A big northeasterly blow all day Monday brought a lot of snow, and also a surprise as we saw slabs of ice floating out from the bay behind Goudier Island. We have now become an island! The fast ice that has been joining us to Wiencke Island has broken up and we have clear water all around.
We have had some early starts, - many thanks to Ben and the team of Ocean Nova for their hospitality. After a speedy shower the breakfast buffet induced some members of the team to return for 3rd and 4th helpings.
Now we have not seen sunshine for a while. Wednesday dawned with a snowstorm and strong winds again which, combined with a rare ship-free day, meant that we lit the fire for the first time in weeks and hunkered down in the Nissen for catch with small jobs. And it was time to start tackling the inventories! A lengthy process that needs doing every year, it had been on our minds and particularly Kristy’s since she had been allocated the responsibility for making sure it gets done. It is very important that we record accurately everything on base, so that there are no shortages next season, and equally importantly no build up of obsolete goods/equipment/food etc. since there is limited storage space here and removal of waste is not easy.…. toiletries, medical kit, books, overalls, work gloves, face masks, mop handles and heads, cleaning materials – anything and everything is checked off on that spreadsheet!
We also had a visit from Skip and his family from Pelagic to say their farewells as they were departing the following day back to Ushuaia, with Andrew’s family. Andrew had packed up, all set to move into the Nissen with us and Ruth – change was on the horizon! But the following morning it was all change again as the forecast for the Drake had moved faster than expected and there were going to be 50 knots of north winds against them in a couple of days, just the worst time when the yacht would be well on the way. Plans B, C and D were made and eventually the two families have been able to go home by ship with Skip staying here with Pelagic until he can be relieved in ten days by the return of Dave Roberts who brought Pelagic here the first time in November. Now the only nervousness was occasioned by the return of the ice, like the baddie in a cartoon! At the eleventh hour would they be saved or not? as a wind change brought brash ice back into the bay and packed it in around our landing site. But a big hoorah for Fram staff who battled through in their boats ferrying passengers ashore and taking away Elena, Luca and Lara, and Emma, with Daisy and Amy. We stood on the rocks waving to the tiny figures on deck as a flicker of evening sun lit up their departure.
Another wonderful thing Fram had done for us was bring mail! It was Christmas all over again as the parcels that didn’t quite make it the first time were ripped open and letters from home read. We forgot all about dinner til well after 9pm when we had a hasty tinned green chicken curry which just hit the spot after a long and busy day.
The end of the week continued in similar vein, long and full days, but with fun and socialising. We had a visit from the beautiful old Dutch tall ship Oosterschelde, then a wonderful evening out on Sea Spirit again. I took the opportunity to have my first Polar Plunge – and it might not be the last either as it was actually quite enjoyable! It really didn’t feel that much colder than some of the swims I have had in Scotland!
The winds have picked up again and there were six yachts clustered around the island anchor last night. We offered Steve and Stephen from Xplore a cup of tea in the Nissen and then made them pay for it with a spot of stamp sticking! Along with the winds we have had our first real downpours of rain, and sadly we have seen that a few penguin chicks have perished. The forecast is similar for the next few days but we are hoping for a return to summer warmth soon.
After a cold and wet landing yesterday afternoon we were offered, and gratefully accepted, an invitation to take a sauna and shower on Polar Pioneer, with a barbecue afterwards (they brought the food indoors thankfully!). It was a lovely evening with a great and friendly bunch of passengers. All the staff and crew onboard the ships have all been so kind, the hospitality is quite overwhelming. They really take the time to make our lives here that much more comfortable and fun and we can't wait to see them all again and make the most of our remaining time here.