Letter from Lockroy - February 21st 2010
A day in the life at Port Lockroy.
Alarm rings noisily, Anna lazily hits the snooze button, reaches over to turn on the VHF radio and contemplates getting up (she is not a morning person!). We are a rather democratic bunch and have a rota for just about everything. Someone is on cooking duty for the day and gets up before the rest of us to prepare tea, coffee and breakfast of choice. Bransfield house lacks insulation so breakfast is always served in bed whilst wrapped up warm in pyjamas and toastie sleeping bags with sheepskin rugs.
The morning ship approaches at about 8am and gives us a warning call through the crackling sounds of the radio, “Port Lockroy, Port Lockroy this is ......... on channel 16”. Radio speak continues with “copy that”, “standing by” and more of the like. How will I cope with normal telephone conservations in the real world? One of us is dressed in our immersion suit and ready to be picked up to board the ship for the pre-landing briefing talk to the visitors. We have all enjoyed standing up and speaking in public about the history of the island and the base, the UKAHT and life here for us all today. For the rest of the team back at the base everything is go, go, go in a mad preparation for the landing. There are dishes to do, beds to make, the shop to restock, sweeping out the base and scrubbing the outside steps.
Anna waits at the landing site to greet the expedition team and the first visitors arriving by zodiac. A brief introduction to the penguin control colonies and the visitor guidelines to the island and a chat outside whilst oohing and aahing over the gentoo chicks, most people wander into the building and drift into the shop and post office to be welcomed by the smiling faces of Eleanor and Claire. All proceeds from the gift shop we operate go towards the conservation of Port Lockroy and other historic huts under the custodianship of the UKAHT. Rachel is in the museum, either in the old science room or the lounge, pointing out artefacts to interested visitors and answering many questions. Most people are curious to see where we live and are nearly always surprised when they poke their heads round the roped off area of our bunkroom to find that we all share one room in the museum and even more surprised when we tell them that we all still get on!
By the time we have waved farewell to the last visitors, it's nearly lunchtime and time to think of our rumbling tummies. We are all still enjoying healthy appetites! Often, we have a yacht or two pop in to see us over lunch and it is not rare to have an afternoon ship visit as well. On other days we can enjoy a quiet spell which allows us to get on with other chores or pop over to our Nissen neighbours for a cuppa and a chat or sit on the rocks and watch for whales.
This has been a week of birthday celebrations, wildlife sightings and farewells to new Antarctic friends. Valentines day does not exist here – it's Claire's birthday and a far more important event to celebrate! Claire was thrilled to find that her mum's chocolate truffles had arrived in the post just in time and the rest of us were just as thrilled to share them with her. Our Nissen neighbours joined us for evening drinks and a three-course dinner prepared by Eleanor, Anna and Rachel in the comfort of our cosy bunkroom. We all then strolled up to the emerging Nissen hut for a wee dram of whisky and ended up dancing the night away in an impromptu ceilidh birthday celebration. [Five out of the seven are from Scotland - Ed] Surprisingly, we remembered the steps to 3 or 4 dances and were glad to find that the foundations to the new building were able to withstand our not so elegant stomping in our matching crocs! Three days later and it was time to do it all again and celebrate Graham's birthday. This time the Port Lockroy team was invited to the Nissen hut for dinner and dined for the first time on newly assembled furniture whilst enjoying fajitas and wobbly custard trifle.
Wildlife sightings this week have been many and various. Anna did a double-take when she first spotted what she thought looked like a dog on the rocks near Bills Island – turned out to be a fur seal much further South than any of us expected to see them but very exciting for all. A Weddell seal has been snoozing on the shore rocks for the last few days and we all witnessed a leopard seal in the waters near the boatshed devouring one of our gentoo penguins! A day later, a leopard seal was spotted again playfully nudging a zodiac full of passengers near the chains landing.
Despite the season nearing the end, we have been busy as always and this week have welcomed 11 ships and 4 yachts to our base, some of which will not be returning again this season. Our fond thanks to: Prince Albert II, National Geographic Explorer, Bark Europa and Polar Star for a fantastic season and for making each of their visits with us a pleasure.
Ocean Nova visited us for the last time this season and we were all especially sad to say our farewells to all onboard. Phil was kind enough to take us all for a final fun zodiac ride through the brash ice in the back bay and up close to some beautiful icebergs – they are usually so tantalisingly out of reach. Expedition leader, Brandon, invited all 7 of us Lockroy-ians on board to join passengers for a BBQ on deck and Claire and Rachel made the PL girls proud by joining in an another polar plunge! A fun packed evening of entertainment followed in the bar with the Ocean Nova expedition team and crew showing off their musical talents: the barman turned out to be a singing sensation, Colin a Canadian folk singer extraordinaire and Solon a superb banjo player. Nothing could compete with Alex's improvised and hysterically funny song of the ships journey South to Port Lockroy! Thank you to all on Ocean Nova – it has been a pleasure getting to know you and we look forward to working with you in coming seasons.
Port Lockroy - over and out.