King Edward Point Diary – December 2014

31 December, 2014

December in King Edward Point began with the arrival of the Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross (JCR). She brought down all the supplies and the doctor (me) for the base for the next twelve months from Immingham, having left the UK two and a half months earlier. After docking at the jetty, there was a frantic few hours while all the food, materials, new parts and equipment vital to the maintenance of the base and the housing of the staff was unloaded. The rubbish and other items that need to be removed from the island were loaded onto the ship. In as far as it is possible, the waste produced is returned for recycling either in the UK or the Falkland Islands. While the loading of goods was happening Julie (the outgoing doctor) and I had a rapid handover of the surgeries on the JCR and base, and I had a brief introduction to some of the other tasks that I would be taking on over the next year. That evening, as the lines were released between the jetty and the JCR, we all stood on the dock to wave the ship and Julie goodbye. The next day or two mainly involved unpacking and checking off of the goods against manifest sheets to ensure that we had all the items we require for the next year.

The middle of the month remained busy and the old winterers (Chris, Daniel and Matt) departed. Steph, the higher predator biologist, walked over to Maiviken beach every other day to monitor the numbers of fur seal pups being born, regardless of the weather. It is a lovely if somewhat strenuous walk over the tussock grass, avoiding seals and bogs, to the beach. En route to the beach, Steph also checks on the Gentoo penguin colony at Maiviken, to check the progress of the chicks. When Steph has determined which day is the ‘peak pupping day’, she will take a group of us over to the seal colony at Maiviken to weigh the pups (at one, two and three months on from peak pupping day) and find out how well they are growing. The same will also be done for the Gentoo chicks slightly later on in the season.

James the fisheries biologist was busy compiling and analysing fisheries research data, and practicing Auld Lang Syne on the pipes for New Years Eve.

Erny and Ray our tech staff were kept busy trying to track down a fault in the hydroelectric power station that kept causing it to trip out, along with the maintenance of the base infrastructure (particularly Erny’s beloved ‘poo-pipe’).

Our two boaties, Matthew and Adam, were busy over December moving staff about the vicinity of the base and nearby sites for science and monitoring purposes, plus bringing staff to the vessels that call into King Edward Cove.

There were twenty-five people resident in King Edward Point and the nearby ex-whaling site of Grytviken over Christmas; the eleven British Antarctic Survey Staff, two Government Officers and their wives, three museum staff and seven builders. Our preparations for Christmas started on Friday 19th, with an early scrubout (the weekly deep clean of the base) followed by decorating the KEP base buildings and the Grytviken Church. This was aided by a plentitude of Deirdre’s mince pies and Sheri and Rachel’s mulled wine.

HMS Dragon, a type 45 destroyer was anchored just outside King Edward Cove over the Christmas period, and our boats helped ferry all the naval staff who wanted to go ashore to stretch their legs while they were in the bay. There was even a game of touch rugby at Grytviken on Boxing Day.

To a certain extent, it was business as usual over Christmas, as the cruise ships all like to visit Grytviken over the holiday period. There were two cruise ships in the cove on Christmas Day, The Fram and Le Soleal, and two on Boxing Day, Le Boreal and the Sea Adventurer, and a further three over the next few days. Our Postmaster Hugh was kept very busy on board these ships with his ‘floating post-office’, and the three staff at the South Georgia and South Sandwich Island Heritage Trust Museum at Grytviken were inundated providing tours and educational lectures for these visitors. Some of the visiting ships also held Christmas services in the church at Grytviken.

The building team, who worked every day for a fortnight up until Christmas, took a few days well-earned rest from their project at Grytviken, held a Christmas day BBQ, and they were lucky enough to have an absolutely stunning day for it.

All the BAS staff at KEP made an item each for the Christmas dinner and all the staff from the government, building team and the museum staff were invited for an evening dinner once the cruise ships left for the day.

2014 was brought to a close with a BBQ; James’ home-made SG reindeer burgers went down a treat. Followed by a super hero themed party in the boat shed.

Emma Browne

KEP doctor.