9 February 2016

Sea Spirit

This week Sea Spirit brought some fascinating visitors to our island with a full Belgian charter. We met Francois de Gerlache, descendent of Belgian explorer Adrien de Gerlache whom the nearby Gerlache Strait is named after. Francois brought his two children to see Antarctica, and told us about his 1982-83 joint services expedition that over-wintered on Brabant Island. We also met Charlotte Lacroix, the granddaughter of the First Officer on Gerlaches ship Belgica, his wife was also called Charlotte, and he named nearby Charlotte Bay in her honour. Daughters down the Lacroix generations have kept the name Charlotte in the family.

We only have a few weeks left on the island now before we all head back to the real world. Therefore end of season tasks that once seemed far away, are all of a sudden very real! Laura has started looking at the inventories, to begin the huge task of counting everything we have on base. Weve also been taking advantage of every spell of good weather to get on with painting. Weve done the majority of Bransfield House and the boatshed now, with just a couple of walls and some finishing touches yet to do. On days that arent conducive to painting, we have pressed on with our artefact condition survey and are close to completing our list of 200 artefacts that require assessment. 

The weather has felt particularly wintery of late and we havent seen much sunshine. The wind has made its presence felt forcing Fram to cancel a visit to the island last Friday. We watched as a strong southwesterly brought blizzards and whipped up big waves that smashed against the numerous icebergs currently littering the bay. As Port Lockroy is sheltered, we dont often see such rough seas so it was novel to have waves breaking on our shores. Our afternoon ship, Polar Pioneer, anchored in the bay but also decided against landing passengers. Instead, Adele bravely volunteered to venture out and take an on board shop to the ship. The passengers were super keen and she sold lots of stock, despite the fact the rough motion of the ship was making her seasick! 

We have now completed the second of our whole island penguin counts. As part of the wildlife monitoring work we do for the British Antarctic Survey, we counted all the chicks and remaining eggs. With harsh weather conditions at the start of the season, its been a tough year for the birds. Numbers are down on last year and many nests have been abandoned since our first count. Regardless, we have 387 occupied nests, 447 chicks and 124 eggs on Goudier Island. Some of these eggs are still hatching, which is very late in the season, whilst our oldest chicks have already left the nest to start forming crèches with their fellow chicks. We have a pair of Snowy Sheathbill's nesting under the deck of Bransfield House and their eggs hatched this week to reveal two small brown fluffy chicks. They are providing great entertainment to the museums visitors!

Rachel

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