King Edward Point Diary – December 2009

31 December, 2009

The month was started by the new members of the team going field training for 4 days, Ali Massey, Susan Woodward Tom Marshall and Matt Holmes to Sørling Valley. Tom is the outgoing base commander who also is a GA, although we had some training in the UK before leaving to come to South Georgia we needed further training to enhance our skills of navigation using maps, compasses and hand held GPS. We also had training on walking on the Nordenskjold glacier, which was great fun learning how to walk with crampons on and how to use ice axes. Although the weather wasn’t the greatest it rained for a couple of days the last day was nice and sunny, typical.

The Birthday of the month was Richy, so he suggested to have pizzas in the bar area. This was a great idea but as we don’t have pre-made pizzas or bases it was up to Jon to make the bases and pizzas, as it was his turn on cook duty. After plenty of different topping ideas were come up with he made his decision on what to make and put on a feast of pizzas with a variety of toppings one of them being haggis which went down really well. Richy had a great birthday with some great gifts; he definitely looks a little older now I am not sure if he is any wiser though.

I decided to take an afternoon off from work, as it was such a fantastic day with not a cloud in the sky, little wind and the sun beaming down. I knew that Ricardo a refrigeration engineer who had come from the Falklands to repair the refrigeration on base was due to depart from us in the next couple of days, and as he had finished all of his work I decided as a treat to take him up mount Duse which is just behind the base. That was decided so midday came the weather hadn’t changed and we set off for the top. We arrived on the first ledge where I have been a couple of times now and the views were stunning, we were watching some snow petrels flying around us. As the weather conditions were perfect we carried on to the summit where I haven’t been before due to weather and snow on previous trips. What a view, well worth the hike up the steep slope. The view of base and Grytviken whaling station with the bright blue sea was stunning. I now realise why people nick name here as the banana belt, looking at the pictures it does look more like tropical seas.

The next morning we were all busy around base especially Manos who came down in November from Cambridge to sort a few computer issues out. The network all crashed here on base during the night. Talking to the previous winterers this happened last year just before he was about to leave and ended up staying for Christmas. So was it an attempt for him to stay for Christmas, I think we were hoping it was as he is great fun to have around base. Manos worked around the clock and he fixed it with just a couple of hours to spare. Well done, shame you weren’t here for Christmas as we could do with some more spaghetti bolognaise as we have run out already. He made enough of it to last a year, last time he was here apparently, this time it has only lasted a week. We had to say goodbye to Manos, Ricardo, Les Whittamore and the builders (Dave Peck, Christian, Tim). A few of us braved the 6am departure and waved goodbye. So they can get back to the UK in time for Christmas.

The next day we had the pleasure of the JCR arriving to collect some cargo and waste from us. But on a sadder note we also knew that they were also here to collect Tom Marshall and Iain Staniland and take them to King Haakon Bay to do fur seal tagging and a count. As they would be living in a pyramid tent over Christmas on the other side of the Island we made sure they had a few surprises and treats for their stay, Ali and Bridget made them a Christmas cake earlier in the month. A busy day was had loading the ship of cargo. On the positive side of all the hard work it was great to catch up with some friends on the JCR, who had been picked up from Rothera, Signy and Bird Island as well as the crew. That evening we waved the JCR off saying our good byes. The JCR was soon out of sight out of the cove.

Next thing we all knew it was the day before Christmas Eve, and still not having had time to put the decorations up we decided it was time they should go up. We all have been busy preparing for Christmas, Ali and Bridget made the Christmas cake and puddings earlier in the month. Paula made a fantastic soup for starter, to name just a few. We had a church service in the church at Grytviken jointly with the passengers off the Hanseatic (which is a cruise ship). Which was nice and festive with carols, we all got up and sang the South Georgian 12 days of Christmas. Then it was Christmas day, Jon and George braved themselves for a walk to Maiviken to do the fur seal photos and counts at the study beaches. This wasn’t an easy task as the wind and rain had picked up, they came back like drowned rats and failed in their mission. The museum assistants were waiting for the Hanseatic to bring passengers ashore and waited all day they did, but we knew it would be too windy for them as we had reports of 150 knot gusts. Most of us were busy in the kitchen preparing for the evening Christmas meal. A fantastic meal was had by all, after our meal few of us braved the elements out side to find it was hard to even stand up in the wind. Even though the lashings of excellent food should hold us on the ground better that didn’t seem to help.

Christmas was soon over and it was back to the grindstone.

Matt Holmes