Letter from Lockroy - January 8th 2011

Letter from Lockroy  - 8 January 2011

2011 began at Port Lockroy in style, as the year was seen in by the team in two separate places.  Half of us took up a kind offer by the yachts Mar-y-Polis and Paratii to go on board to celebrate, and the other half of the team remained  on Goudier Island.  A good time was had by all, and everyone managed to stay up to see in the New Year at midnight by Ushuaia time (GMT-3).  (This was after celebrating New Year in Finland, Germany and Great Britain at previous points in the evening!)

On 2nd January we were visited by the Polar Star, which was carrying a famous fashion designer.  He came ashore to see the museum and shop, and seemed enchanted by the island and the penguins.  Watch out for Lockroy-inspired creations on the catwalk next season!  The ship’s Captain agreed to take Michael and Liesl to Wordie House to do some restoration work, for which we are very grateful.  The evening ended after a barbeque with a spectacular wildlife encounter on a zodiac ride. On the way back to Lockroy we saw two seals on ice floes.  The first was a sleepy leopard seal which delighted us by yawning and showing her teeth.  The second was a sleeping crabeater seal, which appeared to be in a deep slumber, judging by its juddering motions.  We returned home thrilled by the experience and the Nissen hut suddenly seemed huge with only four of us in it!  

Yawning leopard seal! 

Luckily, Michael and Liesl were successful in getting into the Argentine Islands, and we would like to extend our thanks to the team at Vernadsky station for allowing them to stay at the base, and also to the Ushuaia for bringing them back to Port Lockroy.  While there, they reinforced the roof in the linkway with new ceiling joists, put up new interpretation panels, changed the front door lock, and painted the outside walls and roof.  They reported that there is still much work that could be done to the interior in future seasons.  With the whole team back at Lockroy, our focus has now changed to preparing for the final phase of restoration this season at Detaille. We look forward to being able to report more on the Detaille project in future diary entries this season.

The team has also been pleased to have their clothes washed this week!  It is always a treat to be able to put on clean-smelling togs, as the stink created by our penguin neighbours seems to get everywhere!  We were confused to discover that some of our garments appear to be a little tighter....  We are quite sure, for example, that our toasty Chocolate Fish merino underclothes have not shrunk in the wash, but there suddenly seems to be a little less room in them.  Surely it can’t be a result of all the Christmas pudding and mince pies we have been eating? It’s a mystery.

The wildlife at Lockroy is a constant source of fascination and enjoyment.  As well as the nesting gentoos on the island, we have been regularly visited this season by chinstraps and Adelies. We have also spotted blue-eyed shags, Antarctic terns, kelp gulls, giant petrels, cape pigeons, Wilson’s storm petrels, minke whales, Weddell seals, crabeater seals, leopard seals, elephant seals, and of course the ever-present skuas and sheathbills.  The number of gentoo chicks continues to grow, and the first chick we spotted near the boatshed (nicknamed ‘Puddle’ by Michael and Liesl) has grown into a rather large rotund fluffy creature with big feet!  Hen has also been contacted by Year 3 of St Mary Magdalen School in Seaham, who asked if a penguin could be named Magdalen after their school.  Therefore the female penguin that nests next to the boatshed entrance has been so-named.  Year 3 may be pleased to learn that she became a mother yesterday!

Puddle - the first chick on the island   Magdalen with her chick 

The museum continues to delight and fascinate visitors.  We have two Guinness bottles behind the bar were in fact part of a Guinness campaign where in 1959, 150,000 bottles containing letters were dropped into the Atlantic Ocean from 38 different ships and are apparently still washing up all over the world.  These bottles were not washed up in Goudier Island but donated by the expedition leader Brad Rhees a few years ago and he himself found them at Hudson Bay, Canada.  Those with eagle eyes can spot the letters still inside them.  They are both still sealed, so we do not know what the letters say.  So although not original to Port Lockroy, they are contemporary.

The well stocked bar including the Guiness bottles
The shop and post office have been popular as ever this season, and will no doubt raise much-needed funds for future restoration projects.  We are all keen on the new First Day covers of Herbert Ponting’s photographs of Scott’s Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole.  The black and white images of the clothes and provisions the men had remind us how lucky we are here to have modern equipment, clothing and accommodation.

Stamps featuring Ponting's photographs of Scott's Terra Nova expedition
As usual, and especially as befitting this time of year, the generosity of others never ceases to amaze us.  In fact, this has been abundant all season from the many visitors we welcome here, from passengers to ships’ staff and crew.  Not only have visiting ships and yachts been kind enough to occasionally invite us on board for showers and meals, but they have also been key in assisting with transportation between Goudier Island, the Argentine Islands and Dorian Bay, and we have even had the rare treat of a few hours sailing around this stunning area. Hen and Ylva even enjoyed a dip in a hot tub aboard motor yacht ‘Big Fish’.  Life at Port Lockroy is immeasurably enhanced by these offers, and in fact it would be impossible to do what we do without the support of others, both here and at home. 

As we welcome in a New Year it therefore seems appropriate to extend our thanks to everyone who supports the efforts of the Antarctic Heritage Trust and allows our work to continue year after year.  We are especially grateful to the staff and crew of the larger IAATO ships that visit, as well as those on smaller private vessels; to our members who help to keep the Trust running with their financial and other support; to individuals who have donated funds or their time to the Trust over the years (including previous Lockroy staff); and to our ever-generous sponsors.  We wish you all a Happy New Year and a prosperous 2011.