Stonington Diaries week 9

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

26 February 2018
Vivian Fuchs' Journal 1948

This evening I went off across the sea ice and shot a large Weddell seal (7-ft. 10-ins.) which I degutted and left to be collected by sledge.

#StoningtonDiaries

26 February 2018
Base E Conservation Team

Although our project here at Stonington Island is primarily concerned with surveying and carrying out emergency repairs to the historic huts, there are other significant features on the island that are important in telling the history of the site and the men that worked here. We will also be surveying, recording and maintaining these. One of note is the memorial cross. The timber cross sits high upon a rock outcrop to the NW end of the island, looking out across the water. A rock cairn marks the burial ground. A plaque at the base of the cross reads;

/In memory of Thomas John Allan aged 26 and John Frazer Noel aged 24, who lost their lives whilst sledging on or about the 26th May 1966. Then let us pray that come what may, As come it will for a'that, That man tae man the world o'er, Will brothers be for a'that (Burns)'/

Joanna

20 February 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

Today and yesterday I did my first chores – washing up – fetching ice for water for kitchen and bath boiler – cutting up seals for feeding the 65 does, etc. etc..

#StoningtonDiaries

27 February 2018
Base E Conservation Team

I'm a couple of shelves into cataloguing what is left of Stonington’s library, and I can tell you one thing – they liked their murder mysteries!! There have only been two books thus far which aren’t of that genre, and they were a western and a romance. Much to my enjoyment, there are several books by that rather splendid New Zealander, Ngaio Marsh. (Ngaio is a Māori word, the name of a flowering tree - pronounced Ni-o).

Lizzie

28 February 194
Vivian Fuchs' Journal 1948

The first trip down with the dogs was difficult enough being made into the teeth of the tremendous wind. On the way back the sledge which blew about all about the place. We have spent so much effort on this run and the dogs were so unmanageable that I decided to give up that work for the morning and called both trams and all the mend in for stores sorting.

#StoningtonDiaries

28 February 2018
Base E Conservation Team

As we have now finished the emergency repairs on the British Base E, we are moving on to spend the last few weeks on the American East Base. The Americans were the first to establish a permanent base on Stonington Island in 1939/1940, and although most of these building are still intact they are in a much poorer condition than the British base. This area is well known for katabatic winds, reaching as high as 150 knots, and we can clearly see how this has been tearing felt and panels off the outer walls. This is now a major puzzle and we are currently working on putting back the panels that are spread over a large area around the base. After this work is done, our plan is to re-felt the roof to keep it watertight, so that they can be appreciated by generations to come.

Toby

01 March 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

Tonight I’m holding a meeting of everyone to allot the numerous duties and point out various needs and don’ts besides heading any suggestions which they may have. They have been warned of this.

#StoningtonDiaries

01 March 2018
Base E Conservation Team

When one of the guests visiting Stonington Island recently was the ex-fid Terence 'Scobie' Pye, it was the perfect opportunity to quiz him for answers to puzzles that have bugged us. In my case, it was 'why were the windows shutters for Base E made in South Georgia, and how is it they fitted so exactly?'. Totally down-playing his own skills he replied, “why, I made the shutters out of timber from South Georgia from measurements sent to me”. No easy job that, to get the shutters so accurate when working at a distance. He was so pleased to see that his workmanship had, after over 40yrs of Antarctic weather, saved the base from much dereliction. It was great to speak to him and see how he smiled whilst reliving happy memories. He’d like to pass on his best regards to ex fids Dave Burkitt, Dave Fletcher and Steve Wormald.

Michael 

02 March 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

Today we have continued re-organising the base by storing stores and building the engine house for the new generator besides clearing up the incredible mess there is around the base.

#StoningtonDiaries 

02 February 2018
Base E Conservation Team

As we enter March we are also heading into Autumn in Antarctica meaning the days are getting that little bit shorter. The evenings are not as bright as they have been but in return we have been given some wonderful sunsets with blazing red and pink skies. The other evening as I was admiring the colours I looked across to Base E and noticed the bright light shining in the upstairs windows. It almost looks like somebody is home.....

Joanna

03 March 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

I have instructed all that told and other items will be lost immediately when even a light fall of snow occurs and that therefore no tools or other things will be left out after use. I myself have brought in two hammers, a pick-ace, a cross-cut saw, two screw-drivers, a drill and a coil of wire which have long been lost under the snow!

#StoningtonDiaries

03 March 2018
Base E Conservation Team

It's taken nearly three days but I’ve finally finished cataloguing and assessing the 300-odd (and some of them ARE odd!) books on the Stonington Library shelves. It was delightful to find a copy of Whisky Galore on the last shelf - a very well-thumbed copy that looks like it might have been on a few field trips, and has been mended with 1960’s industrial-strength tape.

Whisky Galore (1947) is a novel written by Compton Mackenzie, in which a ship carrying 50,000 cases of whisky runs aground on the fictional Scottish Island group of Great Todday and Little Todday. The islanders are nearly out of whisky due to war-rationing, so you can imagine their delight at this occurrence. The story rolls on as they first salvage and then go all-out to escape the authorities determined to track the bottles down. For some reason, this story strikes a chord with English-speaking Antarcticans, and many an Antarctic team has watched the black and white film they made in 1949. Whilst enjoying a dram of course…slainthe mhor!

04 March 1948
Vivian Fuchs' Journal

Last night snow fell again and this morning we find that much of the loose material out of doors has already disappeared. However we shall not lose anything that is of value as that is all stacked properly.

#StoningtonDiaries

04 March 2018
Base E Conservation Team

Today we were privileged to be the first international visitors to the Argentinian icebreaker A.R.A. Almiralte Irizar since it was relaunched following a ten-year refit programme. They are currently moored outside San Martin base (9km from Stonington Island) where they are carrying out the annual ‘relief’  visit to resupply the base, and change over the personnel. We were overwhelmed by the warmth and hospitality shown to us, and it has made our day off to have a shower, a special three-course dinner at the Captain’s table, and a tour of the vessel and its newly fitted out science facilities. As a bonus we met the outgoing San Martin winter-over crew, who had been in email contact with us these last few weeks, and who had managed to visit Stonington during the winter by walking here across the frozen sea ice.

Read next week's blog

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

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