Do you know the feeling of leaving your home, locking the door and afterwards when you are in your car/train (in our case on the ship) thinking if you have turned off the gas? Well luckily we had the end of season check list which prevents us forgetting any of the critical items. In the last week before our departure the last hunt for the not encountered items in the inventory started e.g. Cable – RG-213, paint scrapers etc. as items move during the season while in use. But if you do not know every screw that is on base before you leave, you don't know what to send down the next season. It is a huge task to arrange everything for each season's operation and we are all extremely grateful to Tudor, Anna and Rachel for having made this season work so well. Thanks for putting your trust in all of us and making us part of the team. Other secret hands behind the scenes were also supportive in their special way amongst which Alan, Sally, Jonathan and many other un-named supportive people who have made this seasons' operation so memorable!
The last days at Port Lockroy were very representative of the whole season with surprises, visitor engagement, hard work closing the base down and a lot of good-bye's to new and old friends. The greatest surprise occurred when during a ship visits one of the visitors in the shop indicated to us that there were two humpback whales in the back of the bay here at Port Lockroy. We confirmed that he did not mean the Neumayer Channel where we can see the blow of the whales normally in a distance but really our little 'back yard'. We ran out to have a look but could not see anything. It must have been a confusion with another animal we thought. A couple of minutes later, Cat came sprinting into the shop shouting that there are two Humpback whales at the boat shed leaving our back bay. Everybody jumped outside and indeed this time we saw two whales swimming calmly out of our shallow back bay into the deeper waters of the Neumayer Channel. This was such a special experience for all of us here at Port Lockroy.
Everything was done for the last time, emptying the loo, scrubbing the rocks, switching the gramophone on, scrubbing the door mats, enjoying the sunset, listening to the olympic hurdle sprint of the sheathbills on the roof, lowering the flag and locking the door. Antarctic Dream picked us up – and we can truly say that we have lived 'an antarctic dream' this season with everything that has happened and everybody that we have been privileged to meet. It appeared to us that down here everybody just has to work together to make everything work. And the awesome experience is that everybody does work together and everything does work out! This is definitely one of the take-home-feelings. On our way back home we were able to reflect and take in the awesome nature with stormy weather, whales, icebergs just as Antarctica is. The Drake was not too bad but still experienced by some tied to the bed and others running around even doing some laundry as some of our Tog24 clothing have experienced a rough time but always kept us warm.
Looking back we can definitely say that ice has dominated our season. Initially our back bay was frozen creating a direct connection between Bills Island, Goudier Island, Harbour Glacier and Jougla. Not only have we experienced the ice at Port Lockroy but also how it affected Wordie House, one of our other historic huts. It is located south of the Lemaire and has been inaccessible for visitors until early February which normally sees its first visitors in late November. The ice also influenced our conservation plans as the activities at Detaille had to be postponed but instead additional work was carried out at Damoy and Lockroy as old buildings always need attention. Flexibility and adapting to the prevailing conditions is essential in Antarctica. The ice also resulted in a higher number of visiting vessels on our island this season (ca. 15600 visitors) giving us even more opportunities for inspiring conversations with our visitors. We saw their eyes shine when they recognized and could relate to an artefact and a stories became alive. As the roof of the workshop has been repaired and the workshop itself has been cleared from modern tools as far as possible visitors can now enjoy the old tool display. Even the heads where as we all know "even the king has to go by himself" can now be admired.
One of Michael's last tasks, was returning the plaque which he rescued before (see previous blog) and now has reinforced with a wooden back to Besnard Point where the Scoresby was moored close to the glacier at Port Lockroy. This plaque has been placed there by the Port Lockroy team in Jan 1953. Thinking back about the long history of Port Lockroy, of all of the people who have been involved in its discovery, its building, its use, its restoration, its revival and current operation; being one of the team members makes all of us feel so small but equally so privileged to contribute just a little bit to its current charm that so many visitors are enjoying every year. And with the visitors it's not only them having the experience but also their family, friends, colleagues back at home learning and appreciating the history of the peninsula.
We are full of thanks to everybody and say Good-Bye from all of us!
Ylva, Cat, Claire and Kath