King Edward Point Diary – March 2014

20 March, 2014

Well hello, Matthew (boaty) here again! It was deemed that my blog from last month was of a standard that could not be matched, by any of the mortals on base at least, therefore I would do March as well. What an honor! March had many comings and goings and definetly felt like the icy hand of winter was about to get a grip.

An interesting month for me. I was rudely awoke by the Dickie (Base Commander) one morning – actually it was after 8am and he did let me finish drying my hair, to say that I might need to go to St Andrews and pick up Julie and Tim (other boaty), who were on holiday. There was possible medical emergency so getting the Doctor back on base was a priority. After a chat with the patient and then on the satellite phone with Julie it was decided I’d need to take a jet boat and RIB to St Andrews and bring them back.

St Andrews is about 25 nautical miles away and involves leaving the relative safety of Cumberland bay and navigating some of the north coast of the island. Anything outside of Cumberland bay is considered ‘extended boating’ and needs authorization from BAS HQ in Cambridge as well as a refueling the jet boat a lot of extra kit needs to be packed and taken on the boats in case of bad weather, engine failure etc leaves us in trouble far from base.

We got to St Andrews after some… interesting seas outside the bay, luckily that didn’t last long and we made some good progress. The return journey was similar but all-in-all it went really smoothly, we had the Doc and Tim back on base within 4 hours of deciding to bring them back. The ‘patient’ was fine, in the end and was able to stay on base. They were kind enough to supply us with a nice bottle of malt whisky for the trouble. Sorry I don’t have any pictures but I didn’t have time to grab the camera let alone take pictures.

The RRS Ernest Shackleton passing Shackleton’s cross on Hope point. Early March saw the ‘Shack’ arrive for ‘last call’, which on southern bases means the wintering teams are on their own until ‘first call’ early summer. That’s not the case for us as we don’t get locked in by the ice due to South Georgia being relatively far north – other bases call us ‘the banana belters’… the cheek!

Puppy lake (Loch for me, being Scottish) living up to it’s name. March was the last of 3 monthly fur seal pup weighing sessions. Daniel works out the peak birthing day in December and then on the corresponding days in the three following months a team heads out from base and weighs one hundred of the feisty, wriggling, gnawing little bundles of… cuteness.

Dickie and I got away for a few days on the Greene peninsula towards the end of the month and had a good mixture of weather. Day one wasn’t the best, weather wise, but still managed to get a peak in.

Day two was much better! The front of the Nordenskjold Glacier and the Barff Peninsula providing the backdrop here.

Day three was…great! Mainly spent in the Hut drinking coffee, reading and generally staying inside. Base reported winds of 60+ knots! Going to the toilet was interesting.

Moraine Fjord and the Thatcher Peninsula. The next day was a significant improvement. We set off with the intention of taking in two peaks, partly because we felt we were down on our quota. The first peak looked like it was a nice steady climb to the top.

Nearing the summit the view down into Moraine Fjord gifted great views onto the Harker and Hamberg Glaciers.

In true South Georgia fashion the nice rolling stroll to the summit turned into this! A few hundred meters of good scrambling was great fun but scuppered any hopes of doing two peaks.

The weather was beginning to turn on our return to camp, probably a good thing we didn’t attempt the second peak! What’s that about a banana belt!?

Dickie heading back towards camp with Moraine Fjord below.

The next day we were whisked back to base in the morning. A ship had called ahead to ask if we could x-ray someone with a potential broken bone. Daniel and I are Doc Julie’s advanced first aiders, so we help if something ‘interesting’ happens. We don’t have any of that fancy digital x-ray machinery here so all x-rays need to be developed in the dark room. You can see 3 of the 4 trays the film needs to pass through – a process that takes about 15 min. For the photographers, I needed to put my ISO up to 20,000 for this one.

Sure enough it was broken! The x-ray showed the humorous not looking too happy… sorry couldn’t help it. So with a fairly confident diagnosis we got to putting the arm into a plaster, making a right old mess of the surgery floor in the process. They would have been taken to Stanley in the Falkland’s (2-3 days away) before the next flight (could be days also) to Chile or their home country for surgery.

Matthew Phillips,
Boating Officer.