King Edward Point Diary – March 2005

31 March, 2005

First snow

Well here we are the end of March, back home it’s heading towards the end of the winter season and its damp and cold. Here in South Georgia on the banana belt winter is all about to start in earnest. We have had our first flurries of snow and its slow creep down the mountainsides towards us continues daily. The winds are picking up and bringing with them a chill edge that lets you know you are alive on the short morning walk to work.

I never believed that the clock could tick so quickly in a place so removed from the “real world” but here I am 5 months in and accelerating all the time or so it seems. I feel privileged to be one of the few who has been allowed to stay and work is such a lovely place as this and wonder at what the future can provide to match its raw beauty and challenges.

Do I miss my family and friends so far away? Well of course I do, who doesn’t, but the experience, environment and people I work with take the edge from that feeling.

So just what has March had to offer I hear you asking, well here goes a compressed version for you to ponder over and hopefully keep up with what your family member or friend has been up too.

The month started with our first sighting of a Leopard seal on the shorefront at KEP causing much excitement amongst the newer arrivals to the island that hadn’t seen one before (i.e. most of us). As far as predators go they really are rather impressive, with a definite aura of don’t bugger me around hovering over them.

On the 2nd His excellency Howard Pearce and his wife Carolina arrived on the cruise ship Grigory Mikheev for a visit to the sounds of the brass band playing and banners being waved, well ok that’s not quite true but we were on the dockside to meet them. During their stay His Excellency spoke to all members of the base and gave a brief on the proposals and possible future developments of the site.

The following day the RRS Ernest Shackleton arrived bringing with it our FGA in the form of the pocket rocket Paul “Toddy” Torode who was sent in to give us some valuable winter training. This will prove to be of great value as the season closes in so a big thanks to him for all the knowledge and training he passed on. Not to mention finishing second in the SG half marathon on the 5th having disembarked only two days earlier, a rather impressive task.

Our numbers reduced on base as Sven “crab man” Thatje, Mark Belchier, Martin Collins, Bins and Derek (our trusty and hard working short term team members from the JCR crew) all left with the Shack’s departure leaving us feeling quite depleted on base.

The half marathon was a busy day not only for the runners but also for our two National Geographic visitors and Owen their boat handler, Anne “Postie” Prior, museum assistant Andy “two scoops” Rankin, all left aboard the cruise ship NordNorge. A fond farewell to all those friends we have made during their and our time together on SG.

The half marathon was won by Andy “la chef” Peterson (Morrisons) who smashed last years time completing the course in an amazing 1hr 49minutes. This having been the second year of its running it would appear this is going to become an annual event to enjoy and destroy those of a less fit disposition. A huge well done to all those who did the event and organised its smooth running. (I might join in next year – well maybe).

More departures occurred on the 10th with His Excellency and wife leaving to the sound of the brass band (hold on done that one already) on Polar Star. Also taking with them “Stuffin” Steve Massam the Museums Taxidermist and incredible sculptor and Pete “rod of Iron” Wilmot, Morrisons on site boss for the seasons work on the Whaling station and other projects.

On the 11th to much relief and the creaking of chains breaking free of their rust Quest our fishing boat slipped smoothly from her trailer and re-entered the water after a bit of a refit. Unfortunately without hydraulics so unable to continue the fishing programme, but it was a start. The hydraulics were made and delivered by the JCR on her next visit.

On the 15th we had one of our field training days with Toddy taking a few of us for abseiling, strangely this coincided with the first real snow of the season, driving in horizontally and persistently for the entire time. Can a FGA really control the weather with such skill I wonder? So much for the banana belt!

On the 16th a climbing exped arrived in SG to attempt Mount Paget. They came in a little pea green boat calledGambo but didn’t attempt to sail away for ages? An eclectic mix of folk all with one aim, to climb a few mountains and enjoy it.

On the 17th an inspection of Harpon hut was carried by Ali (BC) and myself to see if the hut was still fit for our purposes. Arriving there and discovering three of the Gambo climbing team already ensconced we decided it must be but did a check all the same. A stop over and chat with the slightly deflated climbers who had been attempting to climb Quad5 and got pushed back by the weather was followed by a very pleasant walk back the following morning, viewing possibly the first avalanche of the year en route, very noisy, spectacular and dramatic.

On the 18th a drop off was carried out at Sorling, delivering Jenn, Jamie, Toddy and Kriss for a trip over to St Andrews, this provided extra fun with another Leopard seal showing itself, leading to a game of cat and mouse as Will “David Bailey” Reid attempted to catch it on video to shouts of “its behind you” and much laughter.

On the 19th Europa a three masted barque arrived in the bay looking very regal to a classic day of brilliant sunshine and snow dusted mountains as a backdrop emphasising the picture. They tied up at the jetty giving us a splendid view and an image of what Gritviken may have looked like in its early whaling days.

Also arriving the same day was the Professor Multanovsky doing the last cruise visit of the year, complete with barbeque for those from the base who fancied it that evening.

After that it was back to a bit of normality and this took the form of boat training for some of us. The weather again had a go at making it hard for us but it did add some realism for the winter months to come.

On the 24th field training continued with Kriss, Rik, Nick and Toddy heading off to do some crevasse work. The snow had been good to them and was at a reasonable level for the day. At the end of a long day they returned tired but happy with their progress. It turned out Rik our boatman had felt so fit he had even gone back down a second time to recover his sunnies? Shame he had forgotten them in the first place really, don’t you reckon Rik!

The snow had thinned a bit as the banana belt tried to kick back in during the second phase of field training on the 31st. This didn’t stop Toddy as he took his intrepid students up Narwhal to the Bergschrund. As can be seen below this didn’t dampen spirits in the slightest and yet again everyone had a successful and enjoyable day.

It should not be forgotten of course that these are just some of the highlights of life at King Edward Point SG. Throughout the month work had continued of course with a lot of production being put in by everyone. Even “Doc” Jenn had a real medical case to sort out when one of the passengers from a cruise ship had taken a fall and been injured. Needless to say her normal impeccable standards were applied and a happier and far more comfortable passenger rejoined their ship. Apart from the round the clock health care and “Doc School” she also continues the difficult hunt for food swaps with the cruise ships, achieving great results on many occasions.

Tech services continued to do the “odd bit and bob” here and there helping in their own way to keep the place ticking along. Boat work and training continued with many drop offs and pick-ups taking place and people helping out whenever needed. As we keep getting told, “Science never sleeps” so our team of scientists continue to knock out the data for Cambridge almost round the clock? Lastly who can forget the lynch pin for the whole place the BC. Ali continues to sort out computer problems (user error in my case) nearly endlessly, keeps us updated at meetings and of course knocks out the wonderful “scrub out” list on a weekly basis to roars of “HURRAH” scrub out time again. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that everyone takes turns at cooking to an incredibly high standard making for a very varied and welcome diet. Rik particularly likes the fish and I just love all the vegetables!

So in closing I would just like to thank all those that I work with, for making life a laugh for an old miserable git like myself, putting up with me and thank them all for keeping me in work by breaking things on a regular basis?

Thanks to everyone back home for the parcels, mail and e-mails, always appreciated.

Your scribe for the month,

Steve “Bah Humbug” Artis