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King Edward Point Diary — April 2009

And finally… the April diary entry for KEP. As Luke in March gave you the most comprehensive and poetic description of South Georgia’s wildlife, ecosystems and sporting glory, I shall address other topics about which I might be more qualified (?) to speak — ratting, birthdays and clouds.

So far, life on South Georgia has been amazing and April did not disappoint, as it did finally… SNOW! (We have been pretending to all our friends and relatives that this has been happening all along, living on a sub-antarctic island etc.) Yippee.

Early on in the month there was a trip to Harpon Bay with Jon, Richy, Paula and Luke the happy campers. Later we celebrated Easter with a fantastic turkey roast (courtesy of Jobbo the visiting chippy and excellent guitarist). Base was fairly quiet as several had left on Pharos (the fishery patrol vessel) with Jon (the higher predator scientist, also covering birds), to try an attempt at landing on Prion Island to count Wandering Albatross chicks. Weather and sea conditions did not play ball and they had to abandon the landing this time.

A few days later we had our first proper snow, just before waving goodbye to Ainslie Wilson (museum manager), Glynnis King (post mistress) and all but one of the Morrison’s staff (we liked Darren and decided to keep him). This marked the start of winter, as the only people left on the island were the 8 members of the BAS overwintering team, Emma (government officer) and her partner Steve (post master after finishing his Morrison’s duties), Darren for a short while and the Wanderer III yachties, Thies and Kicki. However KEP doesn’t close its door to outsiders for winter once the BAS ships leave as some of the other bases do (eg. Halley, Rothera). Over winter at KEP we still get a just shy of monthly visit from the fishery patrol vessel, Pharos, and the fishing season has begun. Tooth fish long liners and ice fish and krill trawlers start coming our way. The government officer very kindly offers to take one of the BAS staff with her when a fishing vessel inspection takes place. We see them at work, inspecting pilot ladders, checking safety equipment, paperwork, conditions on board and the size of the holes in the nets — if the holes are too small leading to the potential netting of unlicensed by-catch she will instruct the ship’s command to ensure the net ropes are retied or replaced so that the rules are complied with prior to issue of a license. Too little holes no license.

Coffee at the top of Duse, looking out to East Cumberland Bay and Brown Mountain (Photo: Angharad Jones)
Coffee at the top of Duse, looking out to East Cumberland Bay and Brown Mountain (Photo: Angharad Jones)
Ainslie on the way down from Duse after a dawn climb (Photo: Angharad Jones)
Ainslie on the way down from Duse after a dawn climb (Photo: Angharad Jones)
Early morning up Duse, looking over into West Cumberland Bay (Photo: Angharad Jones)
Early morning up Duse, looking over into West Cumberland Bay (Photo: Angharad Jones)
West Cumberland Bay (Photo: Angharad Jones)
West Cumberland Bay (Photo: Angharad Jones)

We were very pleased to have a visit from one of the Tevakenui yachties, Jane Lelec, who is working aboard one of the fishing vessels as an observer. She seemed in very fine form. Ramon, a Brazilian fishing observer, was another popular visitor, not solely for provision of the raw materials and instruction for ‘how to make Caipirinhas’. Great evening.

The national game, darts, took on a sophistication as is yet unknown in these parts, with Jobbo providing a shiny new foot marker at the correct distance from the board, nestled tastefully into our new blue carpet tiles. Top job and tough to the cheats who used to step over the carpet smudge in the hope we wouldn’t notice.

Richy, showing us how it's done (Photo: Angharad Jones)
Richy, showing us how it's done (Photo: Angharad Jones)

I live with an understanding bunch. It is my regular duty to request fresh produce from the supplier in the Falklands, and this arrives with each fishery patrol visit. Every visit that is, except for this month’s — when I forgot to order it in time. I have no idea how many times my name was muddied outside my hearing, but in public, people were most gracious. There is no end to the imaginative dishes that can be put together with dried onions and tinned potatoes and dried potatoes and dried onions (something other bases will be perfectly familiar with). Other duties include rat catching (April was a BONANZA month) and post office assisting on board the cruise ships. I particularly like it when we are given cakes.

Emma and Tom were the birthday babies this month. I think Emma was touched by her elegant bubble-gum pink baseball cap. Everyone now wants one. And has anyone ever played the game of timed: ‘guess the nursery rhyme by drawing it on a balloon at the bar’ — surprisingly good entertainment in the absence of pre-planned party games. The sunset the night of 20th April was breathtaking. The pictures here don’t do it justice, I am afraid. They are lenticular clouds (I am no meteorologist) and seem to have been taken right out of a Ghostbusters set.

Clouds behind Hodges mountain (Photo: Angharad Jones)
Clouds behind Hodges mountain (Photo: Angharad Jones)
East Cumberland Bay (Photo: Angharad Jones)
East Cumberland Bay (Photo: Angharad Jones)

George is our carpenter extraordinaire in residence and, several months after the initial tutoring there is a product! The sauna spoon is complete. This means that anyone unlucky enough to be present whilst I am near the sauna (housed in a container) is exposed to frequent steam top ups as I show off its utility. Brave sauna-goers roll in the snow to cool down. Scaredy-cats have a luke warm shower and only twist it to ‘cold’ at the very end.

Sauna spoon (Photo: Angharad Jones)
Sauna spoon (Photo: Angharad Jones)

Time to draw this entry to a close. In summary — wonderful, magical place with excellent company, thank you, all.

Angharad Jones
KEP Doctor