Bird Island Diary — March 2001

31 March, 2001

The beakers versus the builders

Hello everybody. This is going to be the builder’s version of events for March. Simon Berry is your host for this exciting and funny newsletter. Everything that’s written in this report is true, but some things may have been changed to save the dignity of those involved.

With the beakers (scientists) and the builders in competition over everything it seemed like one constant battle through March culminating in a Superstars challenge one wet and cold Saturday. This was Simon’s Saturday cook which meant I could choose the evening entertainment, and I felt a Superstars would sort out the men from the scientists. My first impression of the scientists is that they are very clever when it comes to books and computers, but also I felt over five challenges which included an assault course the builders strength would shine through. How wrong can one man be?! They were a good team, they worked well together and as the builders were averaging fifteen stone per person the beakers speed shone through! The final result was three events to the beakers, one to the builders and one draw. For a forfeit the builders team, which included base commander Maggie Annat, all had to walk round the half-built jetty at around 6 o clock in the evening, which believe me was very cold. I feel that if John Critchley had been fit to play and not been ruled out by an injury to the stomach it would have been a fantastic result for the builders.

The winning team were Mark, Richard, Jane and Daf (captain). The losing team were Simon, Paul, Mickey and Maggie (captain). Unfortunately because of John’s stomach complaint he was forced to referee, but being unable to concentrate for more than two minutes he wasn’t very good at counting or keeping an eye on the stopwatch. On completion of the forfeit I challenged Daf to a double or quits penalty shoot out in which I won 2-0. Daf then went in the sea and because his legs were so weak and shaky from the running around he fell right under and screamed as the cold washed over his head. I was going to save him but the belly laughs unfortunately restricted my movement. Back to the team games later.

This month was a hibitane nightmare for scientists with all four having long shifts of watching grey-heads returning to nests to feed chicks so they could retrieve radio transmitters (TXs) and Satellite tags. Most people quite enjoyed going up there and having some time to themselves, writing letters and generally taking it easy. Everyone had their own special method for catching the wanted birds with Mark having his own special way which was to take off all his outdoor clothes and put on his Winnie the Pooh slippers, which proved to be very successful as he seemed to always come back with a TX. I feel it was always the same TX but he was just showing off because he was Australian. Because of Richard’s heavy-handedness one decided to scarper round the other side of the world and never return. One person didn’t enjoy the experience of hibitane because every time said person left it was raining and because it was four hours on her own and the fact that she does like to talk (or is that gossip) she found it more of a strain than some of the others.

At the very end of last month we managed to get hold of another chippy to help out with the work that is going on on Bird Island. I’ve only ever seen him in the lounge as for three weeks he was under the building boxing in pipework and making new friends, as in seals. One seal in particular related to Mickey’s smell and decided to lay on his chest. We don’t think the pup was suckling.

The bubonic plague raised his ugly head again this month when John was struck down by a wicked illness to his bowels. He may have lost weight in that time because he was before a bit of a chocolate monster, but what he lost in weight he gained in stamina running up and down the jetty to the toilet. After five days John was back to his normal happy self and back to work which pleased the beakers no end as he was out of their way because he was out of the building.

NEWSFLASH: Weather for Bird Island will be very wet and windy with a very sunny spell when you’re on cook, normally late afternoon about 4 o clock. Then everyone goes out, takes fantastic photographs, talks about it all evening while I’ve been stuck in the kitchen trying to think what to cook for nine people with limited food supplies. The problem with four builders is their cooking skills are limited and there is only so much bangers and mash you can eat before you run short. Also on the food side on St Patrick’s Day and also Mark’s birthday Jane was on cook. She made a fantastic three course Saturday dinner with main course being duck and fake beef (lamb), which was to the amusement of all sat round the table. She told everybody at the table that she had tried it earlier and thought it was a fantastic piece of beef and being the fact that all the beef was gone by December you have to wonder is the kitchen the best place for a woman?!

The building work continued at a steady pace and with the inclusion of Mickey to the squad of John, Paul, Maggie, and myself jobs seemed to be getting finished. Everybody had their work to do and often people worked together in harmony, especially the little and large gang of Maggie and Paul. Somehow the lifting gantry that John and myself erected was level to the amusement and surprise of both. On writing of this newsletter walkways, jetty, lifting gantry and most plumbing was completed. Unfortunately, not all work was done so Paul was given the short straw of staying on a little longer, which is quite handy because he does know a few drinking games.

The wind-ups and mischief making of March did slow as everyone was scared of retribution, but that didn’t seem to stop Daf, who was constantly trying to catch me out with rude postcards and defacing of the daily paper, which caused much amusement amongst other base members. Obviously I can’t divulge my plan for the ultimate wind-up when I leave but I do expect a radio call from Bird Island to RRS Ernest Shackletoncalling me a bald ***!

For my own personal reasons I was very glad to see the back of Richard (not really!), but whenever he made me a gin and tonic with iceberg ice I always seemed to end up in a bit of a state with one of the worst nights being Bloody Mary Thursday. The next day I decided that alcohol and myself needed to divorce which did last 24 hours.

The team games culminated on the 26 March when we woke to a white snowy picture postcard perfect scene. I threw down the gauntlet to the beakers for a snowball war in which after an hour of cold snowballs going down the back of your neck the beakers retreated to the warmth of the computer room. For some reason unknown to me Daf loved to poke his tongue out and make a Maori war cry whenever he was about to throw a snowball. Unfortunately because Daf comes from a molly coddled background he spent most of the time indoors running up and down the corridors screaming.

Another new sporting event was dreamed up by Daf and myself called Bog Jumping which involved finding a deep pool of mud and seeing how far in we could jump and how dirty and wet we could get. I felt Daf was the top man at this event as he’s the best part of 6’4″ and size 15 feet. Unfortunately I don’t think this is a female event as it took a concerted effort by myself to pull Jane out first time. She did do better as the afternoon of fun and games wore on.

I would just like to give my congratulations to Daf, who somehow got the Winter Base Commander job here at Bird Island. Rumour has it that his bank account was hit hard by a lump sum withdrawal which was put into a brown envelope and left in a bin in a park in Cambridge.

One bone of contention on my part was the awful choice of music of Mark, Daf, Paul, Jane and Mickey. I was under the impression that John Farnham only had out one song and not eleven CD albums. Mickey and Paul played music which shouted at you, which was very disconcerting when you were trying to write a loving e-mail home. Daf meanwhile continued to play music from the valleys, which no other soul understood. Meanwhile John liked to listen to the same two Savage Garden nightmares. Also I didn’t realise that a certain beaker (Jane) would be into Steps and Britney Spears, which scared me as I felt that all beakers were very intelligent.

I have been very lucky to spend seven weeks in this most wonderful place. After a settling in period I really enjoyed my time on Bird Island and thanks to Richard, Daf, Mark and Jane I learnt and enjoyed my stay. Highlights for me were seal weighing afternoons, which was one of the best laughs I’ve ever had, black-brow weighing with Daf and the penguin catching and weighing with Jane. The place may be small but what it lacks in quantity it makes up in quality, quality views, fantastic animals and a wonderful base atmosphere. In my seven short weeks I came across eleven very different, but very nice people. I felt got on really well with the BC, Maggie, considering we are complete opposites. I enjoyed my short time with John Croxall and Sascha and I also got to know Daf, Mark, Jane and Richard very well and regard them now as friends of mine. And who knows one day we might just meet again…?

Last word must go to my mate Johnny Boy Critchley who was my partner in crime, drinking and humour. One thing about John I will never forget was a special Tequila Wednesday evening when he had one too many, with help from other base members.

Bye from Bird Island.Simon.