King Edward Point Diary – November 2005

30 November, 2005

Excitement abounds

Hi to all the devoted readers of the KEP Newsletter. November has been quite a milestone at KEP. The majority of KEPers celebrated their first year on South Georgia, with the exception of our sparky, Kris, who celebrated his second year. Krissi is now looking forward to life after KEP – we hope the real world is ready for the return of Kris ‘Punk Rocker’ Hall and his vast array of aftershaves! He will be leaving us for South America in December.

Even though KEP has a small reputation for being quite the party place the anniversaries passed without too much fuss, as there was so much other stuff going, such as – field training and camping trips with our visiting GA Tim Burton, a search and rescue scenario, first and last call JCR, a fancy dress party, more record breaking kayakers circumnavigating the island (everybody’s doing it this season!!), first fur seal pups of the season, Orca sightings, a visiting film crew, the arrival of two new additions to the KEP crew along with the new Government Officer and the postmaster, and of course Rick’s 29th birthday!

Advanced field training

Tim continued with field training and at the beginning of the month he had us all dangling from ropes off Hope Point.

Intense hardcore camping in a sub-Antarctic context

Jenn, Kris, Will, Charlotte and Christine (museum assistant) headed off with Tim on the first of his training expeditions. They did some crampon practise on the Nordenskjold taking a closer look down some crevasses under the watchful eye of Tim.

These very stylin’ campers also took a trip over to Ocean Harbour during their intense field training and on their third day off base they staged a SAR (search and rescue) scenario. Kris (for exercise purposes only) fell over and ended up with a broken leg. So the KEP rapid response rescue team were alerted and the entire base was mobilised to get Kris back to safety. The day went something like this: once upon a time on a sub-Antarctic isle Kris (KEP’s sparky) fell while tramping in the hills – lucky for him Christine and Charlotte were close by. They checked Kris for any breakages and made him comfortable, wrapping him up to keep him warm.

Suddenly out of nowhere a mysterious passer-by appeared. And then the KEP rapid response rescue team arrived. Will, who had been camping in the vicinity, went to meet them and guide them the 200m ++++ to the patient.

When Kris was strapped up nice and tight into a stretcher the rapid response rescue team found time to pose for a photo. The patient was then carefully carried to the edge of a nearby incline where he was dangled over the edge, very carefully, and lowered down to shore level. The happy sparky was then transported by rib to the Jet boat and brought back to KEP. And everyone lived happily ever after, even Wellard (the Teddy Bear!).

Jamie, Nick and myself spent two delightful nights at Sorling on the second of Tim Burtons adventure holidays. We took a walk to Hound Bay practising our navigation skills along the way and then spent a snowy morning cramponing on the Nordenskjold after a surreal game of charades in a bothie shelter.

My advise – don’t try this at home!

For Tim’s third magical trip away he brought Ali, Steve and Rick to Maiviken through the snow and they had a fabulous time. I couldn’t find a photo of Rick having a fabulous time at Maiviken but he assures me he did!

After a whirlwind three weeks at KEP, Tim left on 17 November, leaving behind him a highly trained team ready for another exciting year exploring the wilds of South Georgia. Thanks Tim – hope you had fun amidst the madness that is always KEP.

First & last call JCR

The JCR made her first call of the season on 12 November having sheltered in Cumberland West Bay for an afternoon due to bad weather. Although we were all very happy to see the big red BAS ship back again we weren’t quite as enthused when they came alongside at 6am!! The weekend was a blur of cargo.

We were re-supplied with all our dried food for the next year and lots of other equipment and supplies. All the over-wintering base members were especially grateful for our personal boxes sent to us from our families and friends back home. Thanks to everyone’s families and friends for all the goodies. The following weeks were like an extended Christmas of opening and unpacking boxes and then trying to find room on base to store a year’s supply of everything!

The JCR left again on the 13th returning to Stanley for yet more supplies and calling to Bird Island before calling back to KEP for her last call of the season from 26-27 November. It was Chris Elliott’s (Master of the RRS James Clark Ross since 1990) last trip to KEP before he retires from BAS, so we wished him a fond farewell and best wishes for the future with flares and a Mexican wave (of sorts!).

Recreational camping trips

Jenn and Kris did a circumnavigation of the Green Peninsula on the 23rd November which took them about 7 hours but was a very scenic walk. They spent most of the next day sunbathing fully clothed, wrapped up in sleeping bags and bivvies while low cloud engulfed the Green. The next morning they climbed a hill to admire the views before heading back to base.

The highlight of November for me was the girlie trip to St. Andrews. Jenn, Ali, Charlotte and myself headed over to St. Andrews for three nights on the 28th November. Rick and Kris dropped us off at Sorling Beach on Monday morning and from there we walked the 13km to St. Andrews Bay at a nice relaxed pace. The clouds were sticking close to the hills as we approached the col over to the bay but as soon as we descended on the far side we had a spectacular view of the mountainous back drop to St. Andrews and we could hear the noise of the penguin colony below.

We woke up to sunshine on Tuesday morning, so after a leisurely breakfast ‘al fresco’ and a visit from the passengers of ‘Tara V’, a yacht which called in to visit the colony during their petrel and seal survey, we spent the next day sitting in the sun and watching while the penguins did what penguins do. It was like being at Glastonbury but with lots of penguins!!

It was one of the best trips I’ve had since I’ve been here. The vastness of the colony is just mind-boggling.

Wildlife update

We were surrounded by weaners (weaned elephant seal pups) this month. Round fat barrels of sneezing and snorting cuteness that play in the shallows and sleep lots.

However not to be out done in the cuteness stakes, the first fur seal pups were spotted on 29 November.

On the evening of 23 November eagle-eyed Rick saw Orcas in the bay as we headed out for our weekly plankton trawl. We delayed the sampling a little to get a closer look at the whales, who seemed equally curious in us, circling Quest and surfacing meters from the boat. Alas we were camera-less and have no evidence of our encounter. But the next day two pods of Orcas were sighted and this time Charlotte was equipped with a camera.

The Visitors: A second kayaking team arrived on board the yacht Pelagic Australis to attempt the circumnavigation of South Georgia. The four-person team left KEP on the 17th November and made it successfully around the island in 13 days. Making Hadaz Feldman from Israel the first woman to circumnavigate the island by kayak. Hadaz was accompanied by Peter Bray, Nigel Dennis and Jeff Allen, all from Britain. The team were given the usual KEP welcome back when they arrived in on the night of 30 November during a snow blizzard.

Along with Pelagic Australis, Tara V called in for a day or two while taking part in the South Georgia ACAP Petrel Survey in collaboration with Sally Poncet. Some of the researchers on board were also carrying out a Fur seal survey to see if the seal population was still on the increase.

We also had a visit from Sedna IV a three masted schooner, which had a Canadian film crew on board. The film crew were focusing on climate change and its impact on the sub Antarctic and Antarctic ecosystem. They thought that the science undertaken at KEP was of interest, so they did some filming while they were here. If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of some of your favourite KEP characters on a screen near you in the future – if we escape the cutting room floor, that is!

In total we had nine cruise ship visits and six yachts during November.

The Parties: As previously mentioned KEP is known to have a party or two. The night before Tim left we had a ‘Hero & Villains’ fancy dress party. With appearances from batwoman, catwoman, Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, the whole Star Wars team including Luke, Darth, and the Emperor, Crocodile Dundee, Zoro, Snoop Doggie-Dog, Cruella de Ville, and a very scary Super Girl. Jamie doesnt let any opportunities to dress up like a woman pass him by!!

The main party event this month, however, was Rick’s 29th Birthday on the 19th November, with the party games starting at 4.30pm. There was pass the parcel, pin the rope on the prop, and musical chairs. Followed by jelly and ice cream, crispy buns and brownies. The celebrations continued on board the cruise ship Explorer that evening, where we were treated to a slap-up meal and some fine sax-playing from our local saxophonist, Nick Atkinson.

A Good Cause: Jamie has taken on the challenge of growing a Bobby Charlton comb-over to help collect money for the ‘Save the Albatross[ fund.

“BirdLife’s Save the Albatross Campaign is trying to stop the needless slaughter of these magnificent birds by ensuring that relevant international agreements are implemented that will benefit both the birds and the legal fishing industry.” (taken from the BirdLife International website,

A very good cause and one all of you avid readers should consider making contributions to, if not for the albatross themselves then for the mental anguish that the rest of the KEP base members have to endure over the next few months watching the progress of the comb-over!!

New Arrivals to KEP: And lastly but not least I’d like to introduce the new arrivals to KEP. Martony Vaughan from Ireland (KEPs second boatman for 05-06), Adrian Hosey from Birmingham (KEPs electrician for 05-06), Emma Jones from Scotland (the new Government Officer) and Javier Fernandez from Argentina (the new postmaster) who arrived in on the 30th November and who I’m sure will feature in future KEP diaries.

That’s all folks – for this month, but please do tune in next month for the December edition.

A big HELLO to my family and friends whom I think about lots and who have been great at keeping me in the No. 1 ‘Person with the Most Post’ category!! Here’s to 2006 – another exciting year and to seeing ye all again toward the end of it. Lots of love, Sarah (still quite sane!)

Sarah Clarke.