King Edward Point Diary – January 2002

31 January, 2002 King Edward Point

An introduction to KEP

The newest British Antarctic Survey station at King Edward Point was opened in March 2001 so we are approaching our first Birthday. However there are still many in BAS with fond memories of South Georgia from prior to 1982. For them, though the buildings are new, a British Antarctic Survey presence here is not. The new base is a joint project between BAS, The Government of South Georgia and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office meaning personnel are not exclusive to BAS. Our buildings are shared with a Fisheries/Marine Officer, Postmistress and other Government workers including Field Researchers. The total summer complement is around fourteen, dropping to ten in the winter.

In less than two seasons King Edward Point has been transformed by a combination of construction, demolition and judicious restoration. The main station building is divided into two parts. Everson House is the accommodation and communal amenity, whereas the Cook Laboratory encompasses science and communication facilities. The boat garage is capable of storing all the boats as well as housing the power plant and all Technical Services workshops.

An Ex-MOD building, Larsen House, is presently being renovated to the same high standard as the rest of station. This will comprise additional accommodation and conference facilities along with a large purpose built Medical Centre. Other buildings removed this season have been Shackleton House and old storage areas and workshops. This has given King Edward Point a unified and aesthetic quality, crowned by the painstaking restoration of Discovery House (the main base laboratory of the Discovery Expeditions). A fitting tribute to Antarctic Science, past and future.

The main academic work of King Edward Point is fisheries science, using previous work here as a source of comparison. Study of individual species and the marine ecosystem as a whole will allow us to make accurate estimates of fish stocks. The three Marine Biologists obtain samples through their own endeavours on the station vessel Quest, skippered by a professional boatman. They also receive samples from the commercial vessels that are licensed to fish these waters.

The work requires close liaison with Government-employed Fisheries Observers present on all commercial vessels and the two Fisheries Patrol Ships that visit regularly from the Falkland Islands. Another unique feature of King Edward Point relative to other BAS stations is the sheer number of visitors. The year-round fishing vessels are joined in the summer by up to 30 cruise ship visits with wildlife and history as their principal concerns. This provides an opportunity to highlight the science undertaken here, and by BAS in general, as our Biologists are frequently invited onboard as guest speakers. The Military are also summer visitors providing additional sources of supply and a chance for recreational trips. There is a small, yet determined, community of high latitude sailors. Some come for pleasure, others to bring teams of climbers, skiers or film crews.

The Christmas and New Year period saw all station personnel in good festive spirits. Activities included a Carol Service, cricket match, BBQ and culminated with Fancy Dress on the 31st. More recent social events have been a spate of birthdays, the Tenth Anniversary of The South Georgia Museum and the Eightieth Anniversary of the Death of Sir Ernest Shackleton. Base personnel and summer contractors toasted his achievements and memory by the graveside.

The season has been busy with cargo relief, personnel movement and general maintenance in preparation for our second winter. Fortunately, superb summer weather has resulted in pleasant working conditions and a chance for walking and boating at weekends. Others have enjoyed the sunshine through less strenuous activities affording unimpeded access to the spectacular views.