King Edward Point Diary – June 2005

30 June, 2005

Midwinter

The time is flying by – I can’t believe we have been here 8 months already. The sun disappeared from the base late last month and will not shine on us again for at least eight weeks.

Only two days into June and so much has happened! No email to start with then the HMS Portland arrived on Thursday the 2nd – cruising into Cumberland Bay West and taking up residence for several days. Most of the base was kept busy ferrying the ships company to the jetty and back again.

While here HMS Portland delivered a team of ordnance experts to dispose of ammunition and explosives identified during the past year.

The stash found at Godthul was their main target and on a perfect Saturday they were flown in by Lynx helicopter to begin the task of disposing of the old explosives discovered in a rusty sealed tank on the shorefront at Godthul.

HMS Portland invited a group of base members on board to dine with the captain while in West Cumberland Bay – a welcome diversion. Following our meal we watched Flight 1312 fly by. The RAF Hercules out of MPA in the Falklands made an airdrop of essential magazines and wine for the well being of the ship’s company.

Work on base continues regardless of visitors. June saw several southeasterly storms erode the beach outside the base virtually overnight. Ice growlers blown across the bay by strong winds jostled for position in the waves, damaging the boulder gabions that protect the sewage outlet. These were replaced in Steve’s usual efficient style.

At KEP science never sleeps either – there is always aquarium water to change and fishing to be done. It amazes me the range of creatures that pass through the facilities in any given week. Anything from large adult toothfish thrashing about on the floor to minute fish larvae in petrie dishes from plankton trawls.

Now it’s the second week and all we’ve had is rain, rain and more rain. The temperatures keep rising and there is still no snow – T and P will be pleased they’re not missing much.

June is probably the month when the least wildlife is present around King Edward Point and the cove. Even so, numerous sightings were recorded. On the 11th a young Leopard seal was spotted lying among the whaling station remains at Grytviken. That leopard seals are present in the bay is also obvious by the number of partially maimed and frightened looking penguins about.

As midwinter approaches secretive behaviour is developing in many. Trips to the chippie shop are becoming a regular thing and lots of discussion about various wood crafting techniques has been overheard.

On the 14th we all assembled on the jetty for our first Oil Spill Response scenario. Despite the cold everybody got into the spirit of the exercise, booms were deployed, the fast tank set up and pumps started.

The Dorada arrived on Thursday the 16th during a raging snowstorm gusting over 50 knots. Very unpleasant doing early morning rounds with snow swirling all around in the pitch black – quite an eerie surreal feeling.

During a lull in the weather Dorada came into the cove and passengers and cargo were unloaded using the jetboat Pipit.

We welcomed back a new and improved Tim and Pauline to the island plus Amy and Jon, the two krill observers beginning their seasons work.

Our Midwinter Holiday celebrations began on Friday the 17th. With an expectant air the Lounge was decorated and a bar meal was served – what better way to start. We then relaxed back to enjoy new company and old friends.

Saturday night an Indian Resturant, ‘The Bombay Carsel’, was opened in Carse House by the Lurcocks and Ken (Kenjit) for the enjoyment of the rest of us. It was noted that many reverted quickly to the sort of behaviour exhibited in Indian restaurants after a session in the pub – there are definitely a few I wouldn’t venture out with in normal circumstances!!!

I woke on Sunday morning to the phone ringing. Will was on the other end telling me to look out the window – a large female leopard seal was wriggling along playfully rubbing her head in the snow as she passed. She seemed very pleased that the world was now white. We noted she was sporting a large wound, which makes me think that life isn’t all easy pickings for these large predators.

The holiday week brought one or two krill reefers and trawlers but nothing compared to previous years so we were lucky. Midwinters Day dawned calm and crisp – the moon was still up and shining on the ice filled cove when I did my rounds at 06:00 and the day didn’t break until after 09:00. I made the bread and then proceeded to fill the breakfast orders – one of the many fine KEP traditions.

At 12:00 sharp we had the traditional stimulating dip in the freezing ocean – a strange sensation swimming with the brash ice – if only for a few seconds – the water was a chilly -2.3°C. The distance between the water and the sauna seemed huge afterwards but we soon warmed up – some even went in for seconds – nutters!

After that it was all hands in the kitchen getting the many courses prepared for the evening meal. What a feast – prawn cocktails, soup, baked whole salmon with deserts and cheeses to follow.

On the 21st we also received gifts from home, which came as a shock as we weren’t expecting any. Then the Midwinter gifts were given and received – what an array – I am amazed at the talent displayed – I think most of us surprised ourselves at what we could produce.

Another Midwinter highlight was the Pub Quiz organized astutely by Sarah L. on Friday the 24th.

It was won convincingly by the Boss, the Beaker and the Boatman, followed closely by Bernie’s Bitches and the team with No Name, with the Slayers coming last. I never realized we were so competitive – it all came out believe me.

Saturday the 25th saw another big night on base – the Pub Crawl. Specifically designed to see who could pace themselves, and had the most stamina.

We started the evening at Tim and Paulines ‘Yodel Inn’, where a range of delicious snacks along with delicious Gluhwine was served. Then on to ‘The Waterfront Bar’ where the boatmen served us Hot Toddies from flasks on the jetboats in the freezing cold. We then hurriedly made our way to the net store renamed ‘The Decomposing Polychaete’, where Team Fish served us an array of delicious cocktails with exotic names and strange colours, such as ‘Milt of Toothfish’, along with deep-fried scampi, fish fingers and chips. Krissi opened the ‘Punk Rock Inn’ in his pitroom and served us real ale and some of his colourful and sometimes incomprehensible poetry. Ken served us pizza, snacks and beverages at ‘Shacks Crack’ to keep our stomachs filled, then it was on the surgery or ‘Giggle Inn’ where Jenn produced an array of concoctions served in large syringes. The last stop was the newly completed Satellite Dome – opened for one time only as the ‘Spark and Spanner’, KEPs newest and only nightclub. The DJ (Krissi) never let us stop so we danced the night away – the final three heading to bed at some ungodly hour.

The last few days of June are now here and the weather has warmed again – there are krill boats in the bay and the vista is definitely wintry.

For the past week it has been snow, snow and more snow. Once the wind dies down we will be out there. Don’t worry if you don’t hear from us – for the most part we will be falling about – either through lack of coordination (like me) or laughing (like everybody else)!

Finally Happy Birthday Tim and Debs – and in advance to my Dad for the 14th of July.

Much love to all those at home (in the UK and NZ).

Ali x