31 May, 2005 King Edward Point
May has once more come and gone and for the transient population of South Georgia it has been as busy a month as any. The winter has not yet taken a full grip on the island but the temperature has dropped and there is a definite chill in the air. This month we’ve had visitors, celebrations, said goodbyes; caught big fish, unusual fish, spawning fish; got plastered; and many more things that will come to me as I write the newsletter.
A good place to start this month would be saying good-bye to T & P. They left on Sigma promising that they’ll bring back snow in a month. At the same time we said hello to a number of visitors. First of all we’ve had Dave Peck, Wayne and Nigel staying with us for a couple of weeks to do some work on the storm damage created by the “Great Storm of 2005”. This involved securing the roofs of Discovery House, the museum and Tim and Pauline’s cottage. They also took the opportunity to go and look at some of the huts around Cumberland East and West Bays with a view to renovating some of them in the coming summers. We also had Jeremy staying with us for May. Jeremy was here to install new servers and keep Jamie occupied in the bar discussing how to right the worlds wrongs. All were great company and hopefully we’ll see you come through again next season.
With Quest back in the water last month scientific fishing was back into full swing. We were setting nets, lifting pots and trawling for plankton. Bernard has brought with him a wealth of fishing knowledge and experience that has been a valuable help to us whilst setting the nets. Along with Jamie’s tweaking with each net set up we are now having some real success in settling the nets. This month we were delighted to catch two toothfish and one spawning mackerel icefish.
We have started to set pots at the mouth of Cumberland East Bay with a view to catching toothfish. Unfortunately this hasn’t been successful, but we are catching marbled rockcod. There was once a large scale fishery for marbled rockcod around South Georgia at the end of the 1960s and early 1970s that fished these to commercial extinction. The advantage of using pots to catch fish is the fish are still alive, accessible quickly and relatively undamaged when you haul the pot. This has led us to start a tag and release scheme. The idea behind it is to monitor where the individuals move and to see how much they grow in the wild. Hopefully next year we will catch some of these tagged fish on the research survey around South Georgia or in our nets.
Quest was unfortunately back to her old tricks and did have a couple of breakdowns – again!
This month saw the last of the toothfish boats arrive and the start of the krill fishing season. We have had a number of boats come through to pick up licences and to tranship their catch. These boats start fishing well down south around the South Orkney Islands before moving north as the sea ice advances. When they arrived at South Georgia the fishing skippers reported that sea ice was forming at five miles a day! The arrival of these boats means our boatmen get to take out the resident Government Officers on the jet boats for inspections and customs clearance.
It has been a busy month for tech services with the building of the KEP dome. Taking advantage of some good weather (as in it wasn’t blowing a-hoolie) tech services moved the JCB in, picked up some screws and a drill and got to work. Help came a plenty from various able bodies from boatmen to beakers to Government Officers and all conducted under the watchful of eye of forewoman Jenn. The dome was erected in a couple of days and finished with one final super-human effort by Rik the Boatman.
Training is a very important part of life down here. At the end of the day we are our own mountain rescue, lifeboatman/woman or paramedic. We currently have doc school every two weeks and cover a variety of first aid topics from dealing with burns to broken bones. This month we got plastered! Or should I say I got plastered.
Although it was a busy work month, with indents, boat support and fishing, the party spirit never left KEP. We had a celebration this month with Chief Scientist Sarah reaching thirty.
The wintering team had their first fancy dress of the year this month. No theme was imposed on the group only that they had to dress up. This led to a variety of ideas- some novel, others funny and a healthy bit of cross-dressing! We had Elvis, a tin man, a king penguin, a lost mountaineer (probably left over from Gambo’s visit) all popped in for dinner.
But for the lads at KEP there was a new lady in town….
Both nights were celebrated in true KEP fashion- a lot of booze, a lot of food and a lot of laughs.
It’s been a busy month and another that has passed in what can only be described as a blink of an eye. Mid-winter is only round the corner now so roll on lie-ins, beer and plenty of food!
Just want say a few hellos…..Hello to the all the Aberdeen dropouts out there I hope your keeping up all the sacred traditions of Aberdeen, to Monty, Mof and Murray enjoy your new pads…. Also Mof well done on getting promotion back into the first division……. To all my mates from Southampton wherever you are in the world at the moment… Good luck Dunc and Jen this summer. Happy Birthday to Richie Mitch – congratulations on making it to your thirtieth birthday! To all my family big hug and kisses and a happy birthday to my Dad and sister.
Assistant Marine Engineer Will