At this very moment as I'm writing the blog, the sun is shining at Port Lockroy, with a gentle northerly wind and a mild temperature of 6.5 degrees. Being surrounded by the most beautiful and breath taking views on steep mountains, the sound (and smell) of penguins and birds, glaciers to be seen in every direction an eye can reach and hearing calving in the back bay making deep drums and thunder sounds, setting the ocean in motion, leaving behind a trail of ice-floes and brash ice in the bay. As the four of us are living and working on the historical site, Base A, with basic living conditions and being on the tiny island mainly all the time for 4 months, many people wonder about our daily life.
For the team a new day at Port Lockroy normally starts between 06.00 and 07.00, depending on the ships estimated arrival time. Adele wrote last week that we have an average of two ship visits a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. A good portion of porridge or occasionally yogurt and granola prepared by the person on cook-duty for the day, will keep our stomachs satisfied for at least a few hours. After breakfast we make our way to the tiny boot-room were we put on our outer gear; salopettes, TOG 24 ski jacket, which receives quite some nice comments from visiting staff and passengers, in addition to boots, gloves, a hat, our VHF radio, sunscreen and sunglasses. Ready to head out!
Before a ship visit takes place, normally one of the team will go on board for giving a briefing, telling passengers a bit about Port Lockroy's history, UKAHT, the work we do on base today and their visit. In the meantime, the other team members will be busy opening up Bransfield house for the visitors,
in addition to preparing the paths which also includes scrubbing the rocks and ramp clean off penguin and bird guano. As we share tiny Goudier Island with more than 1500 gentoos, in addition to some Snowy Sheathbills and Skuas, you can imagine that they leave behind quite some droppings for us.
A ship visit will take between 4-6 hours depending on the amount of passengers. Due to IAATO guidelines and Port Lockroy being Historic Site and Monument No.61, we have a limit of 350 passengers or 3 ships per day,in addition no more than 60 visitors on the island at any time (for more information, see www.iaato.org).
Once the passengers have left the island, we wave off the last zodiac with staff, known as the 'Lockroyan waving competition'. Well, we tend to laugh it off as we keep waving; 'It's the only exercise we have'. But no time for standing around as we have a new ship scheduled not long after. If time allows, the person on cook duty will head in and prepare some lunch while the rest of the team closes up the museum, in addition to cleaning, tidying, cashing up, restocking, getting everything ready for the next ship visit. In case of limited time between two ship landings or a yacht visiting during lunch time, we take lunch in turns instead.
Many people think we have the whole evening to ourselves; watching TV, playing games, reading books etc. Sorry, no time for that! In addition, we have no main power on the island, thus no TV nor do we have internet. After we wave off the last zodiac between 18.00 and 20.00, sometimes even later, everything needs to be closed down, cleaned and restocked for the next ship visiting us the morning after. And the final hours before midnight, we fulfil our four daily duties; cleaning and tidying the Nissen hut, cook and dishes,
writing the base diary and gash-duty (emptying our buckets). These duties are taken in turn. Should we have spare time, there are always other duties to tend to; cancelling mail, bundling waste, writing reports, doing maintenance, surveying artefact's and monitoring wildlife. Although life is very busy at Port Lockroy, we do have golden moments.
Working late means that we can see the most beautiful sunsets and colour changes in the evenings with mirror reflections in the bay. We have the most amazing workplace on earth! Seeing the gentoo chicks growing with an astonishing rate, a seal swimming right in front of you, gentoos jumping in and out the water as they are torpedoing through the sea, spotting whales in the bay, seeing glaciers calving, listening to the jungle of wildlife sounds, or even witnessing dramatical moments when a chick gets killed by a Snowy Sheathbill or a Skua. On Goudier Island, we have 'live-TV' switched on all time! And sometimes surprises are waiting...
As it was Adele's second Antarctic birthday, she woke up to balloons and decoration, a chocolate birthday cake and gifts. The visiting yachts and vessels are very generous to us as they not only provide us with showers and laundry, but also with some fresh fruit, vegetables, bread or other fresh food now and then. And Adele even got her birthday wish fulfilled with fresh croissants when the French Ponant ship, Le Boreal visited on Tuesday. Other surprises this week were some unique cruising opportunities in the area, when we were offered a cruise, seeing the Peltier channel and the Neumayer channel thanks to Hanse Explorer and the Mars Family and their friends for this amazing experience and the lovely evening! Friday saw us with a kayaking bliss, when Spirit of Sydney invited us to go kayaking in the bay. And for the first time after our arrival in mid-November, we were off the island for a whole night, not sharing a bunk room, as Tudor Morgan on Midnatsol invited us for an overnight stay and cruise after we did an on-board shop and talks in the evening. A huge thanks to all visiting ships and yachts for being so generous and sometimes they even lend a hand, as the final day of the week saw us with our fourth cargo drop of the season.
The UKAHT team in Cambridge work hard for making Port Lockroy operations possible, opening Base A each summer season as a living museum and preserving the heritage. This includes organising cargo. Food, merchandise and equipment are being transported to Stanley in the Falkland Island. From there it goes onto different vessels heading to Port Lockroy. Once arrived, the vessels will deliver the cargo boxes with zodiacs. Together with some of the expedition staff we form a human chain moving all boxes from the zodiac landing site onto tarpaulins and into the boatshed, were our cargo is being stored. Thank you so much to G Expedition, NG Orion, NG Explorer, Fram and Ocean Endeavor for delivering cargo and helping us so far!
Life at Port Lockroy is truly a special one! Wishing you all a fantastic week!