King Edward Point Diary – August 2011

31 August, 2011

Greetings to all you dedicated avid KEP web diary readers. I’m sure you have had some healthy verbal meals served up to you by previous entries and have been digesting them with much delight. Well now it’s my turn to serve up what can only be described as a concoction of courses of what I deem to be tasteful.

I sit here perplexed as I write this passage, looking out the window at the blue skies and plus temperatures in the middle of December, thinking of you guys at home wrapped up in your coats, hats and drinking Ovaltine wondering what all this dribble is about. Well in this topsey-turvey world I live in and which I call home – South Georgia – in August whilst you guys were basking in the sun and eating fresh fruits from the trees of abundance it was me who was wrapped up warm, wearing my hat and drinking something mildly more “warming” than ovaltine. However this is not a sad, drizzly winter blues time of year for us winterers, this is why we chose to come and live in this wondrous abode. And here I am to tell you what frolics we had. I will also talk about life as a sparky and just what toils I’m put through by my fellow base members to keep things tip top and in correct working order.

So we begin… A busy month indeed. We saw the return of Katie from her 6 weeks at sea, Mr BC-Rob Webster’s birthday, A 48 hour film entry, a visit from the RFA, plenty of “digging-out”, novelty bread, plenty of skiing, high tides and low temperatures.

We begin the month with a brisk trip. For excellent behaviour Sam and I were awarded a day off, and seeing as the boats were already in the area we were dropped off at Papoa beach with a day sack so we could hike back. A very pleasant trip it was too, even though the weather turned on us which made our decent into bolder pass somewhat exciting. We were rewarded with a beautiful and picturesque site of Grytviken covered in snow. It felt as if you were inside a snow dome that has just been shaken up.

Boating was in high capacity this month with a few visits from krill fishing vessels which saw the boating team and government with plenty to do, sometimes there were up to 5 vessels in the cove which made KEP feel more like a harbour than a research station. On one particular trip the low temperature was fairly evident. We dropped the GOs off at Carlita which is about an hours boat travel away. As you can see from the picture, driving the RIB is for hardy souls but good fun all the same.

True Antarctic hero style — sorry True BRITISH Antarctic hero style and never fazed by the weather, we had a BBQ out-side the JCB garage. “The occasion” you may ask, well it was Mr Meat man Matt Holmes’ turn for Saturday night cook and with the Pharos alongside that was good enough reason, a fine idea indeed, however South Georgia being south Georgia and Brits being Brits it rained… and rained. In true techy comrade style I went out and took the brunt with Matt who was on the tools serving up, as always fine food indeed. My motto is you only get wet once and it certainly didn’t dampen our moods.

Keeping with the culinary thread and always trying to be creative I was keeping up with my novelty bread editions. Seeing as the penguin bread was a success amongst fellow base members I decided to keep the theme aquatic and decided to make the days bread shaped like a crab. A success indeed in terms of aesthetics however people became too attached to crabby and couldn’t bring themselves to eat him, eventually he went stale but nothing is wasted here so Alastair (with my consent) chucked him in a bread and butter pudding.

We also had a birthday on base. Mr Webster celebrated with his fellow team on base with plenty of food and wine, a very Bacchus affair it was too. Being the boss we all made an effort to make gifts. This was particularly good for me as I had been wanting to make a hip flask from scratch since I got here, Rob was lucky enough to receive the prototype and was very humbled indeed. He also received 4 panoramic photos by Sam of all 4 seasons across the year of KEP bay, which was excellently mounted by Al and framed by Ashley.

Rob was also lucky enough to celebrate his birthday month with plenty of skiing. Although South Georgia snow is rather “specialist” it never stopped us going out and making the most of what we have. Myself and Rob, on this occasion had a fabulous day shredding up pinnacle. An early morning start presented us with a delightful sunrise with the suns’ rays playing softly on cumulous clouds floating in the bay. Although the wind made the approach somewhat “difficult” it wasn’t enough to knock our enthusiasm for the pow’ and riding it again and again.

The snow in South Georgia can present a myriad of emotions on the base. Although it means skiing, snowball fights, snow caves and general horsing around it can also mean work, work, work, with daily digging out of doors every morning and every night, clearing the veranda and changing the sensitivity of the PIRs so they aren’t constantly going off! You can also find yourself searching for wheel barrows or fellow base members that can get buried if leave them in one place for too long. Despite the labours of snow digging, I always find it fascinating how much the snow can transform the landscape, even in an hour the snow drifts move and shift and the metamorphosis can be very artistic.

Being at sea level, I find it very novel the way the cold dark sea contrasts the brilliant white snow. However one morning when I was on earlies, I opened the dining room curtains and with a look of confusion on my face (you know when something you’re so used to seeing on a daily basis just isn’t quite right) to find this balance of contrast had been altered. This was the result of a big storm in the night combined with high tides. This encouraged the sea to wander all the way up to the buildings and even found itself in between Carse house and cook labs. Although this was fascinating to us all on base it was a sobering thought to just how close to the sea we are and how grateful I am to have my pitroom on the non sea side!

On the electrical side of life it was mostly domestic issues that occupied my daily hours. As always I find myself for ever replacing lights on base, they get quite a hard time with the extreme temperatures and constant usage. Encouraging as it is that the other base members enthusiastically tell me when one is out I genuinely think they find pleasure in my pain. I also had a washing machine failure in Shackleton villa, it turns out that washing machines today just can’t cope with the demands of washing thick woollen jumpers. A modification and structural improvement put the washing machine back into service at once. Walking back to the main accommodation in smug mode all happy with my work I walk passed our laundry room to hear the hideous noise of a bearing failure. Of course this meant a full strip down as they don’t make these things easy to get at. The laundry room looked much like a bomb had gone off in Miele’s factory mid job with parts, bearings and drums all over the place, However after a bearing reconditioning the tumble dryer was back in service ready to dry another day. During routine maintenance on the refrigeration plant I found one fan motor bearing faulty which was replaced and a leaking valve, being a refrigeration engineer by trade I always find peace when working with fridges — most of the time. I also carried out a host of telecommunications works on the boats — but I shall not bore you with the details.

So you see, being an electrician at KEP doesn’t mean all you do is wire up plugs and change light fittings it is very diverse indeed. Evidence of this was with my role of Pop-eye in our 48 hour film entry, which you can read about in July’s diary so well written by Rob. Also I’d like to add, I am very proud in saying so that the Brits on the whole trumped the rest of Antarctica with Halley also winning “Best Acting”. Winning these categories is no mean feat when the competition is huge, for starters there were around 20 film entries from bases with a lot more props and people than our modest team of 8 has to offer. However with group brainstorming in the bar Friday night, Al Wilson as director, myself as Pop-eye, Pat Lurcock as Bluto, Sarah Lurcock as Olive, Rob Webster in charge of music, Matt Holmes and Sam Crimmin doing an excellent job of editing and superb costumes tailored up by Ashley the rest of the world were no competition for our mighty team. Bring on next year!!

Thank you for reading.

Tommy Whitfield

KEP Electrician