Stonington Diaries week 8

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

19 February 2018
Base E Journal

A very busy day packing up all that has to go. Informed Slessor on Biscoe that icebreakers expect to arrive tomorrow and will probably be unable to stay very long.

#StoningtonDiaries

19 February 2018
Base E Conservation Team

We have had a busy few days with ship visits with two scheduled for today. We started this morning with our first visit at 10:30 and our next guests are due at 17:30. They have invited us on board for dinner before they come for an evening tour of the island and huts. Once again our visitors have brought the good weather with them and we have been blessed with sunshine. It has been so nice that we were able to run our Post Office outside for the first time! It has been lovely speaking to all the new visitors and it reminds us what a small world it is when you meet somebody who grew up in the same housing estate and had the same teacher at school.

Joanna

20 February 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

We heard from Butler [commander at Base E] that he hoped to get the American icebreakers to remain until we arrive. At 09:00 hrs. we ran into light pack and broke through rotten floes easily. We are now well below the Antarctic circle and about 100 miles from Base E., visibility nil for several hours but clearing a bit about 22.00.

#StoningtonDiaries

20 February 2018
Base E Conservation Team

After a weekend of Post Office sales Toby is busy this week cancelling all of the stamped postcards. This is a time consuming job and the ink takes quite a while to dry out so he has made use of the Geology and Survey office in the Main Hut to lie out all of the postcards. It looks like a lot here but he has only just started to make a dent in the huge pile of post.

Joanna 

21 February 194
Vivian Fuchs' Journal 1948

The John Biscoe continued to push her way southwards through heavy pack ice at first but near the southern end of Adelaid Island there was considerable open water…

#StoningtonDiaries

21 February 2018
Base E Conservation Team

The origins of the 'Emergency Shelter' on Stonington Island are somewhat unclear. It is noted in historic building reports that the shelter was made from 'odds and ends of timber' and, stencils on the panels reading 'East Base' and 'Extra Outpost' suggest that the timber was taken from the American Base. Although we can't say 100% who built the hut, or when, we do know that it was in use by the British men on the island from the 40's and it was noted that in 1966 it was being used to store radio equipment and clothing. Today the hut has several boards and the door missing which has allowed snow and ice to accumulate inside. Geoff has been removing the ice and has found the door buried at the bottom of a 2ft thick ice mound which will now allow us to re-hang the door along with closing up the holes and re-felting the hut in order to leave it weather tight until we can return to complete full conservation repairs.

22 February 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

During the afternoon we sighted the American icebreakers and a helicopter flying low over the islands. The icebreakers called “Burton Land” and “Edisto” and with them was lying Ronne’s shop “Port Beaumont”.

#StoningtonDiaries

22 February 2018
Base E Conservation Team

When we arrived on the island we were disappointed to find that all of the doors had been either left open or were off their hinges (where they had been forced open by previous visitors).  As a result many of the buildings had ice and snow in them and this had corroded and seized the hinges so that the doors could not be shut.  The hinges are all of the "freezer door" design which are commonly used in Antarctica and are not like the usual domestic variety.  Geoff, one of our Conservation Carpenters, decided to rise to the challenge of getting all the doors working properly on their original hinges - he has been seen everyday for the last 6 weeks oiling the hinges and today has finally got the last of the hinges working again.  This has involved some lateral thinking and the construction of a jig (pat pending!) in which he bolts the hinge and by careful application of oil and leverage gradually gets it back in working order.   The hinge in the picture is the bottom hinge from the front door and it gives you an idea of some of the "interesting" colours the hut has been over the years.

23 February 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

I had the opportunity to meet Finn Ronne and his wife besides various members of his party. They all visited me in my cabin on board the Biscoe but made off when Mrs. Ronne appeared… From descriptions I had had I had expected her to be much worse than she was. Indeed she was very pleasant.

#StoningtonDiaries 

23 February 2018
Base E Conservation Team

A few days ago we mentioned the familiarity of many of the food products still on the shelves at Stonington’s 1961-75 Base ‘E’. Although of course all tins are equally beautiful in my eyes, this Tate and Lyle Granulated Sugar tin caught my attention during cataloguing yesterday. At a whopping 28lbs (nearly 13kg), it is the big cousin of the 1kg paper packet we have in our Weatherhaven tent kitchen. The big difference between then and now is in how many of our sweet treats (biscuits, cake, muesli bars) are ready made, compared to the great quantities of sugar required for baking in the 1960-70’s.

Lizzie

24 February 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

The whole evening our ship was invaded by dozens of American sailors from the two ships. They seemed a queer but pleasant crowd. Those from the naval icebreakers were mostly very fed up at having been sent South[…] Later on we found that starting with differences between Mrs Ronne and Mrs Darlington (the second in command’s wife) a split had developed in the American Party and this had assumed serious proportions. So much so that at one time the British Base had been asked to take some of the Americans to live with them!

#StoningtonDiaries

24 February 2018
Base E Conservation Team

We've had a couple of days of windy weather which has been a good chance to catch up on our report writing and labeling of all our photographs, but it also gives us a chance to reflect on the project so far, the work that we need to complete in our last few weeks and, our time in this spectacular location. We all agree how lucky we are to be here. Each of us has favourite spots on the island to walk, sit and reflect and we all enjoy different aspects of the varied weather that we experience. My favourites are by far the beautiful sunny days when you can sit upon the high rock outcrops looking over the whole island with the sun shining on your face.

Joanna

25 February 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

Again all hands this morning on moving stores though I’m anxious to continue seal killing for dog food which I forgot to mention we began on the 23rd, getting ten seals, as there are many more in the Bay just now than usual and we are very short indeed for the coming winter – only eight seals in hand, and we use more than one a day for our 65 dogs and thirteen puppies.

#StoningtonDiaries

25 February 2018
Base E Conservation Team

We all look forward to Sundays! It’s our day of leisure doing what pleases us, allowing time to reflect on the week and hold onto what’s in your mind’s eye. A small luxury is a sleep-in past the usual 7.30am meeting. Tent adjustments, sleeping bag airing, sock washing – once such domestic chores are out of the way we are free to pursue our own interests. Today Michael has been constructing a nifty table out of off cuts, to keep electronic equipment up off the mess tent floor. Geoff is writing postcards to some of UKAHT’s many supporters. Lizzie is out and about filming the island and its human and non-human inhabitants, Jo is watching a film and no-one has seen Torb since he muttered something about a nap. Ah, Sundays!!

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

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