King Edward Point Diary – September 2005

30 September, 2005

A quiet month

September is a quiet month at KEP – time to wind down in between the fishing season and the tourist season. That, combined with not having a functional fishing boat (again…) means that we’ve done less work than usual here in the last few weeks.

Team fish have been struggling on with poor old Questie, who had an outboard strapped to her side, courtesy of Senior Boatman Rick and Assistant Marine Engineer Will. With only 7 of us remaining on base, each plankton trawl has meant a whole base mobilisation.

As usual, our furry friends have provided good entertainment, and a crowd turned up to photograph an obliging Weddel Seal (not often seen here) which hauled out on the Point for a few hours.

Its ellie time too and after a slow start, with the odd bull hanging around in the water, there are now 7 pups on the Point, with new bulls and cows appearing every day. Celebrity status has been given to the bull who ripped his nose in two, presumably whilst engaged in a fight over girls. The girls don’t seem too mind his obvious deformity too much, and he’s currently holding the harem at the end of the beach. Those with the high priced real estate on the front of Everson House are glad that the ellies are staying away from their bedrooms and not waking them up too much with nights that sound like the jungle.

Most people have managed to get away for a trip or two in December. A visit by the navy’s Dumbarton Castle gave five of us the opportunity to take a trip down the coast, whilst they checked hidden corners of South Georgia for toothfish poachers. We landed at St Andrews Bay, cleared 20 years of accumulated junk from the hut, and spent a bit of time with the penguins. There aren’t too many adults there at the moment, but huge crèches of Oakum Boys (and quite a lot of dead chicks – an easy meal for the skuas, giant petrels and sheathbills.)

In the afternoon we cruised down the coast in grey overcast conditions, reaching the south of the island in the late afternoon to find beautiful evening sunshine pouring out of Drygalski Fjord. It was a stunning place to spend a few hours. Thanks a lot to the captain for allowing us to join the ship.

Tim, Pauline, Sarah and myself had a five-night stay at Sorling Hut during the time of a thaw that was more rapid than anyone on the island can remember. The day after we arrived we headed over to Hound Bay in deep snow, sunshine and winds that were strong enough to knock Pauline and Sarah off their feet. The next day we were confined to the hut, as windspeeds reached 70 knots. T&P, staying in the Sorling Hilton, had to do running repairs to their accommodation as it threatened to blow away (after nearly 100 years!) The temperature hit 10 degrees and two days later clocked in at a subtropical 16 degrees, giving us a beautiful day to enjoy sunbathing in front of the Nordenskjold Glacier. We had left base in full winter conditions, but returned to find that spring had arrived.

Will and Rick headed away with Pat, the Government Officer, with a similar itinerary. But the boys are used to their home comforts, and after two nights away had to come back to base for a warm shower and a decent feed!

The 2005 winter magazine was published just in time for the end of winter party and Oscars. Most of the magazine should undoubtedly remain between these four walls, but congratulations to those who came up with the stunning line ‘Les Vader, you old mullet’, and wrote about Bernie the penguin who, due to staff shortages on base, has been given a job as assistant boatman on the grounds of numerous hours of seagoing experience and an amazing ability to find neutral whilst driving.

The KEP Oscars also proved popular, especially with Steve, who was awarded for looking most like a filmstar (Charles Bronson) and Jamie for being the best dressed woman on base.

The first of our new summer team arrived on the last day of the month. Asty, a Scottish Canadian, and Christine, a Canadian Canadian, will be helping out at the museum this summer. T&P had them off on the slopes on day 1, giving them a chance to show off their telemarking skills. Seismic Chris from San Diego also arrived to hook up the seismic station to a comms system that should give us all 24 hour internet access and cheaper phone calls some time in the next few months (but, as they say where I come from, ‘ah wuddnae hud yer breath’.)

We look forward to the return next month of our holidaying Base Commander, Ali, our yachting museum assistant, Nick, and our new doc, Charlotte.

I leave here soon, after an amazing year. So a few of my best memories :

  • sitting on the ice on the beach in front of the Nordenskjold Glacier on one of the best days of last summer
  • clouds
  • watching sooties flying close overhead at Godthul
  • running up to Deadman’s and sitting at the cairn in complete silence
  • getting my suntan back for a Caribbean party
  • going out to a fishing boat soon after dawn in June
  • clouds
  • crossing Echo Pass in a white out with Pooh Bear and an anarchist punkrocker
  • doing 7 haircuts and one beard trim (after several G&Ts)
  • williwaws
  • lying down amongst the king penguins at St Andrews Bay
  • coming back to base in the headlights of a cruise ship
  • lots of laughs with the chaps at Sorling Hut on our winter trip
  • clouds
  • chatting to old South Georgians – I hope to see some of you when I get back
  • driving boats through the ice
  • midwinter day celebrations
  • dissecting a fur seal (found dead on the beach) with everybody’s favourite taxidermist

Jenn Keys… September 2005