Letter from Lockroy - December 31st 2010

Letter from Lockroy  - 31 December 2010

 Our Boxing Day started with a very nice visit from the National Geographic Explorer with everyone being in a christmassy mood. Rick Atkinson was on board again and shared with the guests nice little details on for example why the former male occupants of Port Lockroy in the old days were reading knitting magazines! A member of another base wrote to 'Womens Own' magazine (something done to this day, to all sorts of journals, by castaway servicemen) asking for readers to write to them in their isolation. This resulted in about five bags of mail the following summer, which were distributed around the bases in order to get rid of the surplus.

 One afternoon around Christmas we heard a squeak of excitement out of our toilet room. One of us had discovered a bow wrapped around our 'wilderness comfort station', which Liesl and Michael have been working on so hard. It is a toilet incinerating the human waste and thereby contributing even further to the ecological approach next to solar panels, biodegradable soap/paper and very good insulation that we handle here at Port Lockroy.

                                                      Liesl and Michael 

The time of the year also asked for some special baking and cooking activities. Hen retrieved an old recipe from her Grandma to prepare her traditional trifle for the Christmas celebration. We also enjoyed a roast chicken with rosemary potatoes and squash by Ylva. Minced pies, baked by Nikki were savoured by some special guests and created a big smile on their face accompanied by some undefinable sounds of enjoyment. Everybody just indulged in the cooking capabilities of one another.

Hannele, with a little help from Liesl, set up the HF antenna of Port Lockroy to be able to communicate over a longer distance with some other bases in Antarctica. It is already working but needs some fine tuning before the time for a radio chat can be set. We cannot wait until it is in full operation and we are able to contact our neighbours.

The number of yachts visiting the Peninsula and also Port Lockroy has started to increase due to the improved weather conditions. We were able to welcome Big Fish, Selma, Santa Maria Australis and Mar-y-Poles in the last couple of days and had some nice chats with the yachties on different interesting topics.

One evening when some of us were outside to enjoy the light and the wildlife around, we spotted some rare species on the other side of the bay of Port Lockroy on Jougla Point. The species was rather large for the Antarctic environment, very colourful, moving on two legs and occured in flocks of around 15 individuals. They were campers from the 'Expedition' setting up their tents for an Antarctic night. This does not occur so frequently at Jougla Point. - we prefer our cosy Nissen Hut (although Ylva is itching to spend a night under canvas!).

Next to this special 'wild-life' we also had frequent visits from numerous chinstrap penguins and a couple of Adelie penguins so far. One night and on a couple of mornings some minke whale have appeared in the bay right in front of Port Lockroy. We heard the sound of the blow followed by the whale slowly and majestically curving through the water. Silence is around us, and we are just observing the whale as it travels through the water. Another less peaceful experience but still an interesting observation was a leopard seal patrolling around Port Lockroy. It can be noticed by noticing penguins jumping in the water not as normal in a straight line but rather jumping in all directions. At three occasions we even witnessed the attack and feeding of the leopard seal on a penguin. These seals are very territorial, often solitary animals. This is the circle of life here in the Antarctic where every creature has its own niche in the ecosystem – and we have the privilege to observe it.

                                                 Leopard seal devouring a gentoo!

The 'Expedition' kindly offered us to take Michael and Hen over to Damoy Hut for one hour to display the latest information panels about the hut and the Antarctic Heritage Trust. Unfortunately it was discovered that two fire extinguishers have been emptied since our last visit two weeks ago, without just cause - what a shame. We were kindly invited for a BBQ lunch on board on a still sunny day. Expedition Leader Julio spontaneously offered for us to join them on a cruise into the Lemaire channel which was blocked by ice the previous day, due to northerly winds. Hannele, Hen, Nikki and Ylva were excited to accept the sudden invitation. It was a very nice, comfortable atmosphere and a real treat for the team. One of the few hours of relaxation for the team in this great environment where the moments appear to pass by so quickly and you just have to take in every second of it.

                                                   cruising down the Lemaire

Yesterday our team had the privilege of being welcomed on board 'The World' by its residents, first for a talk by base leader Nikki, after which all six of us were offered a tour on the ship. Likewise it was a great pleasure to welcome the residents and guests ashore on our little island sharing the history of  British Antarctic exploration. Everybody had a very enjoyable day with lots of time to share questions, observations or just soak up the atmosphere on the island.

                                        Passengers aboard the 'World'   Nikki, Hen and Hannele waving goodbye to the 'World'

We can hardly believe that so much has happened since our arrival in November, and that 2010 is coming to a close. It has certainly been a very successful year for the Trust, with  Anna, Eleanor, Claire and Rachel having started the year with a great second part of their season, and then the successful build of the Nissen Hut, which this current team (notably Michael and Liesl) has continued.  All of us have the impression that the days just slip through our fingers, and we are mindful of the need to  make the most of every moment. We are all surprised that this will be the last Port Lockroy diary from us in 2010 however luckily many more are still to come.  We look forward to updating you as to life on Base 'A' as we celebrate the arrival of 2011! A Happy New Year to everyone from all of the team.