Port Lockroy Blog - 28th January 2012
Our week started with a massive milestone for this season. HMS Protector visited Port Lockroy. HMS Protector is the new Royal Naval specialist Ice Patrol ship whose role is to patrol and survey the Antarctic and South Atlantic, maintaining Sovereign Presence with defence diplomacy and supporting the global community of Antarctica.
HMS Protector visited Lockroy to assist UKAHT to remove some of the bulkier waste materials produced from the roof restoration. In parallel with this, all of the ship's crew was able to visit the historic base. It was a surreal situation where the modern world meets their own history as Port Lockroy was set up originally by the Navy. Thus the new sailors were able to admire what their previous generation had established. For us a visit by the Royal Navy was very special as well. Next to hearing all about their activities and surveys on the Peninsula, the formal communication style of the navy, as well the access to the ship via a very high rope ladder was new to us. Everybody was very welcoming and Kath followed an invitation by HMS Protector to go to Palmer Station, where they picked up their BAS scientists from a field camp having collected Antarctic moss. Kath even got to steer HMS Protector for the main part of the journey - after an official handover of the steering controls.
Michael went on a quest to find a plaque from 1953 which was placed at Besnard Point on the shore of Wiencke Island opposite us, and mentioned in one of Dave Burkitt's base reports from 1996. Amazingly he found it - hanging half folded on the wooden board and saved by him as it would have been severely damaged by the next winter storm. Michael restored the support and soon it will be taken back as part of the history of the bay. Michael not only rescued this historic plaque from complete disintegration but also finished a new "stamp stadium" - a new display for the first day covers and sheetlets which Cat designed. Each year the displays become more and more professional by the help of everybody involved, not only on base but also back home!! After all the hard work on those and other tasks it is more than natural that he falls asleep at the lunch table.
It was also a week of mail coming in from the Post Office in Stanley. We discovered letters from loved ones, Christmas chocolates and Claire found ingredients for her brownie recipe in one of her packages. She frantically made them, and we feasted on them during a well-deserved coffee break.
Cat "focused" this week on some more pictures for the museum guide book which the Trust is intending to publish next season. In close communication with the head office in Wales, previous pictures have been analyzed and new requests are being dealt with, e.g. Get a picture from Sinker Rock (out in the bay), on a sunny day with blue skies, and the flag flying straight. Looking at the weather this past season this will be a challenge, but we love challenges out here.
It is well known that Port Lockroy is one of the most visited sites on the Peninsula. Looking at the numbers we can say that after 2/3 of the season we have already welcomed 1000 more visitors compared to the same period last year. This is likely due to the heavy ice year this season blocking some of the more southerly landing places. It is very intriguing to engage with everybody and answer all the inquisitive questions. At a couple of occasions we even get the chance to ask questions back, e.g. when Andy Smith visited us who is involved in the oral history project of the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Andy is heavily involved in the interviewing process of all people related in one way or another to the British history on the Peninsula.
Our wildlife is changing from day-to-day as well. The chicks are now leaving their nests, a fur seal paid us a visit, a giant petrel is around the island causing distress in the penguin colonies, sheathbill chicks are born and several leopard seals are around on the ice floes. Some of the penguins are already starting to moult indicating that autumn is already coming. They will replace every one of their feathers over a 2 weeks period, and stand looking very sorry for themselves, surrounded by their falling feathers. They cannot go to sea to feed in this time as they aren't waterproof. Temperatures have also dropped and we see once in a while some grease ice on the water already.
Despite these lower temperatures we had a couple of unexpected sunny dry days which made Kath, Claire and Ylva go outside grabbing a paintbrush and getting on with scraping, painting, first coats, second coats, and heading onto the roof of the boatshed. Also the anemometer set up was taken down to inspect the read out connection by Michael and Ylva as the readings on the wind speed indicator were still not accurate. Long hours in the evening, taking advantage of the dry weather were celebrated with a Pisco on the rocks. One evening the 3-masted tall ship Bark Europa came into the Back Bay in the sunset, life could not have been better. The next day we were even invited to join them on a hike at Jougla and treated ourselves to this excursion up the hillside opposite our island. The hard work combined with the satisfaction of having accomplished a lot followed by a small treat and great company within the team here, at home and with the expedition teams makes all of us appreciate the life down here to its full extent!!