Letter from Lockroy - January 20th 2010

Letter from Lockroy - 20th January 2010

 Back to basics. Wild weather, technological failures, tinned food and new friends.

 On a wild and windy day that would not allow any ships to land here at Port Lockroy we were all secretly relieved and looking forward to a day sitting in our cosy bunkroom and catching up with some reading, letter writing and general “me” time. Unfortunately for us, technology was against us as our trusty communications corner in the bunkroom had a catastrophic meltdown and we lost all power through our inverter. Anna and Claire spent most of the day carrying out some early diagnostics before finally contacting Tudor Morgan in the UK using our emergency satellite phone.  The problem turned out to be our new, fancy Iridium Open Port satellite dish that until now has allowed for super fast email communication and efficient credit card transactions in the shop! All hope was not lost though as I soon received an email from Jonathan Selby, UKAHT friend and Iridium Guru, with the words “I'm coming to the Peninsula!”.

Jonathan Selby - Iridium guru!

Fortunately for us, Jonathan was aboard a ship, carrying out some essential communication work, and was able to call in at Lockroy just a few days ago. We were all very excited to see him and with only an hour or so to spare ashore he quickly got to work on our Iridium Open Port and he fairly soon came to the conclusion....... that it was “fried!”. So, it's back to basics for us all now –  using our old (but still reliable email system) and back to the old manual, sliding credit card machines in the shop. It's amazing how we have all become accustomed to our rather basic lifestyle here but how we have also become reliant on our otherwise high tech communications.

 This week we have also welcomed all the members of the build team who will be with us for the rest of the season working on reconstruction of the Nissen hut which will will act as staff accommodation for seasons to come. Graham Gillie (PL team member 2005/06) was the first to arrive during an early evening visit by the Fram. It has been good fun for all of us getting to know Graham and hearing all his stories of Port Lockroy and time spent at the BAS Science Bases, Halley and Bird Island. Not long after Graham arrived we were soon to welcome the rest of the build team travelling aboard the Ioffe. Rick Atkinson and Joe Leavy have just finished re-roofing and re-flooring Wordie House, another historic site located on Winter Island, South of Port Lockroy. The three men are being assisted for the first two weeks by Ben and Skye of the yacht Australis and it was lovely to welcome them all to Port Lockroy for a celebrational pre-build drink by the bar in the old lounge.

Nissen build team (L-R): Rick, Skye, Jo, Ben and Graham

With our stash of fresh food running on low at the moment, we have mostly been relying on our tinned food supplies. We have all been making new tinned culinery discoveries (curry in a tin, mini hot dogs, chilli con carne enchilladas to mention but a few) and are constantly impressed by the quality of tinned food. Either that or we have become surprisingly unfussy! Eleanor is already dreaming up recipes for her Antarctic cookbook. The evenings here are also now beginning to get a little darker and without any electricity in the museum or shop, we thought it would be an excellent opportunity to use the old tilley lamps for the first time. They give off a comforting soft glow and gentle hissing noise which all adds to the atmosphere of living in a historic monument.

Life can be quite surreal here at times and whilst one day we may be quietly enjoying frey bentos in a tin on another we are invited on board a cruise ship to speak to passengers and join them for dinner. This week Ocean Nova and Corinthian have been kind enough to offer us hot showers and dinner and we off course gratefully accepted! Ocean Nova also offered us the opportunity of a polar plunge with their passengers and Rachel was the only brave one amongst us who participated and enthusiastically took to the Antarctic waters...brrrr.....Whilst onboard Corinthian we were fortunate enough to get a close up view of a humpback whale. This is an amazing treat for us as we do not have our own boat and whilst we often see whales in the bay it is almost always from a distance as they swim out towards the channel. This is by far one of the most exciting wildlife sightings we have had since being here and we hope there will be many more to come.

Rachel dives head first into Antarctic waters!

The Southern Giant Petrel has made a few more flying visits over Goudier island and Claire managed to get some wonderful photographs of it as it swooped low to the ground over the nesting gentoos. Our resident pair of sheathbills that nest under the floor boards by the front door are now the proud parents of two brown fluffy chicks. Although, sheathbills are not the most attractive of the avian world they are caring parents and their chicks are adorable (for the time being!).

Giant Petrel soaring past Bill and Martha's first chick

 We're looking forward to the weeks to come as the summer progresses, seeing the chicks start to form creches and the surrounding glacier continuing to crackle and crumble around us whilst life goes on at Goudier Island.