Letter from Lockroy - 27th November 2009
Over the last ten days our wardrobes have changed hourly with the weather! Katabatic winds have battered the sea-ice in the back bay and snow storms have nearly buried the penguins but blue skies and brilliant sunshine have had us in t-shirts! We’ve had spectacular early-season sunsets, spotted avalanches in the surrounding mountains and regularly hear the thunderous rumble of calving ice.
The wildlife has continued to amaze us too: blue-eyed shags gathering seaweed for their nests, starfish in the rock pools and tiny grey-black Antarctic terns and ice-white snow petrels flitting around the island. Young elephant seal bulls hung out near the boatshed this week reclining on the rocks, Eleanor and Claire watched a leopard seal devour a blue-eyed shag off Jougla Point, and a chinstrap and Adélie have both been seen onshore. We have been steadily monitoring the resident gentoo penguin colony, noting the numbers of established nests and eggs laid every few days. One visitor to the base spotted a nest with three eggs (very unusual – most only lay two), but several eggs have already been taken by the skuas and sheathbills. Egg-laying progress has been excellent, however, and we look forward to carrying-out a whole island count soon.
Early in the week, a couple of days without a ship gave us a great opportunity to prepare the Post Office stock. First Day Covers and Mint Sets have been made up, and many philatelic requests answered. There are two new British Antarctic Territory stamp issues this year: one to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty, and another one with heat-sensitive ink to show the effects of climate change on the continent’s ice-shelves. Lucky we were prepared - Neil Armstrong popped in on Sunday with our friends on National Geographic Explorer to buy stamps!
A couple of other special guests also made an appearance at Lockroy this week: Canadian International Cricketer Steve arrived by zodiac for an impromptu birthday party and we are very grateful to Antarctic Dream for their excellent hospitality that night(!) and Jonathan Selby arrived to install our new Iridium Open Port system which will make the credit card payment process in the shop much easier. As all proceeds from the shop go to safeguard Antarctic heritage, the smoother the process the better. Many thanks are due to Jonathan and Global Marine Networks (GMN) for their help with the new system. Jonathan spent four days here as a fantastic addition to the team, helping out with all sorts of other odd jobs from franking mail to collecting glacier ice from the shore for our Gin & Tonics! We loved having you here Jonathan – thank you so much for your help and we hope to see you in Ushuaia at the end of the season.
As Jonathan departed, the fourth member of our team (Anna) arrived on Hanseatic having had a wonderful trip down from Stanley via South Georgia and Elephant Island. Anna has already begun conservation work in the museum, and Bob Burton’s new interpretation posters are up on the walls and looking great. Anna also brought with her the first batch of mail from Stanley – everyone here sends many thanks to Eleanor’s Granny and Aunt for the lovely card!
On Friday the British Antarctic Survey ship James Clark Ross arrived with 72 cubic metres of cargo for the Nissen Hut rebuild. This new hut will replace the one which originally stood on the island as a warehouse, and will provide new staff accommodation for those working at Lockroy. We are indebted to the 34 members of BAS crew who spent all day carrying timber, corrugated tin, windows, iron beams and sacks of cement mix ashore and who never complained despite the hot weather and hard work! We are also extremely grateful to the following UK suppliers who have provided fantastic help with building materials: (SIPBuild Ltd for panels; G&T Evans for corrugated tin, Tracoinsa for structural steel, Gerald Piper of Central Stores – Tredegar, Scott Hughes Design Ltd and, as ever, Jeld-Wen for windows and doors). All the materials have now been covered in tarpaulin and rope to protect them until January when Rick, Joe and Graham will arrive to assemble the building. If only Tudor could find the assembly instructions(!).
During the cargo unload the shop was busy and bustling with visits by Orlova and Ocean Nova, and the yacht Australis anchored in the back bay. We had a great start to the day with breakfast on Orlova, lunch courtesy of the JCR and a wonderful dinner on Ocean Nova (thank you so much to all three ships for their generosity!)
We can hardly believe we’ve been here three weeks – so much has happened and we are enjoying every moment. We look forward to Rachel Harrex arriving tomorrow on Fram to make up the final member of our team. Tudor and Jonathan installed the new solar panels on the roof of the workshed this week, so long may the smiles and sunshine continue!