every day and many of the chicks now appear larger than their parents. Their fluffy down contrasts with the sleek feathers of the adults. Many of the chicks are moulting and losing their down as their adult feathers emerge. Some of them are sporting some interesting mohican-esque hairstyles! We've enjoyed watching the adults trying to encourage their young into the water to swim. The chicks follow the adults as part of their chase for food and before they know it they're in the cold water! Some of them look pretty shocked and emerge with a squawk shaking their down. We've been advised that the process of getting the chicks into the water encourages the moulting and the emergence of their adult feathers.

We've been lucky this week to spot another leopard seal loitering around in the front bay and also today we got a great view of a fur seal hauled out on the rocks of Bills Island and being quite vocal.

The week has ended successfully with some major jobs being accomplished. We've finished all the bitumen painting of Bransfield House and the Boatshed and only have a few windows outstanding to paint. The recent rainy weather has delayed some of the painting jobs but we're hopeful of getting these completed before we leave the island. We also finished our seasonal stock count and made a good start on the end of season inventories.

A busy time remains ahead as we focus on the final jobs we have to do. We do not yet have an exact date for leaving the island but we know we have approximately 10 – 13 days left! Time to get the base ready for the winter and focus on enjoying our last days here.




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