24 Nov 2013 - Epic week at Port Lockroy

Base A front door covered in snowMonday was Tudor's last day at Port Lockroy as Fram was due to pick him up and bring him back to Ushuaia. The weather conditions were rather wintery and Fram was worried they wouldn't be able to pick him up. Luckily the wind died down in the afternoon and not only was Tudor whisked away, but Fram's passengers were also able to come and visit us.

After pondering whether they would be able to unload our cargo (including the new stock for the shop, our food and personal boxes), Fram's team decided to brave the  snow storm and transport around 405 boxes from the ship to the island! This operation would have been impossible without the generous help of the zodiac drivers and the expedition team going back and forth 20 times late at night from the ship to the chains landing. We would like to thank all the staff for their contribution to the Port Lockroy operation!

Sarah in snow at chains landing digging with orange shovelThe amount of ice around the boat shed at the time meant it was impossible for the zodiacs to land near the boat shed, so we still needed to tow all our precious boxes across part of the island! Fram stayed in the bay for most the night, keeping their floodlights on for us during the darkest hours so we could find our way through the raging blizzard. We loaded, pulled, pushed and unloaded sleds from 11pm until 5am, thinking about the explorers of the last century and getting a feel of what they went through to transport their food rations to their depots on the way to the South Pole. When the Antarctic Treaty Environmental Protocol was created in 1991, it was decided to remove all non-native animals from 60° South onwards -including dogs, reindeer and of course ponies- for the benefit of the local fauna and flora. So it was up to us to woman-haul our sledges across the island.

But staying up all night paid off as we were able to enjoy the visit of three chinstrap penguins, who arrived around 4 in the morning- the first spotted on Goudier so far this season!
We spent another few days rearranging boxes in the shed so that we will be able to find goods and restock the shop quickly in the coming weeks.

Chain of people moving boxes cargoBy Tuesday the weather was wonderful again and Ortelius was able to visit us in the afternoon. Delphine, the expedition leader, turned the sauna on for us- what a treat after our epic night! We then joined the crew and passengers for a barbecue and party on the top deck. This was really the perfect way to relax, admire the surroundings and remember how fortunate we are to be here. Kristy and Jane stretched their muscles even further by taking part in the limbo competition!

Wednesday was bright and sunny so Helen, Jane and Sarah took advantage of the low tide to have a walk around the island and cross over to Bills Island. The sea ice  retreated a lot during the week thanks to 'warmer' temperatures and strong northerly winds blowing the ice away. A Weddell seal mum and pup were also making the most of the lovely afternoon, lying around in the snow.

jumping penguin by the boat shedSea Adventurer made a wise decision to come and visit us at the crack of dawn on Thursday, landing their first passengers at 6am.This is a great time to see penguins jumping up on the rocks on their way back from their morning feed. As their visit came to an end, strong winds brought fresh snow, forcing the team to stay in for the rest of the afternoon. This was a great opportunity for a much needed spring clean in the Nissen hut.

Andrew, Bertie and Dave, our neighbours on Pelagic, decided Saturday was going to be their last day before heading back to Ushuaia. The southerly winds predicted for Sunday morning would push icebergs into the bay so Pelagic was keen to leave before being trapped! Before they left, though, Dave and Bertie spent the afternoon preparing us a delicious dinner of slow-roasted beef, roasted vegetables and apricot crumble, which we enjoyed together on their last evening in town. Thank you so much, Bertie and  Dave! We will be Walking around at low tidemissing seeing the mast of Pelagic from the kitchen window every morning now that they are making their way back – but we look forward to seeing them again later this season.

The departure of Pelagic also means Ruth has moved into the Nissen hut. She already is learning all about the team's work and enjoyed meeting expediton teams and passengers all day Sunday. We were also very grateful to Monica and her team for having the five of us on board Ushuaia for a lovely barbeque lunch and ice cream dessert – muchas gracias.

And finally, a piece of great penguin news: National Geographic Explorer's expedition team spotted the first gentoo penguin egg at Jougla point on Sunday afternoon! Jane and Kristy limbo on OrteliusWe still haven't seen any here but we are keeping our eyes open for the first eggs on Goudier. We are sure the skuas are too...

24 Nov 2013




Spring cleaning the Nissen