Leaving Port Lockroy in a better state than when we found it keeps each year's staff consistently busy. This week the museum recieved more of our attention with the base leader's office slowly being restored. I cannot say we are putting it back to its former glory given it is a small, windowless room which would have blocked the daylight of Antarctica brutally at any hour. Once Ben has finished painting and felting, the base leaders' paperwork will be transferred from the attic. One visitor this week asked whether our base leader lived in this box of a room, but I can say with confidence that Florence sleeps opposite me every night! I have also had time this week to continue uncovering the paintings by Evan Watson, the diesel mechanic here in 1960. He decorated each bunk with a painting of a famous woman but they were mysteriously painted over in the 1980s when the base was still abandoned. For now, Ava Gardener is being very demanding and Doris Day and Elizabeth Taylor will have to wait patiently for their faces to be uncovered fully. Every so often we put a gramaphone record on whilst we work or scroll through an old magazine (Kath found one which showed horses receiving a blessing in the aisle of St John's Church) and the atmopshere comes alive in those moments particularly.
We have also started doing some of our own decorating in the Nissen. Florence enthusiastically started with the door to the loo and given Antarctica's climate, the paint has taken enough time to dry for us all to feel a little closer to each other than before. When Prince Phillip visited Port Lockroy in 1957, the men were embarrassed that the fresh paint which had been applied in honour of his visit was easily spotted by the Prince himself. I can say we have learnt from this and can assure our colleagues arriving in January that we have allowed enough time for the loo door to be functioning again.
The wildlife continues to amaze us. I took a break from cancelling mail one night to discover a minke whale leaving the back bay. As if this beautiful intruder could hear me, I whispered on the radio to the others and we watched it leave the bay in the early evening. How strange to think that shooting a whale ninety years ago would have been with a harpoon gun and not a camera. The whaling industry came to Port Lockroy between 1912-1931 and remnants of this period are slowly being revealed by the melting snow. It was a huge industrial and commerical activity in Antarctica generally and we want to learn more about it as the season continues. Two out of the 135 lives that were claimed by whaling occurred here at Port Lockroy. The men were buried at Deception, another British base.
Moving from whales to penguins, since 1996 a penguin study has been carried out to ascertain the impact of tourism on the resident population here. Sometimes visitors presume that science is still the base's main preoccupation but the periodic counting penguins and their nests remains our only active contribution now. A camera has been installed overlooking the boatshed colony and it has been fascinating to review the photographs that it has taken each day over the past year. Due to the thin sea ice, we now know the penguins did not go far afield even in the depths of winter yet heavy snowfall has enforced late nesting - an unfair combination for them I feel.
The Chilean Navy came to see us and we have welcomed over a thousand visitors this week. And we have just received a dinner invitation for tonight so that's my cooking day sorted - phew!
Love from Lockroy,