It was an enormous privilege to spend five nights with Team Lockroy this month. UKAHT had invited IAATO to send an observer to the island to see how the museum and living accommodation were run and also to provide IAATO with the invaluable opportunity to touch base with a number of IAATO field staff who were visiting the island. Port Lockroy is one of the most visited sites in the Antarctic Peninsula each season and so consequently, the visit was timed for a period where there was to be a spike in visitor activity… and those five days didn’t disappoint.
Throughout the team: Kath, Cat, Claire and Ylva worked hard to ensure that all the visitors to the island had a memorable experience and were able to share in some of the history of the site, from its first discovery by Charcot, through the somewhat bizarre story of Operation Tabarin to its use as a working scientific station. The museum is beautifully laid out and, with only a small effort on the part of the visitor, those captivating personal details that make history come to life were readily available. For me, one of the great privileges of spending a bit of time at the base was being able to actually take the time to read some of the letters, accounts and details which are on display…. Honest Ylva, I was mopping the floor…
The multiple visits from different vessels also allowed for great opportunities to talk with ship’s staff to hear their stories, their highs and lows, their trials and triumphs – to meet the many clients from all over the world and hear their impressions of Antarctica (and to a person, all those guests I spoke to talked animatedly, and with shinning eyes, about how the place had exceeded their expectations and was awe inspiring in its beauty and remarkable close encounters with wildlife that has not learned to be afraid of humans). These conversations were both inspiring and thought provoking.
Between ship visits was a steady round of maintenance work, the daily routines of life in Antarctica and working on the museum itself. This season the team is restoring the old workshop in Bransfield House - the last room to be worked on in the building. This involves both a lot of heavy work (including shifting and removing old rubbish) and careful planning to ensure that the historic integrity is maintained, that it tells the story as well as possible, and that any work occurs with minimal disturbance to the resident penguin population. There is always something oddly reassuring about physical work!
But for me the personal highlight, was getting to spend time in such a beautiful location with such brilliant people. Ylva, Claire, Kath and Cat: thank you for welcoming me into your team so readily – it made an extremely useful experience a great fun and very memorable one. Thank you all very, very much! Needless to say I was very sorry to leave.
(P.S & for the record, any time you want the ramp scrubbed or the dishes washed or dried, just holler and I'm on it!)