King Edward Point Diary – January 2009

31 January, 2009 King Edward Point

January, the month just flew by down here at KEP, with a lot happening on base that kept the entire team busy and on our toes.

The year 2009 got off to a fantastic start on New Years Eve, it was the doc Angy’s birthday. The celebrations started with a stroll up Mt. Duse and a big get together for a cheese fondue. Spirits were high and the craic was mighty. Some of the evening’s activities included a 3-legged race, which was won by team Ireland. We rang in the New Year on Hope point with a glass of champagne. All that was missing was some of our friends who had gone camping to St. Andrews Bay.

The Fishery Patrol Vessel (FPV) Pharos arrived on the 2nd bringing with them a homemade Jacuzzi. Everyone on base took great delight in packing a towel and togs to have a dip on the foredeck of the Pharos.

The next big date on our calendar was the South Georgia ½ marathon on the 6th. Some of the boys had been training very hard for weeks.

The winner was going to be very deserving. Some of the not so big running enthusiasts were partaking in the runklethon — part running-part walking. We couldn’t have asked for a better day. Everyone had completed the arduous course by 1500 hrs.

The course was over to Grytviken, up Brown Mountain, back to KEP via Grytviken, to do a turn about and back along the track, over Deadmans pass and round Maiviken hut and then head for the finish. The winning time was an amazing 1hour 45 minutes by Robin Snape — breaking the existing record. With such a sunny day, we all got together and put on a BBQ. It was a perfect way to finish the day.

On the 17th January we celebrated the 234th anniversary of the day Captain Cook claimed the island. It was a bit of fate and a nice unexpected surprise that the NERC research ship “James Cook” came alongside the KEP jetty. We were all treated to a gin and tonic or 2 at Carse house, home of the Government officer Pat and his wife the postmistress Sarah.

Our social calendar was very busy for the month. On the 25th, we had a good old knees up for Burns’ night. We had haggis, neaps and tatties for dinner, and a traditional Scottish dessert Cranachan. We had superb coaching from our own Scottish scientist Jon, who lead us in some very committed swinging, spinning and leaping. Some dancing was also done.

We had a lot of ship and passenger movement for the month. We had 18 cruise ship visits, 3 trawlers for inspection and 7 yachts in the bay. One of those cruise ships was the “Prince Albert 2” that had 89 American students on board between the ages of 15-18. They came on base for a guided tour, and our Scientists Luke and Jon gave them a talk on the work that is carried out here.

One of the 7 yachts that visited will be here in South Georgia for longer than some of us. It is a very famous wooden boat called “Wanderer 3”, with Thies and Kicki aboard. They came here to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary on the 11th and plan to stay here for the winter and are fitting in really well with all the team.

On the passenger movements, there is nearly too many to mention. At the start of the month, Manos Tsentides left on the RSS James Clark Ross. He had stayed longer than originally planned but his legendary “spag bol” is still living on in the freezer being saved for a special occasion.

Chris Moore, a talented young man from America arrived on the Pharos to help out in the museum. Also on that first FPV drop off of the year, on the 2nd Jan, was Grant Ward (Electrical engineer with BAS), Anton Wolfaardt and his partner Leigh-Anne. Anton works for ACAP (Agreement on the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels) and is the co-ordinator for the UK overseas Territories. He was also formidable competition in the marathon. Leigh-Anne is a very gifted artist, and we were lucky enough to see some of work from her time here on the island. I couldn’t forget to mention 2 visitors who had everyone in stitches at the dinner table. Our master of accents Christian, and Mariska, from Wellington University, who were carrying out research into the impact of tourism on South Georgia’s wildlife.

Also on the island for 2 weeks, as guests of Carse house were Bob and Nina Ashton. Bob was one of the Royal Marines at King Edward Point (KEP) when the Argentines invaded in 1982.

We did lose some treasured members of the team this month though. We had to say a very emotional goodbye to Robbo Snape. He had been at Bird Island for 2 years and KEP for half a year. We also said farewell to Heather, the museum assistant, who had the patience to teach some of us how to knit.

A bunch of hard working men stepped off the Pharos on the 26th. Five builders arrived to build a new biosecurity building on base. They will be here till March.

On the science front, it’s also been a busy busy month. Luke, the fisheries scientist, was missed on base for 10 days as he was away on the icefish trawler “Sil” to conduct the annual GSGSSI research fishing cruise. Already on board were scientists Dr. Mark Belchier (BAS), Dr. Martin Collins (BAS), Michelle Taylor (MRAG and London zoo Octocoral PhD scientist), and Dr. Rebecca Mitchell (MRAG), who joined us on base for 2 weeks. In addition to the scientists on board there was a groundfish survey consultant Len Featherstone and Janine Nelson, an MRAG icefish observer.

Luke also completed plankton trawls in Cumberland East bay and off Stromness bay this month. Needless to say, he has enough work to keep him going till next January after all that.

Jon was also kept going to say the least. He was pup weighing on the 5th in Maiviken, doing a Macaroni Chick census in Rookery on the 20th for 3 days and then off to the Greene peninsula to complete a Giant Petrel chick census on the 25th. Jon was also off base from the 10th to the 14th. He was on the FPV Pharos, along with Robbo, GO Pat Lurcock, Anton, Leigh-Anne, Sally Poncet and Ken Passfield. Some of the work that was carried out on this particular science cruise included Albatross and Prion surveys in the bay of Isles, that was completed by Sally and Ken. Then they travelled south to Cooper Bay to take samples from the penguins following the outbreak of avian cholera in the chinstrap colony there some years ago.

That just about wraps up the month of January at KEP. I’m sure I will have forgotten to mention some bits of news, for that I’m sorry. I hope next January will be as action packed for those lucky enough to find themselves working here.