King Edward Point Diary – December 2005

31 December, 2005

Christmas at KEP

On the back of the madness that was November comes of course December, the work that never ends, the odd party or celebration and of course for good measure the build up to Christmas, before the main event itself takes place closely followed by the trusty and thoroughly enjoyable New Years party signifying the end of the month and year. There was so much going on throughout the month that I’m not even going to mention the dreaded work side of life (well only once or twice) you will just have to believe me that it was still there in abundance and being done by all throughout the festivities mentioned below.

The month started in high spirits with a pick up of the girls by boat from their camping trip to St Andrews. Plenty of smiles were evident during the return journey attesting to the fact the trip had provided a good and worthwhile break across the board. In the evening a slide show was given by the Kayakers showing their trip around the island. This proved just how nicely we are shielded by the weather at KEP as their slides showed ice in the sea and on their kayaks. Some speculation was discussed as to who did the most ground roots circumnavigation of the island due to their yacht support and sometime sleeping aboard whilst on the trip. However, the thing that cannot be contested is just how tough a trip this is for whoever and however they might chose to undertake it so a big congrats to them all.

On the 3rd we had an amazing collection of yachts and ships at KEP that just happened to occur on the same day a small social event had been planned for island folk. This consisted of bars being established around the local buildings and run by the island staff themselves. With the input of the yachts and ships at the last moment that hadn’t been planned (no really it hadn’t) this ended up consisting of 11 bars that everyone wandered around for a few hours. Just to clarify most of these were coffee bars so no alcohol was consumed of course… honest!

With the date moving on to the 6th it was time to decorate the church ready for the festive season, this was done in the usual spirit of the season and looked absolutely tremendous for all the services to come. The finished product can be seen later in the newsletter.

8th The Ernest Shackleton arrived alongside to the customary bbq, which is enjoyed by all, and after a tough bit of cargo and bartering for anything that they and we might like to swap is a great way to relax in the evening. It was also a final party and drink with Jenn our Doc who was departing on the shack on the 9th for her visit to Halley (and the Emperor penguins) during their resupply and personnel change over.

Goodbye Jenn you will be missed.

9th The departure of the shack was the signal for Sigma (FPV) to arrive bringing with it Darren (the rat man) from the Falklands. He was doing an assessment on the feasibility of rat eradication, an imported (by mistake) animal that has thrived on the island since the whaling days. It all looked promising though and with luck this will be carried out in the future.

On the 10th HMS Endurance arrived and deposited a group of their guys and girls at KEP to carry out surveying of the uncharted areas around the bay. A good few evenings were had socialising and finding out what’s been happening back in the world without us, in between all the work.

13th Rick, Will, Sarah, Javier and myself were lucky enough to get a trip to Husvik whaling station on board HMS Endurance, this was to watch them offloading stores for the Norwegian team that would be repairing the managers villa later in the season. Having achieved this task quicker than expected we were lucky enough to be offered a trip up to Bird Island as the weather window was available and they had another two passengers to drop off there. Having checked with Base we very happily accepted and around midday set off towards the top of the island. To make a very memorable trip into an amazing trip we were also lucky enough to be offered a helicopter ride, taking three of us Will, Javier and myself up above the cloud to Warburton peak and the surrounding area affording us some stunning views which without the helicopter never would have been available to us.

Many, many thanks to Captain of HMS Endurance and the helicopter crew for making this possible for us. Unfortunately Sarah and Rick missed their turn as the weather closed in and the helicopter couldn’t fly again that day.

We arrived off Bird Island in the late afternoon and although we didn’t get ashore we did get so see a few wandering albatross sitting on the sea and many other sea birds as well, well worth the effort. Having disembarked a couple of photographers onto Bird Island we then turned and headed for home arriving back in the Bay on the 15th.

Having disembarked Endurance ourselves, Charlotte went on for a chat with the ships doctor and lunch only to be told they couldn’t get her off again and she would have to stay overnight. This didn’t cause any problems apart from the fact that Charlotte only took the bare minimum of kit as it was just for lunch but luckily Simon the ships doctor managed to sort out a toothbrush and someone else was dislodged from their cabin for Charlotte to use so the day was saved.

16th Krissi (AKA Yul Grinner) ‘not really a punk’ finally departed having completed his two years of hard labour on the island on board FPV Sigma escorted by Pat just to make sure he didn’t try to jump overboard and come and rejoin us. OK not really, Pat left for his break having completed the winter season, we look forward to seeing Pat and Sarah back with us in April. Krissi will be missed as an integral part of the team and fitness mad punter, he is replaced by Adrian who strangely enough is also particularly into his physical training. Maybe it’s down to something in the water where they train electricians?

As the Terminator always says ‘He’ll be back’. Bye Krissi, you will be missed.

17th Endeavour arrived at KEP and in the evening a limited edition bronze fur seal hand sculpted by Nick was auctioned for a total of £28,000 that then went towards the upkeep and further improvement of the museum. An amazing sum to be raised so many thanks to those involved in the auction for all their contributions.

On the 19th to maintain our training schedule and to let the new folk see and practice with our kit we had an oil spill exercise to show our abilities and limitations. Sarah was good enough to wear the kit to show what a becoming little rig it is, a new style about to be started!!!!!… NOT. Apart from the obligatory snow flurry (or that’s the way it seems when we do oil spill exercises) all went well although we hope its something we never have to put into practice.

On the 22nd Ali headed out on Endurance for a couple of nights sightseeing starting at Stromness on the first evening. The following day Endurance and Ali were back to collect Dame Ellen McArthur who had just arrived on board Tara for onward transfer to the Golden Fleece, which was to carry out the Petrel survey with Sally Poncet.

Having transferred Sally, Ellen and her photographer onto Endurance they left the bay and went for a look around the local area. This included being taken up in their helicopter and getting to see KEP from a birds eye view, including a fly by of the base amongst other things! Sally, Ellen and the photographer were brought back to the base on board the harbour launch leaving Ali on board whilst the ship sailed down to Cooper Bay and Drygalski Fjord. Unfortunately for Ali Drygalski was fog bound so the views weren’t great but the smile on her face once returned to the base said the trip was still greatly appreciated and enjoyable. Whilst Ali was off base we had a small social gathering allowing Ellen to see everyone without crowding her too much (I hope) which seemed to go down alright with everyone present.

24th Right hope you are keeping up with all of this, so we are now on the 24th with HMS Endurance back alongside. This allowed the Navy to get their survey folk back on board and have a couple of seasonal drinks with all of us invited (many thanks Captain). This preceded our traditional and festive Carol service in the church which was as always very well attended by ourselves, Museum and Government staff, Morrison staff, Yacht crews and of course the Royal Navy. All in all a very busy and full church service which had a good go at raising the rafters accompanied of course by Rick on the harmonium and Nick on the Sax. After the service finished an impromptu sing along happened with the crewman from Tara joining in on the squeeze box , this was followed by a few quiet festive drinks in our bar. Oh yes I forgot The Golden Fleece, Sally, Ellen, Dion and the rest of the crew left on the 23rd as well to start their survey. Somewhere in there the Tara arrived and left, returning again on New Years Eve as you will read later. If you have kept up with all of this then you are doing better than me but it just goes to show what a busy but also excellent time you can have on a quiet island that only a handful of folk actually reside on!

25th The day began early with present opening and a church service being done by the Royal Navy with all invited to attend. We were lucky enough to be hosted again by Morrison for lunch, which yet again was a culinary masterpiece laid on by Andy Chef (he’s the cook by the way that’s not really his name) and served by the guys, many thanks from us to them for an excellent lunch and very social day out. Afterwards we headed back to Endurance for a socialise with the Navy. This was also when Jamie decided to let one of the Navy seniors cut his hair for a large sum of money to go towards the save the albatross collection he was doing. Absolutely nuts if you ask me but a damn good cause and a braver man than me, well in Jamie. Luckily no photo of this event is available which is good as it saves the risk of scaring our readers to death.

26th On Boxing day Will, Adrian and Martony made a break for St Andrews to see the King Penguin colony and get a bit of peace and quiet not returning until the 29th. Leaving KEP rather short of football playing team members for the match against the Royal Navy. Numbers were made up by both the Navy and a visiting GA who unfortunately managed to irritate an old knee injury and had to be brought back to see the doc by the KEP ambulance (JCB and trailer) thankfully it proved to not be serious and he was soon back on board the ship ready for its departure.

28th The intrepid antipodeans Scobby, Tussock and Ferret were taken to the Green Peninsula to carry out hut repairs. This was done over a few days and by night the lights could be seen shining from the hut windows. Im not sure whether this was down to the late hours they were working or the alcohol and war stories making them glow in the dark, well it was almost New Year after all.

Over the 29th to 31st Emma the Government officer and myself left for a few days of peace and quiet away from Base, staying at a little cove called tortula. For me it was the chance to escape my birthday as I really don’t enjoy them so much (its an age thing). The wildlife and solitude certainly make for a relaxing break even though Emma had packed a small cake and card for me, which was a most unexpected and appreciated surprise for my birthday. Many thanks Emma.

The gentoos spent hours wandering past dodging fur and elephant seals after being out to sea feeding ready to come back and feed the chicks.

31st Emma and myself returned from our camping trip ready for a full night of laughs with the rest of the folk as we celebrated New Year. This started with a birthday cake and rendition of happy birthday for myself, which just goes to show that even in South Georgia you can’t get older quietly?

The guys from Morrison arrived for the evening’s festivities completing the unusual family that is KEP. Tara arrived in the cove with one of the crew injured and in need of Doc Charlottes services. As normal a stunning service was provided with the assistance of the boatmen and the patient complete with a pot on the fractured leg was later in the bar playing his squeeze box and getting everyone dancing. For some reason this did have Sarah doing river dance in the bar that could be felt vibrating at the other end of the base! The festivities went on until early in the morning and yet another month.

So that covers December, so why did it take me till April to get the thing finished, well we are busy here too you know! Hopefully the wait was worth it to catch up with the news of what happened way back when. I promise I will get the next one out on time (well maybe). Of course a big hello to friends and family of everyone, especially my own and of course now it’s the big count down to handover time, yes definitely over halfway through for most of us so less that 12 months to go in most cases.