King Edward Point Diary – March 2006

31 March, 2006

March has come and gone – all too quickly we feel. Another winter approaches and we say goodbye to cruise ships and yachts for another season. Although in saying that – we do have one late arrival. Captain Ron finally rocked up on the 23rd and is at present alongside the revamped Tijuca jetty over at Grytviken.

The month started with a base meeting on the 1st, HE Howard Pearce, the Commissioner for South Georgia in attendance. For me that was followed by earlies and a stint of babysitting for Suzanna Pearce on the 2nd. Got off rather lightly as it happens – Sarah did the worst part of earlies – the bread and early morning checks – and Suzanna didn’t even wake up!

The science team had a full on month, for the most part in the lab preparing and reading the hundreds of otoliths (fish ear bones) provided by fishing boats over the past 5 years. They can determine the age of the fish from the otolith and from that gauge the age range of the commercial fishery to help predict quotas and ensure sustainability of the resource.

March proved a busy month logistically as well with Larsen full most of the time. The museum assistants, Stine, Asty and Nick were still with us – just, plus our favourite freelance photographer Paul Sutherland, here to finish off his exposé on the Patagonian Toothfish industry, also the logistics co-ordinator for KEP, Les Whittamore making his yearly visit, Jon Shanklin, here to install the new automatic weather system and to help reinstall Dartcom, our weather satellite link, and Paul Rodhouse, Head of the Biological Sciences Division at BAS.

Disco fever hit the base on the 3rd as we celebrated Charlottes 30th and Jamies 30-something birthdays. The usual Morrison perpetrators arrived to help us party as did the guys aboard the kiwi yacht Capistrano – it was great to have them with us. All of those really bad 70s looks got dragged out – bad hair, clothes and music!

March marks the time for departures and the first to leave, on Sigma on the 4th in a stiff north-westerly breeze, were Christine and Asty, two of the museum assistants, plus Paul Sutherland and some of the Morrison team, including Andy (Chef) Peterson and Global Boardwalks – Scobie, Tussock, and Ferret – off to warmer climes and exotic locations.

On Sunday the 5th there was another cull with Howard, Carolina, Suzanna and Paul Rodhouse departing on the MS Nordnorge, a lovely Norwegian cruise ship that has made several trips to KEP this summer season.

The RRS Ernest Shackleton arrived on the 6th for last call; a frantic time when we get rid of all the rubbish and recycling stored over the summer months. Everything went swimmingly – just the way I like it.

Traditionally last call involves a barbeque and this seasons was typical for KEP, that is the wind blew and it bucketed down – that didn’t put us off though – the food got cooked and a good time was had by all in the garage under the disco lights. While alongside the IT specialist on board helped me with a number of computing problems – giving up his time ashore – thanks Richard. Most of the ships company got out and about, enjoying the good weather and freedom in the hills.

The Shack departed on the evening of the 7th taking Les, and Jon – and our last chance for larder goodies – with her.

Polar Star came into the cove that same afternoon and I got a surprise to find Bill Block on my doorstep once again – we had a quick chat and a tour of the base before heading down to the ship.

We were all invited on board for the last cruise ship barbeque for this season – pity it was once again pouring with rain! We didn’t let that stop us though and proceeded to let our hair down after last call. The crew were celebrating their end of season as well so we danced the conga (Ade especially keen) – and danced under the limbo stick – or struggled – and karaoked till we could sing no more – some surprising talent was evident – some just surprising!

When we left on the zodiacs later that evening the haunting tones of Country Road take me home (the John Denver version) resounded around the cove. Don’t think I have ever had so much fun on a cruise ship – it was great. They sent us home with a huge box of delicious fresh produce, including kgs of bananas!

The glut of bananas from the Polar Star led to a flurry of banana cake and loaf making that was generally well received for days afterwards.

On the 13th we were visited by ex-KEP Chief Scientist Simon Morley and his new wife Steph – on the Alexander Von Humboldt (aka Explorer II) – they had a quick drink with us in the bar before departing.

Sigma was with us again on the 16th, delivering Nigel Bishop from the Falklands to fix the damaged HF mast, and his wife Corrina, here to conduct interviews for her radio show, plus Father Peter here to help prop up the bar and SOS at the same time.

The arrival of Sigma also signalled the start of boating trials we had been planning to test the jet boats capabilities and ours in Search and Rescue and extended Government support outside Cumberland Bay. In preparation for this we had been training on base also – how to use the iridums properly – how to use personal locator beacons – and how to tie a stretcher securely to a RIB and jet.

The trials meant a lot of paperwork for me, but the end result was worth it.

The first boating exercise to St Andrews was a success – except for me – the long swell took me down and I was sick, sick, sick – not a pretty sight. My seasickness was compounded by a migraine and I don’t remember anything apart from hitting my pillow at the end of the journey!!

On the 21st both jet boats visited the bays along the eastern side of the Barff Peninsula. This was primarily to gain experience at these locations in case we ever need to use them as safe anchorages. For this reason we took Tim Carr, the museum curator and former South Georgia yachtsman along to give us the benefit of his local knowledge. He pointed out the safest entries and dangers to be aware of. Ocean and Godthul Harbours and Cobblers Cove were all visited – each could be a safe haven in bad weather.

The final boating trial was to Stromness Bay on the 23rd in near perfect conditions. All those involved enjoyed it immensely. We visited Husvik first, landing on the beach in front of the newly restored managers villa. We then cruised around to Stromness, passing Sigma on the way (she was anchored in Stromness Bay on standby just in case of an emergency). Then onto Leith Harbour where we landed on the beach to the left of the abandoned whaling station, in front of the old football field. We lunched there in the sun with the hundreds of young fur seal pups cavorting in the shallows.

March is the month the seed heads ripen on the Acaena magellanica (Prickly burr or burnet) and even the best of us find it hard to avoid them!!

The Golden Rover visited Cumberland Bay on the 18th followed by HMS Liverpool on the 19th. Our boating team helped to ferry the 100 odd ships company of both ships to shore, allowing them to stretch their legs and visit Grytviken and the museum. Emma and myself were invited to lunch with the Captain of HMS Liverpool, Commander Henry Duffy, and some of his fellow officers. Very pleasant to see Henry again, and enjoy some time on board. The ships departed on the 20th after completing their tasking around the island.

On the 21st Charlotte and Will went on a camping trip to Ocean Harbour for a couple of nights. They were rudely awoken by a young stag pawing their tent in the early morning – a vicious wild looking beast with evil red eyes by all accounts! Usually the reindeer keep their distance and don’t pay too much attention to us, but during the rut they can get rather stroppy.

Nick and Sarah went off to St Andrews on the of 20th of May – making the journey in a record time of just over 4 hours – a record time for us anyway.

They had a great time as this picture shows – fantastic weather by all accounts – I have used one of Sarah’s images from this trip for the heading on this newsletter.

On the 28th we all turned out for the release of Sweetlips and Rocky – two large Notothenia rossii – former residents of a large blue tank in the TCF (Temperature Controlled Facility). Sweetlips took to the water immediately soon disappearing into the depths of the cove. Rocky was more hesitant – he came to the surface and mouthed something – we would like to think it was ‘So long and thanks for all the fish’ but suspect it was something like ‘Freedom at last you b——s’ – similar to Mel Gibson in Braveheart!

Our final summer visitors arrived on the 30th – the barque Europa came alongside staying overnight. Jamie entertained the 30 charterers on board with a talk on the research and what its like to live here and then we were treated to a barbeque and party – the music blaring until the wee small hours.

The month ended overcast and windy but on a Friday – always a good day for me – I love the relaxed feeling on base after scrub-out and the thought of a sleep-in on Saturday morning!

Lastly – for my family – Belated Happy Birthday to my Mum (February 17th).

Also Happy Birthday to my sisters Brenda and Lorraine for the 6th and 10th of March.

And finally a special message to my little grand-daughter Chloe who arrived during the early hours of the 22nd – welcome to the world sweetheart!

Bye for now

Ali xxxxxx