Another week has flown by here at Lockroy. With almost 24 hours of daylight and being so far away both literally and figuratively from our 'previous lives', keeping track of date and time becomes something of a challenge as we immerse ourselves in daily life. So much happens that we often sit at dinner chatting over the day's events and wondering whether such and such a thing happened this morning or whether it was actually yesterday!
With the weeks rolling past all too quickly, life at Lockroy is settling down into something of a routine. We enjoy welcoming and talking to our lovely visitors from the ships. It really is a pleasure to meet so many interesting people from all over the world and share with them some of the history of the island and Bransfield House. The museum is looking good and we've had some generous compliments already. A stream of constant postcards tumbles from our red post box, carrying tales of adventure and good wishes to far flung corners of the world (a strange thing to write from the Antarctic Peninsula, but everything is relative!). After every visit we cancel the mail, clean the museum and re-stock the gift shop which provides vital income to support all the activities carried out by the Antarctic Heritage Trust..
We've been treated to a wonderful week of weather contrasts, with more winds and snow but also some proper 'blue sky' days with the peaks of all the surrounding mountains clearly visible and glistening in the sunlight. It's getting gradually warmer as spring progresses, and the snow melt continues to reveal more of Goudier Island's secrets. Rocks appear from nowhere through the snow as if by magic, to be swiftly claimed by the gentoo penguins who have been patiently waiting for their nest sites to emerge from the snow and ice. The sea ice melt continues gently too. A gentle creep, edging around to the back of the bay from both sides. Slowly but surely Goudier is reclaiming its island status from the winter fast ice.
We are quickly learning that, just as the weather changes hour to hour, so can our plans. Every task, every arrangement, however well planned and organised, necessarily comes with a generous helping of 'ish'. This was illustrated perfectly on Monday when we were looking forward to welcoming Le Boreal for their first visit of the season. A change in wind direction overnight blew lots of pack and brash ice back into the bay from the Neumayer Channel, meaning a landing proved impossible despite the best efforts of the zodiac drivers. Despite lots of organisation between ourselves and the ship, the expedition leader Russ had to remain just a voice on the radio for now.
So, we broke out the jobs list for the season and went through all the tasks that need to be done by March. As well as the daily running of the base, lots of work is done by the team each season to ensure that the base is preserved and conserved ready for future years. The change in plans also gave us the opportunity to give a proper welcome to Ruth and to help her settle in to the Nissen Hut now that Andrew, Dave and Bertie have headed back to Ushuaia for a while on Pelagic. Welcome Ruth! The afternoon passed in a haze of unpacking and postal activity. With Fram having kindly agreed to take mail out to Stanley for us later in the week, we were busy readying mail bags as well as cancelling special philatelic requests under Postmistress Kristy's expert tuition. We can cheerfully report that cancelling special mail is not that good for the nerves, although Jane did feel she'd finally found something that is easier to do left handed! We also took the opportunity of a bit of down time to have a shopping spree in our own shop. Much bag filling and packaging of items to send home ensued. We were also very excited too to realise first ship with our mail has left Stanley and should be with us in the middle of December in plenty of time for Christmas.
The week continued with a number of other highs. Ruth and Sarah returned from an evening walk to report that they'd seen the first penguin egg of the season on the island! The number of penguin nests continues to grow. Some have veritable mansions of pebbles, piled high and neatly. Others are making do with a few sorry looking stones. The sheathbills are on standby for neglected eggs and we have seen the first skuas too. Helen has been working on fixing the vhf cable for our radio communications whilst Ruth has set up her charging station in the Nissen for logging film clips.
We also had the pleasure of welcoming Plancius for her second visit of the season. It was great to see Kelvin and the gang again. Ruth was soon in full swing as a member of the team, talking to passengers and explaining about the documentary that is being made. Before heading off, Plancius filled our jerry cans with water (we have no running on base so are reliant on the support of ships for our water supply) and then it was a quick turnaround as Le Boreal also made it in to us on their second attempt. However, with the winds picking up and the ice blowing back in, it was unfortunately only a short visit. We look forward to catching up properly next time!
The next morning saw us waking up to about 30cm of fresh snow which at Lockroy means only one thing – shovelling time! We rushed around digging out the ramp at Bransfield house and the entire chains landing again where visitors come ashore. A great way to warm up. The fresh snow made everything look so perfect and clean, with the added bonus that the change in weather overnight had also brought a change in wind direction. The bay was now almost clear of ice so we were able to welcome the team and passengers of Sea Spirit to Lockroy for the first time this season. This was a particularly special visit for Kristy as she had first visited Antarctica aboard Sea Spirit two years ago. And so ensued a lovely visit, with much welcoming of friends old and new. Cheli (expedition leader) proved to be a mean personal shopper for the passengers and, as if things could get much better, she very kindly invited us on board for lunch with the passengers and our first showers in 9 days. We emerged feeling like new women, lightly fragranced and wafting nicely in contrast to the penguins. Thanks guys! A beautiful sunset painted the mountains a perfect pink as we tried to capture the moment with our cameras before giving up and just trying to save it in our memories for evermore.
Thursday was American Thanksgiving day, and an optimum moment for us all to reflect on the paths that have brought us here. One of the lovely thing about life at Lockroy is how it focuses the mind on being grateful for the small things (like clean laundry – thank you Fram!) whilst also delivering a constant stream of fantastic sights and experiences that make every day here special and unique. To mark the occasion, we ended the day with drinks on the rocks down at the chains landing. We toasted family and friends near and far whilst watching penguins porpoising through the crystal clear water among the icebergs, whilst shags and terns swooped overhead. A truly special moment.
The end of the week brought more new friends with Silver Explorer's passengers and team. We had also hoped to welcome the crew of HMS Protector, who have more of our season's cargo on board, but again the ice intervened with other ideas, so their visit is deferred for a few more days. In the meantime we have started work on revealing more of the film star paintings in the bunk room. Believed to have been painted by the base's overwintering diesel mechanic Evan Watson, the paintings are a real talking point for many of our visitors. We have started with Elizabeth Taylor – more updates next week!
1 Dec 2014