Saturday 21 January 2012

Impressions from Port Lockroy

Today I am the guest writer as the Drake Passage is way too calm for good stories.

As you might have read, Fram dropped me off last voyage in Port Lockroy, the former British Base.
Lets be honest for a moment: when you are coming to Port Lockroy for the short visits that ships usually do, you tent to wonder what the staff there is actually doing all day long when there is no ship. One then imagines it to be a rather quiet spot. If you have travelled with us before, you know exactly what I mean.

It has always been a dream to spent more time in Antarctica at one spot, not to move around and to see a little bit more and get a different input and impression. When I asked the „United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust“ a year ago if there is a slight possibiliy to join the Port Lockroy team for a few days, I was not quite sure if it would all work out.

With Ylva in the shop

It turned out to be a crazy busy time! The main team consists of four women with Ylva as base commander, Claire, Cath and Kat. When I was there we also had a carpenter called Michael (who looks a bit like Harrison Ford) as well as for five days Jonathan who got some technical equipment (webcam, iridium phones etc) going. You get up at around 6.30am every day and then basically work through all day long. As soon as one ship was gone, the next one moved in. And it staid like this for nearly the entire time! Now it is high season in Antarctica and you do not have time to sleep or rest: talking about the history with arriving passengers, restocking the store, counting needed to be done in addition to the ongoing renovation work of the historical buildings.

What I realized very soon is the hard work that the entire team puts into their work- and the total dedication to the project. I realized that this is definately not a relaxing job but is very challenging in many aspects. I learned to admire the girls for their „handyman“ skills and can just say in German: HUT AB! It is interesting to see how ones abilities are stretching, how you want to learn more and more and really get into it. During the time, the work shop was painted as it is hopefully soon part of the museum. It will look absolutely great when it is done and just thinking about it makes one smile. The great thing is that despite all the work it was a bit „therapeutic“ as well as you see what you have done in the end of the day. Which as Expedition Leader you never have the feeling that you are totally finished in the end of the day...Often, tasks took long- just to paint a window can take a few days due to the fact that a) it took so long to dry in the Antarctic climate, b) visitors came and one had to leave the current work and c) something unexpected happened all the time. Which was great! Carrying wood and other rubbish to the landing site for the soon-to-be pick up by the HSM Protector was not an easy task. Not because it was heavy alone, but also because you had to go over slippry stones and you just knew that you could not afford to miss-step on any of those and slide and fall.

We were 7 people in a very tiny building and a confined place but without any hesitation I can say: I loved every minute of it! But I do think that porridge for breakfast ist something that you have to grow up with to
REALLY appreciate it.