Port Lockroy Blogs

23 January 2015: An Outsider Arrives on the Island

KarinLookingAs Expedition leader onboard “MS Fram” (IAATO expedition vessel) I have been to Port Lockroy many times over the years, landing and off-loading cargo in all kinds of weather. I have never stayed put to see how the “local tribe of Port Lockroyans” lives after we on the ships disappear into the Neumayer Channel either north or southbound. So I had my aim cut out for me to find out what life at Lockroy is like by integrating with the locals.

On the afternoon of the 14th of January I arrived at Port Lockroy for my scheduled 10 day stay. I had previously stayed 6 days onboard the good ship “National Geographic Explorer” (which agreed to transport me), where I had enjoyed myself immensely and had amazing experiences with ELs Stephanie and Lisa, Captain Oliver and the other staff onboard. This experience was supposed to give me an insight into how Port Lockroy is run from the operational side of the UKAHT during the austral summer, and also to allow me to see and meet my fellow colleagues and staff members on the other vessels. 

KarinLuggageArriving at Port Lockroy, I was greeted at the Chains Landing by a cheerful bunch of tribe members; Sarah (Chief Fast on her feet), Skinner (Postmaster Barky) and Amy (Red lightning) who warmly welcomed me, the Port Lockroy tribe chief Sarah saying “welcome to your new home”. Two tribe members Michael (Base Fix it Man) and Liesl (Queen of the South) were not on base when I first arrived as they were at Damoy doing restoration work there. Skinner immediately commented on my enormous amount of luggage, 2 big bags and a small backpack with computer stuff, “wow, how long are you staying???”. I had taken enough stuff with me to weather any possible situation but found out after the introductory safety briefing with Sarah that a lot of the stuff was redundant.

GettingReadyForOnBoardShopThe first day Sarah showed me around the premises and did a thorough safety briefing, dinner was enjoyed in the Nissen hut and I went to sleep looking at the penguins outside the bedroom window. I felt immediately at home and thought this is going to be a GREAT 10 days.

The next few days went off so quickly I can hardly believe it now in retrospect, as we were busy with ship visits every day, both morning/afternoon and yacht visits in the middle, as well as scrubbing rocks and getting water buckets, keeping the decking clean etc. The Lockroyans have a well-developed system for sharing tasks, but also dedicate tasks to certain members. Sarah kept track of ship schedules and assigned various duties to the rest of the tribe members with her soft voice, but not to be misled by that as she had a clear determination when she gave instructions. Skinner made it very clear that being sub-Postmaster at the southernmost public Post Office in the world is a task not to be trifled with. Serious business man! Amy was quite a fix-it girl and brilliant cook. The local “lingo” was essential to get right. The path between Nissen and Bransfield was “across the road”, and to the boatshed was “downstairs”. The shop/museum work was fun with a high paced tempo, and the tribes-people took pride in having the shop adequately stocked at all times. We were also excited to have our 100th guest joining the Trust’s ‘Friends of Antarctica’ program whilst I was there.

Friend100 23Jan15ShelaghNewtonTempeAzUSAAfter a couple of days there was a change of team members. Liesl returned to Lockroy, with Amy taking her place at Damoy in assisting Michael with the maintenance work. Liesl is this fantastic source of stories as she has spent many seasons at the South Pole station; I could listen to her stories all night. She was also the Chief Accountant in the Lockroy tribe. I tried to fully integrate with the tasks of the tribe, but found that some tasks were better left to the “locals”. I found out quickly that my contribution to the tribe in frequently washing up dishes and being a fellow gash (handling waste) partner to be well received. I gave the back deck of Nissen a coat of wood protection, glad to be able to do a little bit of maintenance work too. We had a couple of outings during my visit, as we went to different ships for on-board briefings before the passengers came ashore and even brought a mobile shop and Post Office onto two ships. My conclusion is that the Lockroyans are not as isolated as one would think, taking in mind their lack of transportation on Goudier Island. Every evening at approx. 1900, the Damoyans appeared on the top of the ridge and communicated with the Lockroyans via VHF radio. Updates on the work and progress on both sides of the bay was shared in a cheerful manner.

KarinPenguinI was also very glad to see and talk to my fellow staff colleagues from other IAATO companies and ships, creating a very good atmosphere. I have a greater understanding of different ways of operating now than I had before my stay. I was really glad to see the support the different operators give to Lockroy, they were all very generous all over.
I was hoping for a long time that “Fram” would take their time to pick me up, but on the 23rd January, late afternoon, the anchor of “Fram” was dropped and I knew my time with the Lockroyans had unfortunately came to an end. I was touched by the fact that Amy and Michael came onto the ridge from Damoy, as it was very windy, early on the 23rd to say goodbye via VHF radio. I felt truly sad to leave and although I cannot even start to compare my stay with any of the 4 great ones (+Michael!) on the Island for the season, the days spent will be with me forever. I LOVE them to pieces! These inspirational people who spend months together on the small island of Goudier, taking great pride in their work for the UKAHT every day come rain or shine, are fantastic ambassadors for the Trust in the field they are. I salute them and am currently working on hand-knitted mittens Norwegian-style for each of them as a small token of my gratitude; they deserve nothing less. Oh, by the way Liesl, Michael will get socks instead! 

To the UKAHT, thank you so much for this opportunity, you have another devoted ambassador to your work. The UKAHT is also welcoming Lisa from the “National Geographic” to Port Lockroy in February. Lisa, you will love it!

Karin Strand (Doris Day)
Expedition Leader FRAM