Bird Island Diary – June 2005

30 June, 2005

The builders leave

June has been one heck of a big month on Bird Island. The race to the finishing line for the new building, colder weather, midwinter celebrations, final farewells, and a grand moving party were all crammed in leaving little breathing space for the more common tasks that we normally indulge in (sleeping, eating too much, drinking) at this time of year. Don’t be surprised if you hear little from us next month as we’ll probably be merrily dreaming away the hours enjoying the solitude.

It’s fair to say that the construction of the new base this year involved more than your average share of dramas. Mechanical problems, fierce winds flattening temporary buildings, record high tides threatening to float tents away, and shortage of components are not encountered on an average building site. So it was with a sense of achievement, celebration, and above all relief that the base was virtually finished a couple of days before the FPV Dorada arrived to spirit away some very homesick builders. A big thank you must go to this fantastic group of guys for their excellent work under some very trying circumstances. We miss our Wednesday curry nights and Saturday social evenings with the crowd, and promise that our carpentry and lathing lessons will be put to good use this winter.

Naturally the ceremonial staining of the new carpet took place during the raucous first night party, the beginnings of adding a few homely touches to the place. I won’t wax lyrical about the process of moving 20 years worth of stuff into the new home, suffice to say it is done now and we are very relieved. Oh, can we please, please, please have some more bookshelves and cupboards when the ship comes in next year?!!!

Not only were the Morrisons builders hard at work trying to make the shipping deadline, our comms master Pete Lens was also ferreting away with all manner of cables, trenches, computers and complicated bits of radio kit in his bid for an early exit. With true efficiency he made the boat, much to the relief of his girlfriend I’m sure. The radioactive green cocktails will definitely be missed.

The mass exodus left us with the four winterers, Andy Cope our facilities engineer and a couple of lucky Morrisons chaps, Dewi and Dave who decided to stay on a couple more weeks to finish off some odds and ends. Dewi is an old Bird Island hand who wintered here in 1987, and has seen almost every phase of the base since it became a year round station in 1982. He and Dave set to completing our shiny new laboratory facilities, which are an absolute blessing after the cramped old setup, Dave also did a bit more fiddling with his tetchy plumbing.

For quite a while it appeared we would have a Bird Island record seven people for the midwinter celebrations. This would’ve suited Dewi down to the ground, having another picture of himself on the wall, but the shipping gods intervened at the 11th hour with a last visit on the 20th of June. I think Tommo was secretly pleased that he only had to produce a cooking extravaganza for just the four instead of seven.

Dewi and Dave caught the first landing craft out to the waiting ship leaving us to give Andy a last goodbye on the end of the jetty. Andy is leaving BAS for greener pastures after a good few years managing the technical side of the South Georgia bases. He will be sorely missed, a man who takes great pride in his work and one of the friendliest, most easygoing people that we’ve had the pleasure of knowing. We wish him all the best in his future endevours. As you can see I think he wasn’t upset about heading off for a well deserved holiday in South America with his wife!

Well that left the four of us to enjoy the delights of a traditional Bird Island midwinter. Breakfast in the morning from our Base Commander, the ‘highland’ games during the day, a refreshing afternoon walk (Tommo might disagree with this), and a sumptuous evening meal coupled with presents that had received a lot of love and attention. It was a brilliant day, a fantastic way to celebrate the arrival of true winter. Appropriately the weather chimed in with cold and snowy squalls to give the outdoor activities a frosty edge. Best wishes must go to all of the bases and organisations that sent us greeting cards and pictures (we reckon ours was the best though!) and a big thank you to our biggest fan, Mrs Vreni Hearnshaw.

After all that excitement the final eight days of the month were hurriedly used up shifting, reorganising and unpacking in the new home, and getting used to the quirks of the new facilities. I’ll leave you with a picture of our favourite winter friends to remind everyone that it’s still all about the wildlife!

Love to Family and Friends