Stonington Diaries week 10

As our team are conserving Base E on Stonington Island we will be updating live diary entries from the team. #StoningtonDiaries will keep you up to date with what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen with this remarkable base. 

All images from 1948 have been reproduced courtesy of the British Antarctic Survey Archives Service. © Crown

05 March 2018
Vivian Fuchs' Journal 1948

This morning we have continued clearing the solid ice from the floor of the outside store – a very laborious and slow job.

#StoningtonDiaries

05 March 2018
Base E Conservation Team

As we enter our final week of work, before a week of closing down camp next week, we have been hit with a truly Antarctic feeling Monday. The UK may have been experiencing snow and blizzards recently, but now it is our turn! We may not have been able to work outside on the huts but we are still managing to get our final tasks completed. Geoff and Joanna have been completing door scheduling inside the main hut, whilst Lizzie has been dealing with some of the mould issues. Toby and Michael have been working in the weatherhaven tent writing reports. We expect the weather to die down by Wednesday and we will spend the end of the week finalising our repairs to East Base.

06 March 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

Snowed last night and today until 1600 hrs. In the morning we began moving stores into the storehouse which we have prepared with upturned empty boxes on the floor to keep the stores from freezing in. It is necessary for this base to be at least 9 ins. High and it is better for three empty boxes to be separated as widely as possible so that next year when the solid ice has to be chipped away, it is easier to get at than it is when the boxes are touching.

#StoningtonDiaries

06 March 2018
Base E Conservation Team

This afternoon we have the last ship visit of the season and our last visitors to Stonington Island, marking the end of our season. The next ship to arrive will be the one to pick us up and begin our journeys home. The 190 passengers have arrived to a calm and snowy afternoon, perfect for walking around the island!

Joanna

07 March 194
Vivian Fuchs' Journal 1948

Today has been one of the best days we have had here – a perfect blue sky with a few high streaky clouds – sun shining so that some of us working on moving boxes and barrels stripped to the waist.

#StoningtonDiaries

07 March 2018
Base E Conservation Team

Work on East Base continues, only interrupted by some bad weather days. However, every now and then the work is also affected by curious visitors who seem to enjoy watching us working on the buildings. This guy came up from the sea in the morning and ended up next to our pile of felt and timber. All these new impressions must have made him tired, so after an hour he fell asleep for the rest of the day, leaving us unable to access this pile of materials. Every now and then he would wake up and look at us as if he was making sure we were still working. So in the evening after dinner I went back to check up on him. He suddenly woke up and looked around to realise we were no longer there, like he had over slept and was going to be late for work. He turned around and headed back into the sea, only to leave a melted pit and a terrible smell by our pile of materials. 

Toby

08 March 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

We all worked hard at various jobs – my own being to help Jones try to men the diesel engine of the generator. We spent all day on it and fort bitterly cold being indoor out of the sun.

#StoningtonDiaries

08 March 2018
Base E Conservation Team

Now that Autumn is here and we have noticeably shorter and darker days, we are having to rely more and more on our generator rather than our solar panels for lighting and power. This led to a discussion round the afternoon tea table about the Base 'E' Lister Generator. This ran on diesel, and provided lighting and power for the main base and its outbuildings. On the wall next to the plant machinery is a set of hand written 'starting  instructions', with a numbered list which correlates to hand painted numbers on the actual machine, and various fuel, oil and water tanks. In a drawer nearby is the original parts and instruction manual, and on an adjacent bench is a form to send in if you want a free visit to site from a Lister 'Works-trained' engineer. Looks like someone from Lister missed out on the trip of a lifetime back in the '70s!! A note on the wall under the starting instructions says the plant was last run in April 1975. As we listen to our little petrol generator chugging away, we speculate on how well it would run today.

09 March 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

Snowing again all day, we mover 150 x 58-lbs pemmican boxes from the top of the island into next year’s store house – hard work. Toynbee continued boiling blubber and the oil seems to be coming out well – it may be a success. Eric Bernard Stonehouse has been working at connecting up his seismograph and microseismograph left him by the Americans. The arrangement with them is that he uses the instruments, sends them the results and may also use them himself. This co-operation with them is I think a good thing!

#StoningtonDiaries 

09 March 2018
Base E Conservation Team

Two of the most interesting and curious artefacts on Stonington Island are the two "tanks" which were used during the US Antarctic Service Expedition 1940-41.  Many of our visitors to the island ask about the tanks and they are a very popular item to photograph.  Strictly speaking they are not both tanks - one is an T3E4 army light artillery tractor (pictured) and the actual tank is an M2A2 army light tank of World War 1 vintage.  The tank is without its gun turret and it was most likely shipped to Antarctica without it, we have certainly not found it during our time on the island.  Both vehicles were used to haul supplies and equipment around the base and out to field camps - however it was found that their tracks were too narrow for the soft snow and so were of limited use to the expedition.  Interestingly whilst we have been here we have found an engine the same as in the tractor on the beach on the south side of the island as well as a number of track and transmission parts in the same area.  Both vehicles were abandoned during the hurried evacuation of the base in 1941. The later Ronne Antarctic Research Expedition (1947-48) which was also used East Base did not use either of the tanks - they brought their own Weasel tracked vehicles with them which they took with them at the end of the expedition.

10 March 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

There has been a heavy thaw all day, though some melting snow fell in the late afternoon. This has revealed all the leaks in our stores, engine house and hangar – more repair work!

Other work has also been unpleasant for everything one touches is wet or dripping water, however a great deal of the recent snow fall has gone and things are being revealed again.

#StoningtonDiaries

10 March 2018
Base E Conservation Team

As we enter our final week on Stonington Island we are filled with mixed emotions. There is a great sense of achievement with a huge amount of work completed including building condition surveys of all huts, an artefact catalogue of over 6000 items, just under 200 building material and paint samples, approximately 4500 franked postcards and of course, emergency repairs to all buildings. We will all, no doubt, be happy to return home to see family and friends but will certainly miss this stunning island that we have called home for the past 8 weeks. There is however one final, and poignant, task before we complete the inventory of our kit and take down camp... putting the shutters back on to Base E.  

Joanna

25 February 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

There is no entry in the diary for this date. Must have been a pyjama day!

#StoningtonDiaries

11 March 2018
Base E Conservation Team

One of the most asked questions when we get visitors is about our daily life and routines on Stonington Island. Today, on Mothering Sunday, it was nice to have a lie in. Usually it would be our day off but with the final packing up of camp in full swing we decided to have a lie in and start the working day at 11am. It will be back to the normal routine tomorrow however; breakfast at 7am, morning meeting at 7.30 with first break at 11am and second break at 3pm (each for 45 minutes). We then finish the working day in time for dinner at 7pm. For the early risers of the camp a 7am start is a breeze however, there are still a couple who only just make it to the weatherhaven in time for the 7.30 meeting (one being me). I might add, it wasn't myself who set this routine! I was interested to read in Kevin Walton's book last night (2 years in the Antarctic) that the men who arrived at Stonington Island in 1946 and built the original Trepassey House were not as early risers as us, starting their day with breakfast at 8am and the working day getting going by 9. Maybe we'll need to review this for future seasons ;-) ....... Joanna

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Read what the team got up to in week eleven of their journey

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