Port Lockroy blog #5 'A big week of firsts'

12/12/2022

This week has a been a big week of firsts for the team here on Goudier Island, as well as another big week for snow!

It was a sad start to the week as we said our final farewells to James and Ruth, who have made their return to civilisation after successfully installing solar power and new electrics into Bransfield House. Almost immediately after their departure, we had our first of many firsts of the week, with the tide dropping low enough for a walk across to Bills Island, the small rocky island just across the water from us and home to our resident Weddell seals. It was our first time walking on something other than snow since we arrived here two weeks ago and a fun time was had by all, exploring the rock pools and watching the penguins diving into the water for their morning fishing trip.

Pictured left to right: Ruth, Lucy, Natalie, Mairi, Vicky, James, and (back centre) Clare

The same afternoon we saw our first whales of the season! Two humpbacks passing by the bay, in the Neumayer channel.

The rest of the week has gone by in a bit of a blur. We had our first ship visitors of the season! Greg Mortimer brought our first guests to the island and we had our first taste of the season to come, showing off our newly wired museum, sending postcards and chatting all things Gentoo! We’ve had several more visits since then, as well as a very busy on-board shop. It’s been lovely meeting all of the visitors, who have all been very excited to chat to us, some even requesting selfies with us after seeing us on the news! We’ve been given lots of lovely gifts, including chocolates, wine and even some homemade honey from Matej, a member of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, who brought the honey all the way from the Czech Republic in the hope that he’d meet us!

Clare also sent off our first bags of mail of the season. 29kg of postcards are on their way to Stanley for their onward trips around the world. We’re hoping that some of the ~6,000 cards make it to their destinations in time for Christmas after spending our evenings hand cancelling each postcard to get them out as quickly as possible.

Pictured: Clare with her first bag of mail

Another first for the season, Mairi found our first penguin egg! We’ve since found a couple more, although we’re not sure whether these will yield any chicks as the penguins are laying directly onto the snow, with their carefully formed pebble nests being regularly buried by snow. We also had our first egg casualties, three eggs have been snatched by Skuas and Sheathbills, who have been spotted divebombing the penguins and waiting on the roof of Bransfield for the opportune moment to strike.

Speaking of snow, this week has been another week of heavy snowfall and blizzards. We’ve all spent a lot of time digging, with our snow steps into the Nissen and down to the landing site being regularly snowed under and a near-constant battle to keep our solar panels cleared. We’ve also seen high winds (45 knots) which are blowing the snow back just as quickly as we’re moving it.

Our first cargo drop of the season arrived Saturday night, very kindly dropped off by Expedition. It took two hours of zodiacs ferrying back and forth from the ship to our landing site to unload the six pallets of food and equipment, but the crew were incredibly helpful and we now have a Boatshed fit to burst. We’ve got merchandise for the season ahead, lots of yummy food - we’re very excited to find the yeast to make bread - and personal boxes which were packed up back in August and sent down for each team member, including Christmas presents from loved ones, favourite snacks and a Christmas pudding for the big day! More on food in our next blog!

Amongst all the hard work, we have found some time for fun! This week we were invited aboard the Fridtjof Nansen, Greg Mortimer and L’Austral for dinners and much needed showers.

Pictured left to right: Natalie, Vicky, Lucy, Mairi and (back) Clare

Our evening on the Mortimer was made all the more special when on our zodiac home, two humpbacks swam right alongside us, all of us watching in absolute awe when the tail appeared above the water as one of the whales breached.

It’s been a really exciting second week on base for all of us here, we’re feeling extremely fortunate to be living in such an amazing place, surrounded by the best penguin neighbours and we’re looking forward to seeing what firsts next week has in store for us as well.

Team Port Lockroy