Wildlife, weather and...cheese

28/11/2022

Greetings pen(guin) pals!

Thanks to teams from HMS Protector, Intrepid, and Hurtigruten helping us to dig Bransfield House and the Boatshed out of the snow, we have finally been able to shift our focus to preparing for the season ahead. One unexpected task has been working our way through over seven kilograms of cheese generously donated by a visiting ship - thank you Plancius! We’ve feasted on macaroni cheese, aubergine and cheese lasagne, and Antarctic pizza. All our meals are closely observed by snowy sheathbills (we’ve named them Elvis and Betsy) that tap and bob around enthusiastically at the window above the dinner table.

 

To celebrate Polar Pride Day on the 19 November, we had a pride-themed movie night supplemented with a plentiful chocolate supply discovered in the Boatshed (last year’s team evidently possessed admirable restraint!). The Pride flag flying outside Base A has added a cheerful flash of colour to our white backdrop. Although the snow cover at Port Lockroy is consistent, the weather is not. White-out blizzards rapidly give way to glorious blue skies and sunshine that allow us to appreciate the stunning views of the surrounding mountains, ice shelves, and iceberg-dotted channels. Weddell seals sprawl across Bill’s island, having bulldozed their way through the snow. Blue-eyed shags, Antarctic terns, and skuas soar overhead. Penguins are the best neighbours. I still find it surreal walking out of Nissen at the start of the day and seeing them everywhere. We are hoping the first eggs will appear soon!

Pictured: Natalie takes stock of their provisions for the weeks ahead

Natalie has done a superb job setting up the shop and tills ready for its first visitors, while Lucy and Vicky have been working hard to get all the communications equipment up and running. Entering the dark room armed with headtorches, Ruth - head of buildings and conservation - and I cracked the Bransfield House safe on the fourth attempt and brought out the museum artefacts, including the gramophone from which ‘Hits from the Hut’ can now be heard. The bunkroom windows have been freed of snow thanks to Mairi’s stellar snow-shovelling efforts. Sunlight is streaming onto the blankets and Antarctic ski club parka that Ruth has been arranging to better recreate the space as a post-1952 bunkroom (it previously being the main workshop). In fact, Bransfield House has now been illuminated in its entirety by the new lights installed by electrician James and Ruth. With the flick of a switch, their work has injected warmth and life into an otherwise freezing building - an impressive feat that we are excited for our visitors to experience. This achievement also concludes our transition to being a completely solar-powered site.

Pictured (left to right): Vicky, James and Natalie take a moment from their busy day to check on the penguins

I have spent several days counting the tens of thousands of colourful, interesting, and informative stamps on base with the assistance of the team. However, upon running a successful on-board shop last Thursday, it turned out most people just want the small standard stamp for sending their postcard. I have taken this as a challenge, and hope to draw visitor’s attention to the exciting combinations of penguin chicks, Royal Research Ships, and Shackleton anniversary stamps that can instead be used to enhance their polar post! We have cancelled the first mail and look forward to sending it on a ship bound for the Falkland Islands in the next few days. Hopefully it will arrive by Christmas!

Clare