CEO update: a new season with a new normal
I write this as our Antarctic team make their way to Port Lockroy. They've flown to south America before joining a ship for the voyage to the Peninsula. It is so good to be able to say that we will be returning to Antarctica; returning to open Port Lockroy, but also returning to resume our heritage conservation. In some ways it’s a getting back to normal, but I think some things will have changed and we have a new normal to get used to.
Certainly the past two years have given us pause to review what we do and how we do it. We have used the time, not only to survive as a charity, but to build our connections with our supporters, with wider audiences here in the UK and internationally and to prepare for a much hoped for return to our Antarctic operations.
Over the last five years or so we have gathered a huge amount of intelligence about the historic sites and we have detailed conservation management plans which we are ready to get underway. These plans will safeguard these sites for the future and make sure they will endure and tell their stories long after our time. So we have big plans, to return boldly, deploying multiple teams to really get through the programme of conservation works we need to do to secure these sites for the future.
And this year it starts with the little air transit facility at Damoy. For those unfamiliar with this little gem of a site, it is the most modern of the HSMs in our care. It was established in 1975 as a stopover facility for BAS personnel heading farther south. It sits on a promontory in the northern Antarctic peninsula below a large glacial tongue and surrounded by mountains. This was the first place many people set foot in Antarctica as they were dropped off by ship and then awaited a flight south to Rothera and other stations, sometimes for weeks when conditions allowed.
Pictured: Damoy Hut, Antarctica. Credit: Adele Jackson for UK Antarctic Heritage Trust
It’s a unique spot in many ways; it is very small, with just a kitchen/lounge and toilet and a 15 berth bunkroom. It is the only HSM which explicitly tells a story of Antarctic logistics – where so many others tell of exploration and scientific endeavour, Damoy reveals more about the practicalities of moving people and equipment to and fro in Antarctica. It of course embodies the romance and perils of Antarctic flight, it sits within a few metres of an Argentine storage hut and is surrounded by a colony of gentoo penguins. Whichever way you look at it, it is a fascinating place.
A much-loved landmark and refuge, Damoy was saved from demolition in 2007. Since we took responsibility for its care in 2009, we have maintained it in a light-touch way. In our last field season we were able to capture the whole site digitally, so we now have a 3D virtual model. We were also able to survey the site fully and to take paint samples. Now, armed with detailed information and having carried out thorough archival research as well as made contact with Damoy veterans, we have a clear picture of what the site needs and how we can best enable it to tell its story.
So this season, we have a small team heading out in February to begin this work, and it starts with a facelift. You will be able to follow their progress when they get underway.
Closer to home, we will use digital technology, creative programming and good old fashioned storytelling to bring this heritage to life for more people than ever before.
After two very challenging years, I am so pleased that we can send a full team south this season – some to live at Port Lockroy and welcome visitors and the others to get on with the conservation at Damoy.
And it’s really a tribute to the generous support and encouragement we have had from you, our supporters, which has put us in this position today. Though there is much still to do, it feels like we are at the start of a new and important phase.
CEO, UK Antarctic Heritage Trust