Thanks to a cargo trip with the Chilean Navy and crew drop-off by Clelia II, the conservation team of Liesl and Michael, with an extra pair of hands from Ylva, was taken to Dorian Bay to do some essential repair on the HSM 84, Damoy Hut. After a choppy ride due to strong winds we transported the equipment up the snow, and into the hut.
All the essential work was planned to take roughly three days. However the weather being windier than expected did not help speeding up the felting of the roof. Imagine one person on one side, a second person on the other side of the roof on a ladder, and the third person on the roof nailing the felt down. Even the weight of the 40 kg felt roll and a person holding the felt down wasn't enough to keep the wind from blowing underneath...Antarctic circumstances. But we kept going until it got too cold.
We warmed up afterwards with a nice cup of coffee and what turned into our standard one-pot meal out of dehydrated and tinned food -- a really comfy simple experience. Just to give you an impression of our usage of plates and cutlery here at Damoy I will sketch a standard morning which was repeated at lunch and at dinner with the respective food. After getting up at 7 am we had a coffee from a big metal mug followed by porridge from the same mug and another cup of coffee from again the same mug. In between the mugs were rinsed with a small zip of hot water, just as if you were camping out – great feeling!! After the first couple of days the wind decreased and we got really nice sunshine which facilitated the painting of the hut and accomplishing other small repairs like sealing holes in the building and fixing the directional vane, door handles, whale bone holder, entrance steps, etc.
Damoy Hut is located in a bay exposed to the northern winds resulting in a large wind scoop around the building with some hard-packed build up of snow under and around the hut. The side walls had to be cleared of snow in order to scrape the old paint off, let the wood dry, prime it followed by painting with sea green paint provided with excellent brushes by a kind sponsor. We also cleared the steps from the ice in order to apply a protective coating. But during the day, the snow melted in the sun resulting in water accumulation at the bottom of the stairs and refrozen steps in the morning...Antarctic circumstances.
When the repairs and painting were accomplished, we were just about ready to come home to Port Lockroy, but given that there were no boats in the area to hitchhike a ride on, we carried on with a general inventory the artefacts. While there is some expedition and tour memorabilia, the hut is rich with historic articles from the days of its use as a support hub and airstrip for the British Antarctic Survey. Along with old tools, gear, and food stores, we found special items such as a rescue backpack from the 'Huns', the last dog team on the continent, and an intricately-made canvas and wooden stretcher. More than 40 manfood boxes, some older than Ylva, were inventoried. There were many pleasant surprises at Damoy: many times we were hear the call of “Ship Ahoy!” from Michael. We had a nice visit from the Ioffe and later in the week also from the Vavilov and Polar Star. Several visitors were enjoying the local mountain peaks with skis or ice axes, and all were really interested in the purpose of the hut and its history in relation to the skiway on the glacier just above the hut. Michael, who had worked at Damoy for six weeks in 1990 was in some way “a living artefact”.
On the wildlife front, we had a nice visit from a Weddell seal sunning himself high on-shore – we figure he came up to watch the paint dry. The curious sheath bills didn't take long to test out the newly sealed roof. Skuas were all always keeping a watchful eye while the gentoos worked hard at nesting in the nearby rocks that had surfaced. We also saw a Wilson's storm petrel, snow petrels, kelp gulls, and even some terms made a showing. In order to communicate with our home base at Port Lockroy, we had to walk up the hill in order to have a connection with the hand-held VHF radio. From the old ski way, what a scene around us: Mount Français, Mount William, Mount Luigi with the Seven Sisters, the Wall Range and in the sheltered bay the tiny Goudier Island with our “Home Sweet Home” Port Lockroy. We enjoyed the amazing dusk with changes in colour almost every second, and then we enjoyed the great sledge ride back down to Damoy Hut.
In the end we were picked up on the 13th after a very good week by a Bark Europa zodiac – a special thanks for this special pick-up. Everything managed to fit into one boat with us sitting on top of the load. It was nice to get back to base and being welcomed by three enthusiastic base occupants.