King Edward Point Diary – May 2010

31 May, 2010

The start of the month seemed to bring a health drive as most members of base had agreed to take part in a virtual 6,000km race across Antarctica, from the tip of the peninsular down to the Ross sea via the South Pole. There are 17 teams throughout BAS and basically any exercise carried out such as hiking, running, rowing, swimming and even break dancing(!) can be counted as distance covered across the peninsula to reach a goal of 6,000km. Each activity is weighted so say 1 km ran is equal to 2.5 in the race. All intentions started off well with regular runs and time on the exercise bike, but it dawned on us after the first few days how gruelling it will be to reach the finish, never mind winning. At dinner time it’s always possible to point out the person who had been on the static bike for a pre dinner pedal as they would walk in slightly bow-legged as our bike hasn’t the comfiest seat. Also a major factor that we found hinders our progress is daylight hours, with KEP being located in the shadow of Mt Duce the sunlight only just touches the tip of the point, and the days are still getting shorter and the sun dipping lower on the horizon — finding time to get out and about is almost harder than doing the exercise itself.

We had a marvellous evening in the bar for an informal Saturday night dinner, which was Pub grub followed by a quiz where each attendant submitted five questions. There was a wide range of questions from 60’s music to local knowledge, and even some cockney rhyming slang. Here’s a taster.

Q: Translate the following sentence, there are three words of cockney rhyming slang:

I jumped on me clever to nip down the loli and collect my Sunday linen.

Answer at the bottom.

We had a visit from HMS Clyde, a patrol vessel based in the Falklands that regularly visits South Georgia to patrol the British waters. They came alongside the jetty for three days which freed the off duty crew up, so between us we managed to arrange various entertainments which included walks, runs, a football game in the slushy snow which KEP won 5–4 and penguin racing (where penguins are represented by humans dressed up as penguins) which was held on the Clyde aft deck along with a BBQ. The money raised from the evening’s events went to the South Georgia Heritage Trust. After their time alongside the jetty they were planning to do some sightseeing and patrolling around South Georgia, they also offered some BAS staff to come along for a 3 day break. So off they went and base was reduced to 6 souls in total — it may sound strange but even when there are 11 of you and 5 go on holiday, the base seems to hit another level of peace and tranquillity. It’s not like KEP is a bustling metropolis but I can only imagine how crazy life will be when my feet hit British soil again. While the guys and girls were on board the Clyde they received a mayday call from a yacht 200 miles off the coast, so as sea law goes and being most equipped to the situation they had to respond to the call. 15 hours travelling at full speed and — by the sounds of it — many-a-gut-wrenching hours later, they arrived at the yacht and transported the passengers to safety safe and well. Unable to save the yacht they opened the seacocks and left it to sink, they then travelled back to KEP to drop the rest of our team off, it was thoroughly nice to have them back and hear their stories from their trip.

While the other half of the team were away we had lots and lots of rain, to be precise 132mm; all that rain and about 6 inches of snow already on the ground melted off in 24 hours! The streams were flowing at full capacity and being diverted — everywhere was waterlogged. The morning after was quite exciting as I went for a stroll around the track to Grytviken (the old whaling station). As I started to walk I came across what would normally be a small trickle of water across the track, but throughout the night it gouged out the track and turned into a full blown stream. After negotiating a few more streams I came across a landslide which it seemed I would be able to walk straight over the top, but as I started to make my way over it my feet started to sink, and before I knew it had turned into a wade. I quickly realised I would not be making it to the other side and not wanting to get any muddier I turned back for solid ground; it was very strange as I looked back as I couldn’t see my footsteps — it was as though there was a muddy membrane encasing a whole load of silted slush. Not very keen to try again I left defeated wondering how long it would take for the water to drain out.

A new month bought a new game of assassins, we had previously tried to play the game and there were some outrageous murder weapons and some that assassins struggled to find in the first place. But there were a few lessons learnt and we had decided that a referee was needed to know what was happening in the game, prevent a stalemate situation and give views of an unbiased nature when someone is caught in the process of trying to commit murder (which would mean they were out of the game). Assassins is a game where everyone involved puts two murder weapons and places on folded up bits of paper into two separate bowls, the bowls are then passed round the table and each person picks one piece of paper out of each bowl thus giving them a person to murder and a murder weapon, your task is to carry out the murder without getting caught and if you are successful you get that persons murder weapon and culprit. Last person standing wins!!

We also had a few fisheries observers staying on base, as they were swapping vessels or waiting for their ship to arrive, they would get chance to stretch their legs and spend some time on base. With the influx of observers it also meant the krill fishing season had begun, as the sea ice encroaches further south it no longer becomes safe to fish around the South Orkneys and South Shetlands so they come further north to South Georgia.

We also had another themed Saturday night which would have been a blast from the past for a few, but most of us had to google the 70’s in search of a suitable outfit, even though it was not most of the young ones’ era there were plenty of convincing outfits. After a dinner of quiche and vol-au-vents the evening was spent bopping away to tunes I had never heard, and some rather surprising ones which are the originals of a lot of songs that I would regard as ‘my era’.

The month drew to an end as our scientists Luke and Jon headed out on the fishery patrol vessel for 6 days, to conduct bird and marine mammal surveys, concurrent with larval fish and plankton sampling in the waters around South Georgia. This work is part of an Overseas Territories Environment Program (OTEP) funded project, designed to gain an idea of the interactions between the krill fishery and the wildlife while operating in South Georgia waters, with a view to minimising the potential impacts of the fishery on the ecosystem.

If I was to sum up the month’s weather accurately I would say we have experienced lots of Snow teasing! We have had plenty of snow showers which will settle for a few days, we’d be poised ready to dust off the skis and head for the slopes when the right conditions arrive, then… it rains! and all melts away. Then a few days later more snow will arrive and settle, your heart telling you ‘this is winter for sure’!! Then it rains… Not to be down hearted by this we can still get off base to stretch the legs which is a good thing, but the possibility of snow always plays on the mind.

I don’t feel as there are enough photos in this month’s diary so I will add some more of the wildlife and scenery South Georgia has to offer.

Answer to the pub quiz question:

  • Clever = Clever Mike = Bike
  • Loli = lollipop = Shop
  • Linen = Linen draper = Paper

Richard Inman