King Edward Point Diary – March 2010

31 March, 2010

On the last day of March there is much licking of wounds to the body and the pride, tending of mild strains, aches and pains, and a general gingerness to be noted in the movements of most of the locals.

This was the result of a battle, hard fought, on the Grytviken soccer pitch between a team from HMS York and the home side consisting of BAS staff, officers of the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the South Georgia Heritage Trust and the visiting yachts Wanderer III, Hollinsclough and Restless (bolstered by a couple of crew from the York).

The home side maintained composure in the face of the initial intimidation tactics by the opposition of: turning up on time, in bright yellow team uniform, wearing real soccer boots, sporting matching drinks bottles and actually warming up as a team. Our troops, preferring a more diverse range of colours and attire, opted for a less energetic pre-game strategy of standing about wondering how to play the game and inventing new positions.

The game commenced and the Yorks continued to try to put the frighteners on us by employing more scandalous tactics involving playing in positions, passing the ball accurately, running fast and using teamwork. The locals fought back with our strategy of confusion, obstruction, incompetence (feigned of course) and all-in full field coverage by all players.

The Yorks’ game soon had to adapt to the prevailing conditions on the pitch. Notwithstanding the excellent preparation of the field by Hugh, our professional groundsman, the free running game was hindered somewhat by the random areas of knee-deep bog, gravel, burr infested grass and the odd large rock (and possibly some old unexploded ordinance!).

Many of the Yorks initial attacks were repelled by our Irish Boatwoman who steadfastly defended the left back bog despite needing a boatsuit and lifejacket to wade or swim to the approaching attacker. The rest of the locals put their bodies on the line to stop the invading sea of yellow jerseys.

The Yorks scored first, and shortly after, second thence followed by a third before KEP managed to open their account. At half-time the score may have been 3–2 or 6–1 or something else in favour of the visitors. Our request to have two of our key players collected for the second half, from a camping trip to St Andrew’s, by York’s helicopter was refused (most unreasonably we thought!)

The second half saw a good crowd cheering us on, particularly the vocal and musical Hollinscloughs, which must have spurred us on. By this time there was plenty of claret flowing from grazed knees and the bogs were turning red with spilled blood. York scored again and probably again before the most beautiful reply from the KEP team. Starting with a goal kick by the Yorkshire doctor, to the German yachtsman on the left flank, across the trenches to the Australian, lurking in the far right gravel pit, who then sent it into no-man’s land to the tall Irishman fisheries scientist (who was searching for specimens in the bog at the time), on into the goal square to either, or all of, the mechanic from Sheffield, the American yachtsman or the English sailing lass who all combined to muscle it on through the opposition goal to the delight of all who witnessed such a play.

With ten minutes to go, and the home side down several goals, our team rapidly increased in number as the spectating York crew, including the captain (eventually at least half the ship’s company were playing for us!) joined the KEP team in a final push to make up the deficit. It was not to be and after the final trumpet blew and all hands had waded or swum out of the bogs covered in Burnet burrs, a final score of an undetermined number of goals in favour of HMS York was agreed upon as a fair result.

Many thanks to all concerned for a great match and, as the HMS York team has recently qualified for the next world cup we hear, the locals can be proud of their valiant efforts.

In other news this month:

We welcomed our new government officer, Robert, who has joined the GSGSSI after a long career at sea on BAS ships, and farewelled Pat and Sarah, off on their annual four months leave. We also lost two more of the SGHT staff as they headed north for winter.

Haylee Shephard, the Kiwi adventuress who was attempting a solo circumnavigation of South Georgia in a kayak, to raise awareness of the plight of albatross, unfortunately had to abandon the attempt and arrived back at Grytviken with her support vessel Northanger. All were in good cheer and an energetic ceilidh was held for all back at KEP.

The first of this season’s toothfish and icefish fishing vessels arrived for licence inspections and lots of cruise ships visited with welcome invitations for dinner aboard for the KEP residents.

Much of our terrestrial biologist’s summer field work came to an end this month. The fur seal and gentoo penguin satellite tagging worked very well and provided valuable data about their foraging habits and areas. The final fur seal pup weighing was completed with 100 of the now heavy, toothy wrigglers weighed by a team of 7. The final gentoo census confirmed a very successful breeding year. The macaroni penguin census hopefully confirms the same thing but we won’t know as they had already fledged and gone by the time our team arrived at Rookery Bay!

Bridget, our recently departed (not dead, just left) museum assistant and artist, treated us to a wonderful display of old whaling station slides projected in huge format onto various parts of the remaining whaling station. A terrific idea and very evocative of the era.

Many of us have been off camping on the Barff Peninsula, hiking, climbing peaks and enjoying the masses of wildlife before they start heading off for winter.

Along with the HMS York visit, a team from the EOD (Explosives Ordinance Disposal) in the Falklands came to destroy the various items of unexploded and suspicious looking ordinance found over the summer. Loud explosions were heard several times and our assisting government officer returned to base with huge boyish grin on his face.

So another month of hard work and absolutely no play whatsoever has passed on South Georgia and the winter fast approaches. Bring on the skiing!

George Lemann