Detaille Blog - 13th February 2011

This is the team's second blog for the work period this season: 13th Feb 2011
Since settling into life here at Base ‘W’ these last few weeks our team of four has been making good progress and notable achievements so far are the re-felting of the main hut roof and clearing of all built up ice inside the building making it a much drier and more pleasant place to be!

Dave preparing the felt for the roof            Roof work in progress           A well deserved smoko on one of the few dingle days
The first week in February was a busy and productive one. With fair weather for an unprecedented four consecutive days, outside work took priority and Michael, Liesl and Dave worked long days covering the roof in ruberoid felt, laying and securing battens and prepping the windows for further waterproofing work whilst Anna continued to work on conservation work inside (regardless of the weather!). On one of these days we enjoyed blue skies and bright sunshine all day and had our tea break outside whilst resting on the dry rocks and eating a cinnamon coffee cake that Liesl baked by following a recipe from a 1950’s magazine.
A large selection of newspapers and magazines of the period are still on site and Anna has enjoyed looking through all of them and cleaning and drying them by the fire in the bunkroom. They make handy bed time reading and many of them are familiar titles: Woman’s Own, Readers Digest, John Bull to mention but a few.  Michael has also discovered a quiz book called ‘What do you know?’  and it has swiftly become tradition to have 20 question time each lunch time. Our 1950s general knowledge is atrocious and so far our record best is 7 correct answers!
Last week’s fine weather also brought with it quite a few visitors to the island as we welcomed five cruise ships and one yacht. We all enjoyed showing the visitors to the island around the Base, explaining the history and demonstrating the conservation work of the AHT and were thankful to receive many kind words of encouragement and support as well as many generous fresh food donations! Tudor Morgan, UKAHT Operations Manager, was also one such visitor as he was travelling on the Fram on his way to Horseshoe and Stonington Island in Marguerite Bay, both are former British science bases and now Historic Sites and Monuments. Tudor’s task was to carry out some initial condition assessments and to plan for future conservation works. We were all pleased to see Tudor on his way south and to show him first hand the work we have achieved so far.

Visiting yacht surrounded by brash ice 
Our work is very much reliant on the weather and this last week it has not been inclined to cooperate. Strong winds early in the week and three days of heavy snow left us confined inside but it was a good opportunity to catch up on other tasks. Michael has made a good start on cleaning the emergency store of the built up ice and snow and sorting through saturated boxes of equipment and Dave has cleared the built up ice and debris from the sledge workshop. The loft in the main hut is fully stocked with food stuffs but unfortunately a large number have completely corroded and the food inside is rotting so a start was made on disposing the worst of these – not a very pleasant job for Anna and Liesl who have taken on the majority of the smelly work!
 The survey room window   Anna sorting through artefacts in the emergency store  1950s reading material

Anna has been steadily moving through each room at a time cleaning, drying and sorting all the artefacts.  Newspapers, magazines, books, meteorological equipment, medical supplies, clothes, boots, paperwork, food stuffs, kitchen appliances are but a few of the many original artefacts still found in Base W. Some of our favourite discoveries so far are: the complete set of building plans, a roll of undeveloped film, a list of the names of sledging dogs used at Base W, a college blazer badge from Wales (who attended this?), fantastically preserved cans of food trapped in the vents in the loft, an Irish Readers Digest and 1957 Calendar under one of the bunks, lots of board games including monopoly, scrabble and cluedo and many others.  Our current conservation team has also received messages from former Detaille Island Base W members who have been in touch with AHT in the UK – our thanks to you all of you for your  messages and kind words of support and we look forward to hearing from you again and updating you on our progress.

After the snow    Digging out our timber
Yesterday we were all glad to wake up to fine weather and no falling snow! There is at least 18-20 inches of fresh snow and up to 12feet of snow drift accumulation so early morning was spent digging out our timber, ladders and a path around the building and removing the built up snow from the roof – we all enjoyed being outside again and doing some manual labour. The island looks amazing covered in snow but unfortunately there was no time for sledging or tunnel building much to our disappointment. Work continued outside and whilst Michael and Dave started work on the windows, Liesl made a start at preparing the emergency store roof for re-felting whilst Anna worked on saving some of the more unusual artefacts of Tate and Lyle cubed sugar and Indian tea discovered in the emergency store.
Whilst I sit here writing this evening the wind is howling outside in what we have now come to expect as normal for Detaille weather! We expect to be here for at least another two weeks and hoping for a few more good days to continue with outside painting and window work whilst always looking forward to the many more discoveries along the way.
Best wishes from us all from south of the Antarctic Circle,
Anna, Dave, Liesl and Michael