King Edward Point Diary – June 2009

30 June, 2009

The month started with a team expedition up to the repeater.

The repeater is used to maintain VHF contact with field parties and the boats within the area that cannot be reached on channel 6. The repeater is located on a ridge at approximately 1600 feet, which makes for good skiing. We lugged 3-metre lengths of scaffold pole, adaptors and tools up needed to use a few interesting techniques, styles and methods to get the equipment to the top, but we made it.

The mission was to raise the solar panels that charge the batteries. In the winter months the panels get covered with snow as they are quite low down and the snow builds up round them quite quickly. There were a few technical hitches along the way. We realised the poles we had taken up were a slightly different gauge to the ones already installed and doubted if we had enough t-pieces, it had everyone scratching their head for a good while but we managed to work it out in the end.

The job was a success and we were able to mount the panel a good metre or so above its original position, we shall see how it goes!

Shortly after the repeater expedition there was another team effort for boating operations round to St Andrews Bay to restock the hut with emergency stores. We keep medical kit, fuel canisters and plenty of emergency food rations there in case they should be needed.

St Andrews Bay is the furthest limit of our boating area and extra precautions are taken this far away from base. There are 8 BAS personnel on base and the boating operations to St Andrews takes 6, leaving just two on base. One of those two has to cover communications with the boats which radio in every 15 minutes, the other is a tech services engineer who has to remain on base in case there is a problem.

The boating team were fortunate enough to spot two Southern Right Whales just as they were exiting Cumberland bay and a couple more on route. It is always very positive to see whales here after the detrimental impact the whaling days had on the South Georgia populations.

The boating trip was also a good opportunity to call in on some of the other bays and coves to inspect possible beach-landing sites in case of a SAR (search and rescue), and potential holiday destinations.

With mid-winter swiftly approaching we got word that one of the fishing vessels in South Georgia Fishery Zone had caught fire. Luckily the fire had been confined and the crew were safe, but they had lost steerage. Another vessel in the area (Argos Froyanes) went to the aid of In Sung 22, attaching towlines to pull the vessel in to Cumberland Bay.

The In Sung 22 was deemed unsafe, the fire was still smouldering, so all the crew were evacuated to KEP where we had prepared for their arrival by setting out mattresses, linen etc. As you can imagine, with limited space available it was quite snug with 40 more people on base.

The crew remained on base for a further 6 days until a vessel (In Sung Ho) belonging to the same company came to retrieve the stricken ship and its crew and to take them to Montevideo.

On route to South America the In Sung 22 broke the towlines in bad weather conditions and sank. Thankfully no one was on board due to the precautions put in place at KEP by the Government Officer Emma Jones.

So mid-winter was mostly spent with an extra 40 people on base, the more the merrier! We had a game of football with the crew which was extremely funny in crusty waist deep snow. The average height of the crew was five foot nothing, so when they found a soft spot in the snow they could literally disappear. Their wellies were also 4 sizes too big which made life interesting for the goalie as two missiles came hurtling towards him. Needless to say ‘Team KEP’ maintained their winning spree and won 5–0.

Midwinter was also shared with Kev, a heating engineer from Morrissons who had come to make some alterations to the heating system in the boatshed. Jim, who had been an observer on a fishing vessel and was staying at KEP to work on Toothfish stomachs for his PHD. Andy, a stand-by observer waiting for the Krill fishing vessels to arrive. And of course Theis and Kiki, our resident yachties who are wintering here on South Georgia.

We had a good variety of Mid-winter celebrations consisting of:

  • a table tennis tournament
  • the mid-winter Olympics (welly wanging, human curling, and 10 pin bowling)
  • sauna and swim followed by cocktail night
  • the obligatory watching of ‘The Thing’ is always great for a laugh, especially if you have not seen it before
  • pub quiz and sushi night, put on by the Government Officer
  • the giving and receiving of mid-winter presents which people had spent many painstaking hours over. Some preparation work was still going on with only hours to spare
  • and of course the pub-crawl, 6 bars, each with a signature drink. Everybody had a great laugh, although I cannot say the same for the morning after.

The weather was extremely bad over mid winter with lots of snow and wind making the avalanche risk too high to travel further than 100 metres from base, but it did not put a dampener on anyone’s spirits and, despite the poor weather and playing host to a shipwrecked crew, a great month was had by all.

This is just a taster of what goes on at KEP, the mixture of a great team and good work ethics in such beautiful surroundings makes it a pleasure to be here.