Letter from Lockroy - January 22nd 2011

Letter from Lockroy  - 22nd January 2011

 This week started with two occasions: a happy one and a sad one. The sad occasion took place on Monday when we had to bid farewell to our carpenters Michael and Liesl who departed Port Lockroy onboard Hanse Explorer to head down south to take up work at Detaille (Base ‘W’), to be joined by Dave Burkitt, and Anna Malaos. We were very sad indeed to see them go and while we were waving goodbyes we already felt the huge gap that they left behind in our group (the Nissen Hut now feels very empty and quiet without our friends). We were, however, very excited for them for their journey south as they would be passing by Horseshoe and Stonington (so in fact going first further south than Detaille).  We knew just how excited they would be to see these historic huts that they are already very familiar with. We also knew they would be extremely well looked after by Captain Martin and his staff onboard Hanse Explorer and would therefore have a couple of relaxing days onboard; a well-deserved break from the hard work they have been doing at Port Lockroy. Very many thanks again to Hanse Explorer for all their invaluable help in transporting Michael and Liesl to Base ‘W’.

Michael and Liesl on their way to Detaille

The happy occasion occurred on the same day, as it was Hen’s birthday. What a privilege to be able to celebrate one’s birthday in Antarctica! Before Michael and Liesl left they gave Hen a very appropriate birthday present: a carpentry gift in the form of a framed Una Hurst penguin painting, nicely packed in a wooden box to be opened by screwdriver. What could possibly be more suitable for our penguin specialist! In the evening we celebrated over a lovely meal and a birthday cake (baked by Nikki because none of us could do it better and this, if any, was a special occasion) as well as with some more birthday presents. We were joined by our three friends (Igor, Paulo and Miguel) from the yacht Paratii and it was a very enjoyable evening indeed.

 On 20 January we learnt that Michael and Liesl had safely arrived at Detaille. They reported in an email that they were eager to have a good look around and begin work as the hut needs some urgent attention. Anna and Dave, meanwhile, are currently onboard National Geographic Explorer in the Weddell Sea and they are due to arrive at Detaille on 24 January. We all wish them an enjoyable and productive stay and will keep all our readers posted on developments. 

This week has otherwise been marked by absolutely gorgeous weather and clear blue skies. The sun has been shining on several consecutive days and Goudier Island has on occasions almost felt like a tropical holiday destination (especially if you sit in the sun, close your eyes and listen to the birds and waves lapping calmly). Some of us have even been outside in T-shirts – a sight totally unimaginable on a normal day here. We have made most of the sunny weather by carrying out as much outdoor work as possible between ship visits. This week we have concentrated on painting and puttying the windows of Bransfield House.  We have also enjoyed lunches outside on the Nissen Hut back terrace admiring the view and agreeing how lucky we are to have the opportunity to work in such a stunningly beautiful environment (I don’t think there can possibly be place as beautiful as this anywhere else in the world – the scenery here is almost otherworldly.)

Enjoying lunch on the Nissen deck

 The weather was so good this week that all of our visiting yachts that had been anchoring in the back bay left us, too.  For a moment, we were actually all alone at Port Lockroy, for the first time in a long, long while.  This was, however, only temporary as the next day three new yachts arrived at Port Lockroy. One of them was called Ocean Respect and was carrying four French gentlemen who first wintered over at Petermann Island 30 years ago and were now on a commemorative journey (joined by 4 younger companions). They had also passed through Port Lockroy 30 years ago and had done some repairs to the building. The gentlemen gave us a DVD ‘Kim en Antartique’ of their voyage with amazing footage from Bransfield House. This included footage of the bunk room in which the paintings of the ladies can clearly be seen (so the question now is: when were the ladies painted over?) as well as from the new generator shed (which is now the shop) where they managed to start off the generator and all the lights went on! We were so excited to see the footage and can’t wait to talk to the gentlemen again – they left Port Lockroy earlier than expected to make most of the sunny weather but were hoping to come back later on. We are always impressed that so many people keep coming back to Base ‘A’ after many years and are still so supportive of the work we do here.

Another highlight of the week for the team was meeting Elizabeth Wordie, daughter of Sir James Wordie, onboard Ocean Nova on Sunday. We were honoured to receive from her a copy of a letter that her father had written to her on 12 February 1947 from his journey around the “Falkland Islands Dependencies”. James Wordie, a veteran of Shackleton’s Endurance expedition in 1914 and later the President of the Royal Geographical Society, gave his name to Wordie House, Historic Site and Monument No 62, or Base ‘F’, on the Argentine Islands, secured and made weather tight by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust work party during the 09/10 summer season.

                                                              Meeting Elizabeth Wordie - daughter of Sir James Wordie

 The exciting and busy week also included the arrival of post from Stanley onboard Polar Pioneer; an eagerly anticipated moment as receiving news from home is so important to the team morale. Particular thanks go to Laura Potts for the lovely photos (Hen and Hannele were really excited), to Jill Biebel who provides the lovely snow flakes for our shop, to Colin and Zoë Bryant for the needles for our museum gramophone, and to Judith Black and Rachel Harrex (former team members) for the thoughtful and much appreciated goodies.

 Finally, just so that we wouldn’t get too comfortable with the ‘tropical’ weather and start thinking that Antarctica is always like this, the weather changed radically today (Saturday), turning into a cloudy and stormy afternoon with 20 knot wind speeds outside the Nissen Hut, measured by our hand-held anemometer. At teatime we noticed from our “Nutellometer” that the temperature was definitely getting lower (as the Nutella was harder and more difficult to spread). A ship visit planned for this afternoon had to be cancelled because of the heavy winds, so we decided to retire into the Nissen Hut for the rest of the afternoon to carry out some indoor admin duties on the computer, to drink tea, to bake bread and simply to enjoy the comfort of the warm hut while the wind is howling outside.