Letter from the UK - September planning season
Where has the summer gone?
As last season finished in Antarctica, plans and preparations for this season were well underway. When the staff returned we met up to debrief and take on board ideas for the future. We managed to have a bit of fun paddling on the River Wye and despite the efforts of Rachel and Tudor’s dogs, did not capsize. Shortlisting and interviews for new staff took place at the end of April. With the busiest season planned for the Trust there was plenty to sort out. We were very spoilt by the quality of applicants and had to make some hard decisions. But we are delighted to appoint Simon Herniman*as Base Leader for Port Lockroy working with Eleanor Land, Anna Malaos and Claire Murphy. For the Wordie House restoration, we have Rick Atkinson and Joe Leavy who will be joined by Graham Gillie for the Nissen Hut reconstruction later in the season. Tudor spent a week at the annual IAATO meeting in Providence, Rhode Island and really enjoyed meeting many of our partners and tour operators, strengthening links and friendships. It is very gratifying to see such support for the Trust's work in the Antarctic and elsewhere. With the support of IAATO, and FCO, Detaille Island and Damoy refuge were designated as HSM’s (Historic Site and Monument) at the Antarctic Treaty Committee Meeting in Baltimore in May. This news was very well received by AHT and IAATO alike as they are very popular destinations that really show how early survey of the Peninsula was carried out. Damoy demonstrates the transition from old to new. Damoy was used as a transit facility to ferry staff further south early in the season when sea ice prevented ships getting further south. Staff were dropped at Damoy by ship and then Twin Otters ferried them as weather allowed to bases further south. With the building of a gravel strip runway at Rothera and the four engined Dash 7 aircraft able to fly direct from South America and the Falkland Islands, Damoy was no longer required. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, working the UKAHT, the British Antarctic Survey and other stakeholders, has produced The Heritage Strategy for British Antarctic Territory. This now provides us with the framework for the future management of Historic Sites and Monuments on the Peninsula. Over the summer months we have been in discussions with BAS about taking on the day to day conservation management of the other five historic bases on the Peninsula (Stonington, Horseshoe, Detaille, Wordie and Damoy). This is in the form of a Memorandum of Understanding between us. It will be a phased approach enabling the AHT to take on works each season for the different bases. Work starts this year at Wordie as well as some smaller works at Damoy. Our long term aim is to ensure that each site is weathertight and structurally sound. We will look at identifying key artefacts and providing interpretation material for each site. The long term aim is to make the sites accessible to all through the web with web walk-throughs and being able to zoom into key artefacts. We have no plans to man each site every season but to monitor the state of each base and carry out maintenance work as required each year.
Through the summer the merchandise and stores started to arrive. Tom Gow-Smith worked away packing boxes and making detailed inventories for the Bills of Lading. It was very exciting seeing some of the new merchandise arrive after months of development – Mugs, playing cards, and Christmas decorations to name but a few. Plans for the reconstruction of the Nissen Hut came to life from paper works – many thanks to Scott Hughes Design, SIP build, Trancoinsa and G&T Evans. Seeing the actual building panels and ribs was very exciting after 20 months of planning and tweaking. The Nissen Hut will provide accommodation for the Port Lockroy staff and allow vital space to be turned over to the Museum. This will greatly improve the visitor experience at Port Lockroy. Construction will start mid January when the penguin chicks have hatched – this will ensure minimal disturbance to the colony. (You can see the Initial Environmental Evaluation carried out on the project here. With HMS Endurance out of operation this coming season we were very grateful to gain the support of the Navy in getting the building materials south to the Falkland Islands where the British Antarctic Survey Ship RRS James Clark Ross will take the materials to Port Lockroy. The general goods and materials will be taken by MV Fram and MS Expedition. Materials for the Wordie House restoration will be taken by NG Explorer. At Wordie House we will be working with the Ukrainians based at the nearby Vernadsky station to do some well overdue restoration work.
August arrived and it was staff training time! The new team arrived at Kingcoed Farm where we spent four very full days going through the operation at Port Lockroy with assistance from Alan Carroll. Merv Fleming spent a day carrying out first aid training. We were fortunate enough to be joined by our Chairman Philippa Foster Back and new Trustee Ian Rushby. Again this year we fortunate enough to be supplied by Tog 24 and Chocolate Merino Fish for staff clothing. It was like Christmas had come as well unwrapped our new clothing and tried it all on. Fortunately the weather was not too hot and if we could have been transported to Antarctica then and there we would be ready. Very many thanks to the suppliers, we look forward to updating them during the season on the performance of the kit. Simon Herniman stayed on for an extra few days to do the domestic shopping. Five trolleys later at Tesco and a few car journeys and lots of box packing it was all done. Almost as Simon left, Rick arrived and attention was turned to Wordie House and the Nissen Hut rebuild with Joe Leavy helping us as well. All our cargo and building materials were consolidated at Central Stores near Tredegar. Gerald Piper and his team were a fantastic help in providing enough space and lifting equipment for us to sort the mountain of materials that seemed to grow and grow. After what seemed a marathon of making sure we had every last screw, nail, building panel and pipe fitting the containers arrived to be packed. – from propane loo to stove (supplied from Topstak) from vents, sun pipes to concrete, all had to be packed. There is no opportunity to pop to the builders merchants for missing bits or tools! What seemed to be a mountain slowly turned into order as boxes were made for delicate flashings, doors and windows packed (many thanks to Jeld-wen) as well as checking through the myriad of structural insulated panels and timber. In all we had three containers that were packed to the brim as well as a small quantity of break bulk. All this was hauled to Marchwood, near Southampton where it was taken on the Falkland Islands Relief Ship – MV Hartland Point. Many thanks to the Navy (HMS Scott) for their support in this. Now the final preparations dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s will be done before heading south at the start of November. Anna will be travelling via the Falkland Islands where she will spend two weeks sorting the cargo for its continued journey south. Simon, Claire and Eleanor will be joined by Tudor for the start of the season at Lockroy. Joe and Rick will be making their way south in the early part of December followed by Graham in January. All systems go, we look forward to updating you with progress from Port Lockroy in November. We will aim to send regular updates to keep you all informed and as and when we can will send back photos to be posted on the web as well to give you a visual feast of live at Lockroy this season. Very exciting times for us all and the Heritage on the Peninsula. Many thanks for the continued support of our partners – BAS, IAATO, HM Navy and GBAT, and our sponsors Jeld-wen, Tog 24, Chocolate Merino Fish and Topstak.
* POSTSCRIPT 31st October 2009
We are very sorry to report that earlier this week Simon died tragically in an accident while at his home in Sweden. Our thoughts are with his family.