King Edward Point Diary – July 2004

31 July, 2004

Transhipping inspections

As I type this diary entry I find it hard not to get distracted and sit looking out of the window onto a foot or more of fresh snow and a landscape for which I fail to find enough superlatives, then I am reminded that my diary entry is a month or more overdue so with no more distractions and closed curtains here goes.

The first day of July saw me delivering the South Georgia transhipping inspection team out to a “reefer” and trawler to over see the transfer of tooth-fish from the fishing vessel to the refrigerated transport ship.This is a long days work for the team of two fisheries officers and two scientists as transhipping can take upwards of twenty four hours and every box of fish has to be counted and a percentage have to be weighed and inspected, this is so our fishery complies with the marine stewardship council regulations.

Senior fisheries officer and Cyrano De Bergerac impersonator Mr Pat Lurcock Explained the M.S.C. scheme“It’s a bit like the various soil association schemes in the U.K, it’s an independent inspection to ensure that our fishery is responsibly managed on a sustainable basis”….”Oh and all the fish get a little badge to wear at the supermarket so people can see how good they are.”

This was the last of these particular outings as the tooth-fishery was about to close for the season and the remaining transhipments were due to be carried out in the Falkland Islands. I don’t think our science team were too unhappy about the end of twenty-four hour shifts in the –25c blast freezers of reefers or stood on the deck of a fishing vessel with only occasional sushi and Chilean marineros for company.

Apart from anything the scientists had plenty of science stuff to do…

With various tooth fish fisheries observers bringing gonads ashore the scientists had their hands full, so to speak!

This involved a bit of what was described as “bucket science”, allow me to explain; The tooth fish season draws to a close at this time of year as the fish will soon come into breeding season, however a few fish are caught that are “keen to get on with it”, this allows the science team an opportunity to collect eggs and milt and do what nature intended with it (well kind off) i.e. squeeze it all into a bucket mix it up a bit and see if little baby fish happen. Unfortunately we have not yet heard the patter of tiny little fins, as was expected it was all a little early in the season for it to be successful.

Not a great deal is known about the tooth-fish’s early development so it would have been nice for the science chaps to have some fry to observe in those stages of life.

“Team Fish” were also busy hosting “krill parties” these occur when Government observers onboard krill fishing vessels submit samples of their ships catch for inspection, this is to asses by-catch and how much impact krill fishing has on the other species in the fishery area.

Maybe you dear reader would like to have a go?

Let me explain the rules of a “krill party”.

We sort through the krill as it is still defrosting so its very cold, so before you start the game you might like to put your fingers in a bowl of ice water until they get close to unbearably cold.

The aim of the game is to find anything that isn’t krill i.e. tiny weenie baby fishes.

These little fishy fellows are very fragile so you might want to take those gloves off. The shells of the krill are sharp so give yourself a few paper-cuts on your fingertips, that’s more like it – the chaps you are looking for are tiny little fish, so tiny they are see through in fact, all you can really see are the eyes which are brilliant blue so… “Where’s Wally?”

Well that’s enough of Team Fish how about the rest of us?

Rich and Pete got away for a bit of an adventure before the snow disappeared, with lots of skiing etc. while they were away the neighbours Lurcock invited the remainder of us around for splendid Sunday lunch, which was a very sophisticated event, with dozens of courses of fine food and a wine tasting (well kind of, but without all that unpleasant spitting business!). That saw us groggily into the week.

That started with dental checkups. It’s in to see our trusty doctor/ dentist/ psychopath Jenny.

Here is our local locum, as you can see she is relaxing after some terrorist insurgence activities. Would you let this lady put sharp metal objects in your mouth? Somehow the dental checks turned into mental checks, many of us found that after being orally probed we had our aural cavities inspected for signs of life, and then duly hosed out, this brought a great relief to some on base who could for the first time in months hear and exclaimed ear syringing to be the new panacea for all ills, some of us however are still half deaf and now we have had it confirmed we are just a little more depressed for it, ahh well, I said AHH WELL!

…And now for more boat stuff.

It is at this time of year before the return to our shores of the myriad of wildlife and without the prospect of upsetting Albatri or Giant Petrels with low flying, the R.A.F. Hercules crew of 1312 flight, R.A.F Mount Pleasant use our little boats for a bit of target practise, which is nice for them as it gives those aviator types some useful operational practice and gives us a bit of an event in picking things from the water and also some goodies (not the Bill Oddie, Tim Brooke Taylor sort), on this occasion descending on a large pink parachute was a DVD of the Return of the King, a bag of fresh lemons, loads of newspapers, various magazines, sweeties, and presents (a little late for midwinter but very welcome all the same) also a copy of “Effects Based Warfare” (slipped into the package by some humorous Raffy type no doubt) which we are especially thankful for, as we are now all experts in the use of “Military power for strategic effect” and “strategic decision making” so beware anyone who dares challenge us to a game of Risk or suchlike! Our thanks go to all who packed, sent, transported and dropped us goodies we had a cracking day.

Later on in the month we were once again getting excited as the Fisheries Patrol Vessel was due to bring back more neighbours for us. Tim and Pauline Carr, authors, sailors, skiers, adventurers not to mention curators and bakers, had been off on a well deserved holiday and in returning, not only finalised the over winter head count but also brought a new hope of instruction in the black art of Telemark skiing and of tea and buns after a long day (or short session) out on the hills, as they live half way between the skiing areas and our house! All are happy to see them back fit and well.

More good news here for various members of the team as contracts were confirmed. Congratulations go, if somewhat belatedly to the Base commander Vicky Auld who next season will add command of Bird Island station to her long list of BAS postings, also well done to comrade Krissi Hall who will be staying right here for a second season as station Electrician, cookie, biscuit and coffee maker and tea boy extraordinaire!

As a little defence to my tardiness in diarising I will tell you about the midwinter picture, (midwinter was June) we took the picture mid July as we had some stunning ice in the bay as a background and the sun had returned to hope point, and we do stuff a little late!

Here is the midwinter compliment:

Rob Gator – assistant fisheries officer, Pauline Carr, Tim Carr, Dr Frin Ross – chief scientist and queen of the fairies, Pat (that’s Mr Pat to you Males) Lurcock – chief fisheries officer, Peter Love, Moi avec face fungus, Brian Beck – generator mechanic and all round handy bloke, and Sarah Lurcock – postmistress and G&T aficionado, Vicky Auld – Base Commander and Antarctic adventurer, Rich The Mitchell – extreme scientist, Suzi Hawkins – who is very nice, Comrade Krissi “why eye I’m freezing” Hall, and last but not least the delightful Dr Jenny Corser.

Now for a little self indulgence …

My greatest achievement of the month and best day off thus far would have to be going on a little skiing adventure, no wait that’s my second greatest achievement, my greatest is fixing my skis after my second greatest achievement, which was a trip to meet up with a returning (from an overnight camping trip) band of travellers at Echo pass, this was the furthest I had been in horizontal or vertical distance from base since my arrival (due mostly to being busy working, honest!) It really was a grand trip, even if the snow was a bit thin and the rocks were a bit sharp in places. What with a picture being worth a thousand words, and me with a vocabulary of less than two dozen, here I am waving to the folks back home having apparently disappeared up to my waist in snow!

I shall finish as is customary on BAS diary pages, by saying a quick ‘Hello’ to all the people I miss dearly, they know who they are, I hope you are making the most of it, and are well and happy wherever you are.

All the best