2022: Blog | A final farewell
On 22 March HMS Protector with her distinctive red and white paintwork sailed back into the bay for the last time this season. We had barely seen or even heard any activity on the radio in the last week, a sure sign the summer season is drawing to a close in Antarctica. Winter is definitely on its way, the ground was frozen on Goudier Island and snow once again covered her rocky features. There were still a number of penguins huddled against the rocks for shelter as they waited out their annual moult before they too leave for the winter, and many of the juveniles having lost their downy feathers and learnt to swim in the sheltered shallows of the island will also be on their way out to sea.
Bransfield House had been shuttered and we spent a couple of days giving the buildings a final deep clean from the ladders and bootwash brushes to the oven and toilet buckets. We had our final meal, a Lockroy classic of Fray Bentos pies, smash and tinned veggies and spent the evening reminiscing over the seasonal highs and lows while the gas stove flickered like a campfire. Standing on the deck of the Nissen, after midnight under a bright moon, I listened to the island soundtrack for a final time. Then on the last morning we lowered the Union Jack flag, gathered our bags, locked and padlocked the front doors and made our way to the landing site. Despite the fact none of us particularly like to be in photos we took a couple of selfies and were surprised and delighted when a minke whale swam by!
Pictured, left to right: Lucy, Tank and Kit prepare to leave Port Lockroy
After 63 days of being just three on a tiny little Antarctic island we were warmly welcomed back into the Navy community onboard. To be honest it was a little overwhelming at first, lots of people and chatter and different smells and sounds. Kit, Tank and I must have all had the same idea as we had an unplanned meet-up the first evening, all freshly showered, in the laundry to start washing our clothes! We are all in different shared cabins, apparently they thought we might like some new company after living in each other’s pockets for the last nine weeks! We have caught up with Ruth and Geoff and been hearing about their site visits further south and now having made it across the Drake passage we are sailing north to Chile before flying back to the UK.
We would like to take the opportunity to thank the Captain and crew of HMS Protector who have enabled UKAHT to achieve so much this season. It has been a unique and special experience to spend time onboard and one I will not forget in a hurry.
Lucy Dorman, Base Leader 2021 - 2022
Follow the team's progress on social media using #BacktoAntarctica