Letter from Lockroy - 14th January 2010
One of the most common questions we get asked is 'but what do you do all day???'. This really makes me smile and I think I can safely speak for all of us when I say we have never been so consistently busy in our lives! The big difference this last week however is that due to the collaboration of two captains, two expedition leaders and our own base leader, Anna, we managed to have our own mini adventure and got whisked away late evening by our friends on NG Explorer. Our destination... our American neighbours 12 miles away on Palmer Station. We had a ship visit from Bremen booked the following afternoon, but the Captain of NG Explorer liaised with the Captain of Bremen and we were assured we would be back in time for our afternoon visitors... somehow.
We grabbed our essentials, locked up the shop and zoomed off on the zodiacs to arrive on the NG Explorer just in time for a beautiful dinner and drinks. The weather was glorious and we cruised down the stunning Neumayer Channel. Looking back at Port Lockroy, our home became a tiny insignificant speck against the glaciers under the magnificent Mt Jabet and Fief Range. It really brought home to us how we really are in the middle of nowhere, and not in the centre of Piccadilly Circus as it sometimes feels. An hour later we were pulling up at Palmer Station and a few of the Palmer Team came aboard to give a short talk on the scientific work carried out at the base. Later that evening we were invited onto the base to meet the rest of the crew. This involved some reverse culture shock as along with their top notch laboratories, flushing toilets and hot running water, they have a dedicated movie room complete with a gargantuan screen, a wall of DVDs and a magnificent range of leather reclining sofas, not to mention a bar with a fantastic view overlooking some great glaciers!!!
The following morning we were able to visit an Adelie Colony on the beautiful Torgersen Island, surrounded by snow covered mountains, towering glaciers and those familiar belching sounds of the beguiling elephant seals. If I had to anthropomorphise the Adelies I would describe them as the party penguins of Antarctica. They run around in a jaunty manner loudly calling to each other, and look as though they have had a bit of a mad night out. As you know we have had a couple of Adelie adventurers visit us on Port Lockroy but we had never seen the chicks...until now. Is it possible for a chick not to look absolutely gorgeous? Today was also a rare opportunity to get some filming done and the skuas, penguins and resident elephant seals did not disappoint. We had enough time to head back to Palmer Station, do a little shopping (to check out the competition you understand), have a tour of the lab facilities, get our passports stamped and then sample the famous Palmer chocolate brownies. Yumm.
It was then back to the Explorer and anchors aweigh as we headed back down the Bismark Strait. Now for the really exciting bit... at around 14:30, sporting our immersion suits, we disembarked the Explorer into a zodiac. But this was no ordinary landing, and Port Lockroy was nowhere in sight. With expedition leader Tim's immortal words to our zodiac driver “make us proud Richard!” we had an exhilarating zodiac ride across the choppy strait and into the welcoming arms of the impressive Bremen. Ten minutes later we were sipping cappuccinos in a continental style coffee shop watching the glaciers as we sailed back down the Neumayer Channel.
The following day we were able to carry out a whole island count of the chicks and eggs. Around 9% of the nests have been abandoned, however one nest had three healthy bouncing chicks and Mrs Limpet's egg had hatched. I am sorry to inform you that the once coveted limpet shell had been kicked out of the nest. The weather has continued to be glorious and finally we were able to eat lunch outside again. This was also appreciated by one persistent sheathbill, who after a countless number of failed frontal attacks managed to covertly sneak around the back of our chairs, and make a quick dash through our legs whilst spearing a piece of ham with its beak. Ten points for cunning! The rest of the week has involved visits from many yachts; continuing repainting the roof of the base; reorganising the 'tardis' boatshed; and having a much welcomed shower and our clothes laundered by the wonderful 'Fram'.
So once again, I bring you back to the original question...'but what do you do all day?' and you will understand why it makes us all smile.