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ANTARCTIC BLOG: Winter on Bird Island – a guide to passing the time!

21 August, 2015

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How do you go from a life where you are constantly around many other people, going from one place to another, to a life where you have only three other people with you in a place which is your home, workplace, library, coffee shop, bar, friend’s house…the only place to spend your time?

July has to be one of the few months where little outside of the general routine happens. We had our midwinter celebrations last month, and we have the 48hr film festival next month. So just how have we been spending our time this month?

Leopard seal on the beach
Leopard seal on the beach

Winter work

Although the wildlife may have quietened down a lot by this point there’s still plenty of work to do. All of the ordering for next season has had to be finalised and double checked. Alastair and Lucy have been in the lab examining the various samples that were taken over the summer months. Siân continues to carry out the Leopard seal round every day, and has had a flurry of sightings which have been very exciting. I have been replacing the dated fire alarm system with a type that can be programmed to be much more reliable and reduce false alarms. We also had a visit by the fisheries patrol vessel which brought us in some mechanical spares, eagerly awaited mail, and also some delicious fresh fruit and veg.

Robbie Scott updating the fire alarm system at Bird Island
Robbie Scott updating the fire alarm system at Bird Island

Hobbies

Nothing makes the time whiz by quicker than getting stuck into a hobby. Currently 75% of the population here are into knitting! Arm warmers, blanket patches and even penguins have been knitted as gifts for people back home. Naturally photography is also a station favourite and there is certainly no shortage of things to photograph. There is also equipment here for various other hobbies such as carpentry and exercise which is great for getting the blood flowing again, especially if people have been looking in a microscope or working at their computers all day.

Alastair Wilson taking a photograph
Alastair Wilson taking a photograph

Games

When you’re in a small group of people for months on end the reality is there are moments where there’s just not a lot to talk about. Games are brilliant for these occasions. It’s common for people to bring a game with them, so our games cupboards are now crammed full of fun board games to play. Sometimes it’s the good old fashioned games that have proven to be some of the best. For Lucy’s Saturday cook this month she organised a competition that included paper plane making, moving objects without using your hands and seeing how many fancy dress items you can put on in 30 seconds, it was brilliant fun.

Creativity

Whether Bird Island attracts creative people or creates them I don’t know, but it seems that everyone has their moments of creative genius. People have invented their own games, filmed and edited wildlife and music videos, written songs and painted pictures.

One area of creativity you’re always going to get on BI is cooking. You have to be resourceful with the ingredients that are stocked and it leads to some truly original and delicious dinners.

Lucy Quinn getting creative with Bird Island base ingredients
Lucy Quinn getting creative with Bird Island base ingredients

Communications

We were fortunate enough to receive a visit from the passing fisheries vessel this month so it’s been a busy time of writing letters and putting together post to send back home. The amount of contact we can have back to home makes a big difference in these quiet months. I love the fascination my grandparents have when they receive a phone call from the Antarctic.

So as you can see with all the things to do down here the time really does whiz by, although I’m not sure that’s a good thing. We’re really looking forward to our 48hr film festival next month, the ringing of the wandering albatross chicks and hopefully plenty of snow so we can get the sledges out!

 

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