Letter from Lockroy - February 13th 2010

Letter from Lockroy - 13th February 2010

 The end of the season is now in sight and we are starting to think about end of season stock takes, inventories and the next chapter in our lives.  It is very strange to think that our time here is ending.  It is such an incredible place to be able to call home for however long Antarctica allows us to be here.

Port Lockroy, as regular readers will know, is a natural harbour surrounded by the towering glacier walls of Wiencke Island.  The island was named after the  Norwegian, Carl August Wiencke, who at the age of twenty drowned tragically in the area in 1898 whilst participating in the Belgica Expedition to Antarctica.  This week, a relation of  Master Wienke came to Port Lockroy to pay his respects, and we were thrilled to welcome him to Bransfield House.  Another visitor was a lady who had come to Port Lockroy back in 1994.  She described Bransfield House, as being a ruin with the floor collapsing and Gentoo penguins  all over the base.  Incredibly, this trip was her 103rd visit to Antarctica!

 There has been amazing progress on the Nissen Hut.  The floors have now been laid and we were able to help raise the metal frames of the bedroom area.  Rick, Joe and Graham invited us round for drinks one night and it was such a novelty being able to go out on our wee island (and not having to struggle into our immersion suits).  It was really cosy inside, and although there is no furniture at the moment it still feels homely.  It's going to be fantastic accommodation for next year's staff.  The lads' hospitality was enjoyed so much, we ended up going back a few nights later for an impromptu tasty tinned dinner.  Meanwhile, breakfast at Bransfield House has once more become a pleasure with the surprise but very appreciated crate (yes, crate) of yoghurt from Prince Albert 2.  It is a welcome change from the powdered milk we usually have with breakfast.  Other culinary treats this week involved Rachel making some mouthwatering Antarctic pasties, and Claire continuing the theme with creamed mushroom and stilton tartlets.

Nissen construction progressing well Admiring the interior of the Nissen over a good cup of tea!

 It was that time of the season for a whole island count of the chicks in their loosely formed creches. There are 832 chicks causing havoc around the island.  This is a 20% increase on last season's creche count.  A lone leopard seal hauled out on a bergy bit floated close by the island.  When the chicks finally brave the cold waters of the bay, time will only tell how many will have the fortitude to evade the impressive razor sharp teeth of these terrifying and brutally efficient predators.  On a lighter note, Claire managed to get some funny footage of chicks manically chasing their parents for regurgitated food.  It is quite hilarious to watch, and the chicks often trip up and fall flat on their faces.  They certainly keep the adults busy, and the most persistent chicks pretty much always end up winning. 

Eleanor carrying out the penguin countPenguin interview?Skua in flight 

The unpredictable tide allowed us a brief visit to the outcrop of rocks a stone's throw away known as Bill's island.  We carefully made our way over the slippery rocks, and we were able to walk round the small island.  When we got to the far end we were met with the calls from a pair of Skuas.  They must have a nest there, however we were unable to see any nest or chicks as we were systematically bombarded by the pair.  They would swoop down low, and screeching continuously fly straight at our heads, only pulling away at the last possible moment so that we could feel the air from their wings on our faces.  It was very exciting and we had to make a hasty retreat to safety. 
As the nights continue to creep in earlier, the stars in turn start to show themselves a little more.  The countdown to the end of our incredible journey this year has started and we wonder what adventures lie ahead.

 Claire