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King Edward Point Diary — September 2009

September heralded springtime for us here at KEP. It will go down in my memory as the month of the great melt but thankfully the snow held out long enough for the doc Angy and I to go on our girly holiday to the Greene Peninsula on the 1st day of the month. We didn’t intend on travelling very light because we were camping very close to the beach, so it was very much a luxury camping holiday.

Our treats included bagels, cream cheese, bacon, wine and pickled onions to name just a few. We had a very relaxing few days and were incredibly lucky with the weather. We travelled the length of the peninsula on our skis from Dartmouth Point down to the base of the Harker Glacier. From there, we could see a hanging glacier and it seemed a good a spot as any to enjoy and gin and tonic with some glacier ice.

Angy (on the left) and I enjoyed our gin in front of the Harker Glacier. (Photo: Paula O'Sullivan)
Angy (on the left) and I enjoyed our gin in front of the Harker Glacier. (Photo: Paula O'Sullivan)

We also encountered a leopard seal on that day. So an amazing time all round.

Springtime also means new faces for us, not just cute elephant seals but in faces of Ainslie Wilson (Museum manager) and Bridget Steed (museum assistant/Artist). They arrived to a warm welcome by some hairy winterers on the 7th. It just happened that it was Ainslie’s birthday and she had been urging the crew of the FPV to get here on time so she could celebrate her first official South Georgia birthday. I’m not at liberty to disclose her age but she got her “few” birthday kisses for the day and she was delighted to be back. A barbecue was held that evening to jointly celebrate Ainslie’s birthday and also as a welcome to the new captain Chris Butters. It was another uproarious night in the hold of the Pharos with plenty of dancing/stomping.

It seemed to be a month of birthdays for only the weekend following, it was the 12th of September and it was government officer Pat Lurcock’s birthday. Again, the number of candles on his cake will remain top secret but he would have been enjoying a few more birthday kisses than Ainslie. Everyone on the island was invited to a “Guinness” theme fancy dress birthday party at Carse House. On show were some human pints of Guinness, designer Guinness jewellery and even a bald priest! I shall leave it to your imaginations to picture the sea of black and white around the dinner table. Sarah Lurcock (postmistress) dished up a wonderful dinner as usual. Then we were invited to partake in some gentle activities, organised by Sarah. There were four teams and all to play for. The competition was high. Flashbacks of the midwinter Olympics and the honour of victory brought out the competitive spirit in us all. Tiddly winks, carpet boules and ten-pin bowling were the three disciplines. 100% commitment from all athletes was given and the victors were rewarded with treasured wine gums. In grand slam fashion, the losers were given wooden spoons. A fantastic night of fun was had.

The week that followed was uneventful compared to the excitement the month started with. George, Tom, Richy and Jon ventured to Deadmans Pass for winter field training. Where I am told they sculpted a masterpiece of a snow cave! They slept the night in there “5 star” accommodation to return to a glorious sunny day at KEP and another barbecue.

The following morning we had another visit from our friends on the Pharos, who stayed alongside for three nights.

That Friday night, we were given the opportunity to enjoy a first rate illustrated presentation by Theis and Kicki, our friends from the wintering yacht Wanderer 3. The talk and the photos captured everyone in the room. They have spent their lives together travelling the world on Wanderer 3 and sharing some magical places that some of us wouldn’t have heard of. It was a marvellous evening and a remarkable story they told.

Well the next week started with a spirited game of football. The 21st of September was the UN international day of peace and we participated in the global “one day one goal” campaign. It involved us playing football in what were extreme conditions. The groundsman was away camping so we had to play in deep snow and to consolidate our misfortune of deep snow; we had a gale blowing across the pitch. Pitch is a term I use loosely! Before we even got started most of the team was shattered from chasing the wind swept ball halfway to Grytviken. I’ve been told the wind chill was close to minus 20°C but for us playing in our insulated boiler suits, it felt positively tropical!

From left to right: Top row - George, Jon, Angy, Tommy, Richy, Luke. Bottom row - Paula, Tom (Photo: Paula O'Sullivan)
From left to right: Top row - George, Jon, Angy, Tommy, Richy, Luke. Bottom row - Paula, Tom (Photo: Paula O'Sullivan)

The next big date in the diary had to have been the 24th. This year marked the historical 250th anniversary of the signing of the lease at St. James Gate by Arthur Guinness in 1759. There was nothing to be done but have a pint or two of the black stuff for the occasion. So at 17:59, we congregated in the bar. We toasted Arthur, and of course to Luke, our fisheries scientist for reminding us of the day it was.

A lot happened on this day if I remember rightly. Our first elephant seal pup of the season was born in the afternoon, over by the fuel farm. I think Arthur would have been an apt name for the first pup but Angy got in there and named him Gordon. Most of us had been on a wonderful trip round to St. Andrews Bay and Ocean Harbour, where we saw Wanderer 3 drop anchor. The purpose of our trip was to re-supply Ocean Harbour hut with first aid equipment. We all missed that first birth, but I’ve been fortunate enough to see two by the time of writing this.

Birth of an Elephant seal

On the last weekend of the month, we had another camping party head off with some considerable bags. We dropped Tom, Angy, Richy and Bridget at Sorling beach with skies to traverse the Barff Peninsula to St. Andrews Bay. We had dropped some supplies there for them during the week when out boating so I’m sure they had a superb week and enjoyed the sausage and bacon immensely in the mornings!

On the science side of life here at KEP this month, our two scientists have been as assiduous as ever. Luke was away trawling during the second week of the month. Some of the sites trawled include Gold Harbour and Possession Bay in the Bay of Isles. Luke is also kept a busy man with a freezer full of samples that he is industriously working his way through.

Jon, as ever, has been on many poo missions this month and also on Tuesday the 29th completed a census of the Gentoo penguin colony at Maiviken with Pat Lurcock.

Us boaties have also been hard at work. We slipped the jet boats 3 times this month for routine maintenance. For those of you who know boats, you will know that there is always work to be done on them and enough to keep you going.

We also had doc school this month, and Angy is keeping us up to speed with our first aid.

Needless to say Tommy and Richy are putting in the hours and keeping the base ticking over with our fearless leader Tom at the helm. So, all the team have put down another cheerful and blissful month here at KEP. The only problem is the months are going too fast for some of us.

From the now melted wildlife haven that is KEP,

Slan go foill,
Paula