King Edward Point Diary – July 2005

31 July, 2005

Back to normal

July has arrived with the promise of longer days and hopefully for our intrepid skiers, heavy snow. It also heralded the return to normality after the mid-winter break. The holiday period was enjoyed by one and all. We were left to our own devices, some walking, some skiing but all of us eating too much. Sunday the 3rd started with an impromptu fire alarm at 09:30 toast being the culprit and the true culprit left very red faced having ruined Sunday sleep in, but reassuring none the less to know that the alarm system works efficiently and personnel on base reacted to it immediately. July also brought us the evening sauna season with Rik – a regular, Ali, Steve and Kris as occasionals and a few (majority) abstentionists. Our resident medical doctor Jenn had a busy start to July with two patients from the MFV Atlantic Navigator a boatman that swallowed his tooth (fortunately he was not still attached to it at the time of swallowing) and snowdrifts that had to be crossed on the way to work. She has completed her first week of July and eliminated the “waiting list” We had some heavy snowfall mid week, but sadly for most, it thawed rapidly as a temperature change of 18°C was recorded on base within a period of six hours between Friday the 7th and Saturday the 8th dashing any hopes of a “Ski weekend”.

Jenn, Ken, Kris, Sarah and Tim and all necessary accoutrements were transported across the bay by boat for a camping trip to Sorling. They spent two and a half days there and had a wonderful time if the reports that have seeped down the grapevine are to be believed. Ken, one of the South Georgia Government Officers is probably preparing himself for his departure and is stocking up his memory bank before he leaves on the 15th.

Will Reid has learned to play “Cribbage” and within a short time he is “streets ahead” of the old hands at the game and will soon be SG resident champion, much to Sarah’s and my chagrin. Jamie who likes a bit of variation in his diet and dress is now coming to terms with compass variation as boat training has nearly been completed and all on base will soon be qualified to act as “back up” to boating activities. This is due to Rik’s dedication and patience in his teaching and selfless efforts to get everybody up to standard.

The 11th was an eventful day with much activity. Ali the base commander and Steve the facilities engineer went off accompanied by cloudless skies to Mt Hodges. Kris our EE (Electrician Extraordinaire) fixed the charging problem on one of the outboard engines.

Jamie, Will and I went off on Quest to do our regular scientific fishing, comprising pots, nets and plankton trawls while Rik kept himself busy as usual, training Sarah and Kris the finer points of SAR (Search and Rescue).

We also had a flying visit from a RAF Hercules accompanied by its refueller. So all in all we had an active day with glorious weather but with a very tangible “nip” in the air.

The 12th saw in a busy day. For Quest and crew shooting a trammel net, hauling another and one of the pots and later in the day five CTD probes were taken. Conductivity, Temperature and Depth probes (CTD) are a way of collecting data to examine the behaviour of currents, their seasonal variations and changes in temperatures at various depths. The data gathered is compiled and stored to see if there is a trend that can be linked to other scientific observations both in and around South Georgia and in a global context. Rik continued his SAR training and by the end of the day nearly all hands on base had been brought up to the required standard.

Two occasions are fast approaching. Kris’s birthday on the 13th and Ken’s departure on the 15th. The evening of the 12th was busy with Rik making picture frames, Ali embroidering, Jenn and Sarah making a collage and yours truly making a ring from deer antler and stinking out Steve’s workshop, for which I was later suitably admonished!

Today’s Krissi’s birthday and also the day that the mid-winter photo will be taken. Two locations have been chosen and anybody with a camera encouraged to feel “free” to take pictures of the assemblage. The most “agreed upon photo” will be chosen as the official one at a later date, thus providing an excellent subject for discussion. Before all this happens the regular chores are completed and even the birthday boy is fishing before being allowed to get too morose about reaching the grand old age of thirty one.

Ken kindly hosted the birthday celebration in his apartment and we had an excellent night. Kris received several presents from home and from his colleagues here. To mention a few: A bottle of “Anarchy” massage oil, a collage of memorable moments, a beautiful pen from his mum and a ring made from deer antler along with many others too numerous to list here. Our host Ken was not forgotten. He was presented with a framed picture of the entire South Georgia contingent and an embroidered apron to wear when he opens his own Indian restaurant in some far flung region of the planet.

The day to day maintenance and science continues. Boats are checked, bulbs are changed and data collected, but a change of routine came with the arrival today of the Fishery Patrol Vessel (FPV) Sigma. Along with fresh provisions and spare parts she also brings the mail. Our postmistress Sarah duly collects and distributes the mail, a much loved event on base when tangible news of loved ones far away can be pored over and replies compiled to be taken away by Sigma on departure.

Friday the 15th Ken departed on Sigma and we all went to the jetty to bid him farewell. Fishing continued with the pots being done. Steve and I replaced the hoses on Prion the Harbour Patrol Vessel (HPV).

Jamie finished his boat training and the usual Friday scrubout was completed. Scrubout is a base system of weekly clean up and recycling of rubbish. Each task is rotated so everybody gets to know the system and the workload is evenly shared. Saturday was Pat and Sarah’s 17th wedding anniversary and we were able to combine work and pleasure with a trip on the HPV Pipit and Alert one of the base twin engined inflatables to Carlita Bay and Jason Harbour. Kris cooked a splendid meal in the evening catering to everybody’s varied preferences. Sunday is a relaxing day and the 17th was no exception. Jenn went skiing, Kris and Will, snowboarding and Rik organised the Sunday matinee.

Monday we awoke to a heavy covering of snow. The HPVs had to be cleared of snow as the longliner Viking Bay was due later in the morning. We have an aquarium where we store live crabs and fish, which needs daily maintenance and monthly renewal of seawater. Yet another chore in our busy schedule that was completed today!

Tuesday the krill trawler In Sung Ho arrived today and the reefer Cooler Bay. The two ships came alongside one another to tranship the catch from the trawler to the reefer. The reefer returns with the catch to Cape Town, South Africa and the trawler returns to the fishing ground. Jon the observer from the trawler got ashore for 24 hours, a welcome break from long days in rough seas. Quest was kept busy with the weekly plankton trawl. Will cooked lasagne while Jenn helped with first, the plankton trawl and later with the plankton identification in the lab. Everybody here has the opportunity to see and help with whatever speciality any individual has. From boating, to medicine, from carpentry to laboratory work we all have the chance to experience them all. We have a darkroom here which Jenn and I used on Wednesday to develop some photos Jenn took; this was done after the day’s fishing. It was the first day that both pots and the net yielded not one fish!

Today, Thursday was Quests monthly maintenance check which kept me busy for the day. The scientists were busy with otolith analysis and Rik assembled a longline. The longline will be tried as an alternative to the nets, which have the risk of mammal bycatch now that south Georgia is soon to be much more populated with its seasonal breeding visitors. Friday was a particularly busy day. The monthly base meeting and weekly scrubout. We also had a SAR scenario with Ali as a victim of a skiing accident. The rescue involved boating, skiing and Sarah Clark managing the coordination of all the activity through the comms. Ali was returned to base quickly and efficiently and made a remarkable recovery after a nice warm cup of tea. The base meeting included the scenario debrief in which we were asked to suggest any ways in which we could have improved our response to the “emergency”. On Friday evening Pat and Sarah Lurcock visited, Pat for discussion and Sarah to play cribbage. Once again Will proved his prowess and remained champion. Ali our base commander announced that she will be leaving for Cambridge and New Zealand at the end of September and in her absence Steve will be acting BC.

The weekend was quiet for outdoor activities as the weather was so poor but on Sunday the boatmen had to face the elements to put Pat on board the Santa Clara and Santa Sofia for fishery inspections.

The return of the sunshine on the boatshed is marked annually with a BBQ. This year was no exception. The sunshine was sadly lacking but enthusiasm quelled any complaints and warm food with cool beer soon had us shining.

Monday we shot the longline and retrieved it on Tuesday, sadly no fish but we are not going to give up so easily. Tuesday we had our second fire alarm of the month with Amy a visiting observer the toast burner this time. Wednesday we shot the longline again and Thursday proved we were right to persevere as we had over a fifty percent success rate. Of the twenty hooks eleven had fish! The fish we caught were tagged and returned. We are hoping to catch some Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) but on this occasion we had Rock Cod (Notothenia rossii) and (Notothenia corriiseps). Better luck next time!

Thursday I was invited along with some of my colleagues to dine at Tim and Pauline’s house. Tim and Pauline run the whaling historical museum in Grytviken about a kilometre from the base. We had a grand night, lovely food and good conversation. Friday arrived and is greeted with enthusiasm as the weekend is around the corner, after our monthly health and safety meeting which looks at any ways we can improve safety on base. Scrubout and then relax and plan the weekend activities, which sadly were severely disrupted once again due to inclement weather. As you can see July was a busy month, with a lot achieved and a lot of fun.

I will leave South Georgia in the near future bringing with me fond memories of a great team and a lovely island. I would like to say thanks to all here and to remember the folks at home and away that may be thinking of us while we are thinking of them. To all our families and friends “hello” and to my colleagues here at King Edward Point “goodbye”.