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King Edward Point Diary — May 2012

Compared to recent months, May was a relatively quiet month and saw us eventually whittled down to our wintering team.

The month kicked off with an oil spill response exercise, involving all base members. Here at KEP we are reliant only on ourselves in the case of any incidents, and with boats, generators and JCBs requiring frequent refuelling, we need to be well drilled in responding to any spills which may occur. Our mock spill involved a barrel of fuel which had been spilt on the jetty and so we donned the appropriate (though not exactly stylish) PPE and got to work assembling all the kit and dealing with the ‘cleanup’. Luckily for us, it was a pretty good day for weather and all went smoothly, with fun had by all as well.

 KEP's rapid oil spill response team (Photo: John Schutzer-Weissman)
KEP's rapid oil spill response team (Photo: John Schutzer-Weissman)

Race Antarctica commenced at the start of the month, with teams down south and back in Cambridge all putting in the miles by whatever method available (walking, running, swimming, skiing, cycling, rowing) to travel either 2840 or 6000 kilometres ‘across Antarctica’. With two teams here at KEP, there has been plenty of activity in the gym and the relocation of the rowing machine to Larsen House has been a hit, with rowers now able to pass the time watching DVDs while they row their way across the distance!

Early in the month there was also call for celebration with the Base Commander James’ birthday. A fine dinner was prepared by the doctor with not one, but two chocolate cakes for birthday pudding. After the feast, it was time for the boss to let his hair down and celebrations moved to the bar where some dubious dancing took place into the night…

There was of course still work to be done and all were kept busy: The boaties kept on top of their maintenance, with the jet boat Pipit coming out of the water for a period of dry docking. A few fishing boats were still to come in to King Edward Cove, requiring the Government Officers to go aboard and deal with inspections and paperwork. Tech services continued with their usual list of jobs, making sure that all on base is working in tip top condition. On the science front, Alastair was busy in the office, analysing his data after spending most of the summer with the seals at Maiviken, while I was in the lab going through my own samples which I collected at sea last month.

 Pipit out of the water and undergoing routine maintenance (Photo: Katie Brigden)
Pipit out of the water and undergoing routine maintenance (Photo: Katie Brigden)

Of course, all work and no play is no fun at all and with things a little quieter this month it was a good opportunity for people to get away on holiday. First it was the turn of the ladies, with myself, Paula and Jo heading off to the Greene peninsula for a few days away. We were lucky with weather and enjoyed splendid sunny days out walking and sightseeing, the highlight of which for me was a champagne lunch at the Harker glacier to celebrate my birthday, with the girls even sneaking with us a birthday cake and candles — a marvellous way to spend a birthday.

 The girls on the Greene (Photo: Katie Brigden)
The girls on the Greene (Photo: Katie Brigden)

Later in the month James, John and Keiron headed off to the Barff peninsula for something of an epic trip, travelling as far as they could make it down the length of the peninsula in five days. They were also lucky with the weather, getting a good few sunny days, though the clear evenings made for some chilly nights in the tent.

 The boys on the Barff (Photo: John Schutzer Weissman)
The boys on the Barff (Photo: John Schutzer Weissman)
 The boys on the Barff (Photo: John Schutzer Weissman)
The boys on the Barff (Photo: John Schutzer Weissman)

Production of mid-winter presents kept everyone busy throughout the month too. Traditionally mid-winter is celebrated on all bases down south with a mammoth feast and the exchanging of handmade presents. With names drawn out of a hat last month, everyone was furtively working away on their gifts which will be revealed on mid-winters day next month. Whilst all is supposed to be kept secret until the day, that doesn’t stop people from guessing who is making for whom and what they are making, leading to much mid-winter present gossip circulating around base!

As the month went on, winter started to make itself more known, with more snow falling and allowing everyone to bring their skis out of hibernation. With winter weather firmly established at KEP, it was time for our wintering number to become so as well. The few remaining visitors left and we also saw the departure of our old electrician, Tommy. His departure was marked with a ‘night at the dogs’, with everyone dressing up in some related fashion (dogs, handlers, punters) and an evening of betting ensued, with Jo demonstrating quite the knack and coming away several thousand up — though alas it wasn’t real money!

 Snow at King Edward Cove (Photo: Alastair Wilson)
Snow at King Edward Cove (Photo: Alastair Wilson)

Katie Brigden — Fisheries Biologist