28 November 2016
Lots of firsts
The week started with stormy weather and our first real experience of Antarctic winds and snow. The weather and shifting ice in the bay and Neumayer Channel continued to prevent ships from reaching us but a window in the weather on Tuesday allowed us to start painting Bransfield House. As the base is not manned during the winter all the maintenance must also happen in the summer season so we donned our overalls and rigger boots courtesy of Dickies and climbed onto the roof. The first job was to scrape and clean off the Sheathbill droppings! We have all been fascinated by these birds, they are incredibly inquisitive and often watch us through the window when we are in the Nissen hut. Whilst up on the roof we heard a different call than we had been used to and spotted an Adelie penguin on some ice close to shore. He and two of his friends eventually decided to venture onto the island and have a look around possibly until he realised the post office was closed!
Wednesday was a big day with our first ship visits for 5 days, Ocean Wide Expeditions' Ortelius graciously offered us showers, filled our water cans and gave us literally hundreds of eggs. After a busy visit we had a few hours to restock the shop, count penguins, cancel mail and do our chores before an early dinner. As we were enjoying dinner Hurtigruten's Fram literally showed up in the window, parking herself in the fast ice. Whilst we hosted an evening visit they very kindly did our laundry. As they were headed for Stanley they also took our first bag of mail. It was close to midnight by the time we went to bed but with clean sheets, full bellies and a real sense of accomplishment from our first two-ship day.
The following morning Quark's Sea Adventurer arrived in the bay and their guests enjoyed the museum, shop and penguins. Jonathan left with them after a week-long stay helping us set up our tills. He had been an invaluable resource helping us with many other little problems and we all feel a lot more knowledgeable about radios, generators and computers etc. We spent time going over postal tasks, creating a little production line preparing first day covers and stamps for sale as well as cancelling the mail posted in the last few days.
Many visitors are surprised we are such a small team. We share chores and rotate every day. As the designated cook I lucked out on Friday when National Geographic Orion invited us onboard for breakfast. We had multiple courses (none of them involving porridge) including pancakes and even squeezed in another shower (as we have no running water on the island we rely on the ships offering us showers). It was great to see the Orion crew again and we were finally able to receive the cargo they had been carrying for us. The ice had already started moving back into the bay by the time they left and that prevented our afternoon visit going ahead. There was still plenty to do though including another penguin egg count, with many now sitting on two eggs.
Another big day started early on Saturday, National Geographic Explorer had spent the night in the bay and wanted to move their guests and our first cargo drop over the fast ice. Their staff were amazing man-hauling 184 boxes using inflatable kayaks as sleds. They even left us with salad, yogurt and an amazing packed lunch. Shifting ice again affected our incoming afternoon visitors giving us valuable time to sort and organise all the cargo in the boatshed which serves as our warehouse and finish painting the roof of Bransfield House. After dinner we really enjoyed opening the first mail bag from Stanley and the boxes we had sent ourselves from the UK.
There is no such thing as a routine day, ship schedules change as the ice shifts, if the weather is good we get busy outside and when it deteriorates we have plenty of inside tasks. We are enjoying the daily challenges and starting to feel more confident in our roles. I am writing this on Sunday, we are now two weeks in and have a day without ships. We have agreed to take some time to ourselves, catching up with journals, writing postcards and emails. It is hard to find the time to keep all our friends and family updated as we are so busy but we hope you are enjoying the blog.