Letter from Lockroy - July 2010

Season preparations - July 2010

Although as we write this, it is mid-summer with the sun shining and temperatures soar at around 30ºC, the 2010-2011 Port Lockroy team has already begun thinking about what has to be prepared for an exciting season down south. There is much to consider, all in its own good time, from the question of restocking the ‘fundamentals’ that will allow us team to live a simple yet comfortable life on base, to the reconstruction of the Nissen Hut, and the transformation of Bransfield House’s bunk room from the team’s modest living quarter back to museum space.  As always, our thoughts are also venturing to the protection and preservation of other historic buildings on the Peninsula.  Everyone is very much looking forward to a productive season and rolling up their sleeves to get all the work done!

The set-up for year’s much anticipated Port Lockroy team selection meeting had a refreshing (and challenging) new angle. Next to the regular interview, Jim Oakley, Tudor and Rachel Morgan, Anna Malaos and Nikki Rickett set up a variety of different exercises for the interviewees. These exercises, both group and individual, were designed to assess the qualities typically needed for the work at Port Lockroy. Just to give you an impression of the process, an array of activities were set out over two days at Kingcoed Farm, focusing on various practical abilities, collaboration, communication, trust, confidence, team work, patience, safety, dealing with numbers, logical thinking, etc etc. The activities started with the task of setting up a large unfamiliar tent with the six interviewees who didn’t (yet) know each other, and the fun continued from there.... Further highlights involved venturing across the duck pond on a home-made raft, and rescuing radioactive waste (cleverly disguised as some old paint pots!).  Thanks to all involved for not only making it a fun selection event but also for leaving room for  those involved to get to know each other. Great Job!!! The privilege of being part of this year’s Port Lockroy Team will be with Hen (Helen) Joannidi (GB), Hannele Luukkainen (FIN), Ylva Grams (NL/GER), who will be joined by Nikki (Nicola) Rickett (GB) as Team Leader.  Nikki has already spent a summer at Port Lockroy two years ago, and is itching to head back for another amazing four or so months with Hen, Hannele and Ylva!   At the beginning of the season this team will be strengthened for a short period of time by Tudor, Liesl Schernthanner and Michael Powell in order to add the finishing touches to the reconstructed Nissen hut, as well as other key maintenance work at Bransfield House, in order to ensure its preservation.  Liesl and Michael will then move on to other UKAHT projects on the Peninsula, amongst which is the hut close by to Goudier Island, at Dorian Bay.

However not only are the regular activities at Port Lockroy planned but also additional conservation work at the other huts will be undertaken. The ‘Detaille Team’ will be focusing on essential work to the UK’s historic bases; including  Wordie House  in the Argentine Islands (close to the former Faraday station which is now Ukrainian base Vernadsky) and for the last and main part of the summer on the remote southerly Detaille Hut. This incredibly experienced team will consist of the Dave Burkitt, Liesl Schernthanner, Michael Powell and Anna Malaos, who are charged with completing the pioneering restoration work.  It is an exciting time for the Trust!

With the team selection now complete, Tudor and Anna headed off to the IAATO meeting in Italy; an important chance to liaise with members about the upcoming season, whilst catching up with old acquaintances again. The mutual aim of IAATO is to ensure the protection of the pristine nature of Antarctica, and at the same time making visitors aware of the fragility, history and beauty of this continent.

After the initial excitement, updating of friends, family and work colleagues (!), you may wonder what has been happening so far with the new Port Lockroy Team? After having heard the great news of our appointment, we all agreed that seeing each other prior to the training week would be very valuable in order to bond more as a team. Since we are spread over three countries this was a particularly nice ‘challenge’. We took advantage of this situation (any excuse to travel is a good one!) and met privately in mid-July for a fantastic weekend in Helsinki. Hannele arranged everything perfectly (thanks!!). We got a glimpse of the city and the surrounding beautiful area but also submerged ourselves in discussions about what still has to be arranged before going south. The newcomers received tips and a few helpful pointers from the ‘oldie’ (Nikki). We also practised making friends with local wildlife (some very friendly and hungry squirrels) and took a (not-so-polar) plunge [at 30ºC ;-)] in preparation  for our experience down south. It was a truly inspiring weekend. After our return home, stock lists were provided to us by Tudor which helped to clarify some questions from our discussions from Helsinki. Just to give you a glimpse of the extent of the stock lists which are prepared each season, we received an excel sheet 12 pages in length, with an average of 170 items per list - resulting in around 2000 items listed! Phew! Each list had various detailed columns e.g. stating previous stocks, used stocks, and required provisions, their location and very valuable additional remarks. Compliments for the preparation!

L-R: Hen, Nikki, Ylva and Hannele in Helsinki getting to know the local wildlife Icebreakers

Meanwhile, back to the here and now; sitting here on a Sunday morning, drinking coffee out of a Port Lockroy mug and writing this first blog of the season just incredible and only serves to heighten the excitement; it is all part of the pre-departure pleasure. We can barely believe our luck and the adventure that lies ahead!  Keep following us as the days and weeks count down to the big journey to our future home on the ice; we continue to look forward to carrying on the invaluable hard work of the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust, and the amazing teams that have had the privilege of spending such a treasured time on this special island that is Port Lockroy.

Nikki, Hannele, Hen, Ylva

The Lockroy team in Helsinki