King Edward Point Diary — June 2012
The first thing that always springs to mind when it comes to writing the June diary is of course – Mid Winters day and all the celebrations that accompanies the very special day in our calendar down here on this magical Sub Antarctic Island we call home for now. Before I try and begin to share the memories of another fantastic mid winter week with you all, I shall give you a few brief snippets of other news from the month.
Well the first day of the month was a Friday and the start of a great weekend, with some highlights including some lip licking lemon tart, my first day out skiing for the year and not to forget some progress on my MWP (mid winter present). Another highlight to the start of June was a boating trip round to Carlita on the North side of Cumberland West bay with the Neumayer glacier as the backdrop. Photos and words could not do any justice to the indescribable stunning views that South Georgia has to offer the lucky few who live here. It never fails to take my breath away, and stop me in my tracks, just how lucky we are to experience such natural beauty. We ventured around to Cumberland West bay to drop off Andy Black and Jennifer Lee (environmental officer for the government) who were on the Island to observe behaviour at bait stations around the local area using gnaw sticks and camera traps. It was a familiarisation trip for Jennifer, her first time on South Georgia. The trip was also to facilitate post rat monitoring and carry out further pre site survey for the reindeer eradication. They were stationed in Carlita for the weekend and we picked them up on yet another “dingle” day. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we were treated to some tail displays from Southern Right whales. Andy and I were on the rib and returned to base with beaming smiles and looking forward to celebrating the Diamond Jubilee.
We decided to mark the historical occasion with a bonfire in front of Larsen house and looking out over the snow capped mountains encompassing Cumberland East bay. It was a crystal clear night with one and all enjoying a few beers with friends around a bonfire. The fishery patrol vessel happened to be alongside and many of the crew came along to aid us in our celebration of the Queens 60 years on the throne.
The first week seemed to pass swiftly with the departure of the fishery patrol vessel, taking Andy and Jen further afield than our boating limits allow, and also the other half of team boat morphed into a fishery scientist for a few days. He was onboard to carry out the ongoing plankton trawls that are an established long term monitoring programme to get an understanding of larval fish abundance and the health of the juvenile population.
It’s getting to that time of year again, with snow on the ground, as beautiful as it is, also brings with it the avalanche risk. James, our BC and anything mountain related legend, imparted some of his knowledge onto us with an excellent avalanche presentation on the 8th. It brings home to us, how we must rely on each other, all 9 of us here, to keep each other safe. It’s an area we all take very seriously with avalanche risks right on our back door step so to speak, and regularly dig ruschpits. With James’ avalanche training ongoing throughout the winter – we are in good hands.
From here on, MWP panic has a firm grip on a few people on base – myself very much included in that group. The chippy work shop lights are seen ablaze from the early hours of the morning until the wee hours of the morning. Blood, sweat and the odd tears are a common occurrence (of course the boys don’t cry!) It’s the tradition that, on mid winter’s day you exchange homemade gifts with other base members; that is if we get them finished on time. I was determined to learn from my last 2 mid winters and not leave it till the last minute so I finished mine with 13 hours to spare! All the cursing, plasters, splinters and head scratching are worth it on the day when you’re very proud to hand over your gift with genuine delight. This year, the standard was exceptionally high, as you can see from the picture below of all the presents.
So I guess that leads me nicely onto one of the most important weeks in our calendar down here, the week of Mid winter, this year falling from the 15th to the 25th. Team government kicked the celebrations off that Friday night with rather a tasty feast indeed, including calamari and duck. One cannot say we are not well provisioned down here but duck is very much a luxury item but the occasion called for it. As I look back over my own personal diary of the month, food and what we have for dinner without fail makes every page. For a moment I thought about turning this into a food diary, but most of you probably don’t really want to know that we had battered chicken on the 12th and the day before was Moroccan fish stew and so on.... Anyway – side tracked there...
Ah yes – the customary Mid winter pub crawl... well where do I start.
The date was Monday the 18th of June. The time was 1934. The location was Andy’s workshop and the bar was called the “Reinens Hode” or the Reindeers head in English. Upon stepping into Andy (electrician) and Ernys ( Mech ) bar – you were immediately transported to Norway. Norway is a far cry from Yorkshire for our mech, but they pulled out all the stops and started off the mid winter pub crawl 2012 with a bang. The service was remarkable, and of course one would have to mention the world class lighting from the resident sparkie! With nearly every Christmas tree light on the island ablaze in the Norwegian bar/ electrical workshop, he created a Scandinavian warm and rosy glow on our cheeks.
With six more lovingly prepared bars to experience, we up and left our Norwegian haven for the “Eradication Arms” in Discovery house, where the bar was cleverly constructed from rat traps. All the locations and styling of the bars is kept tight lipped, and it’s all part of the night, the excitement, the games, the outfits, the music, and the drinks, when we eventually experience as the night unfolds. Bars are a term I use loosely! The effort, thought and energy is astounding that people donate to this event. It’s what makes it such a success and one of the high lights of the week of course.
From there, we ventured to the “Ye Old Beaker Bar”, in the wet lab and hosted by team science, made up of the lovely Miss Bridgen and the always smiling Welsh man – Mr Wilson. There was a very strict dress code for this fine establishment and we all donned some vintage guy cottons for the occasion. They promised us they had washed them but there was a lingering fishy smell and well if you ever find yourself in a bar with tiles and drains on the floor – let it be a warning to you! So with toe tapping sea shanties in the background, we enjoyed the character of our fishy surroundings and many a laugh.
Next on the pub crawl tour of King Edward Point was the magistrate of South Georgia’s bar, conveniently located in the old jail. We found James perched behind his bench, armed with an ice hammer, a long list of convictions and some dubious punishments to be delivered to his unruly subjects. Some of the “fines” he administered for our actions were not as bad as others. I personally enjoyed mine, and Ali was quite at home locked up in the Gruffalo cell for a brief sentence but our resident Yorkshire man was dealt with the toughest of judgements and with great admiration from us all, he drank a glass of cold gravy. Miss Bridgens punishment was also quite harsh and she almost broke down during the trial, when a bottle of Stump Jump was produced to teach her a lesson or two.
So with us all firmly in our place after a close encounter with the lawfulness of Judge Wake, we continued our road to redemption with a visit to Shackleton Villa the residence of our one night only “vicar and his dutiful wife”! The jam and cream scones hit the spot and we washed them down with a topple of pimms, sitting around the dining room table.
Things then took a turn for the worst, quickly returning to our mischievous ways, we entered the “Irish Cannelloni Singles Bar”. An exclusive bar/sauna with lemon passes shown at the door for entry. I apologise to those who do take the time to read our diaries for the random references I make. Some silly base jokes, which make me giggle even now as I type this diary entry nearly 2 months later. Not much to be said about this our penultimate bar, except the words – sex on the beach, jigs and reels.
So, the last port of call on this fantastic evening of entertainment was the Surgery Bar. Our doctor had recruited a rather dapper looking waiter for the evening who presented us with gimlets on arrival. There was a little bit of fancy dress and could easily have been a set off scrubs I’m sure but it was wonderful way to bring the night’s frolics to an end.
And so the 21st of June was upon us.... what a better way to start to special day than with fresh croissants, eggs benedict and a glass of champagne. It’s custom that the BC makes every one’s breakfast to order. James certainly pulled out all the stops that morning and masterly fulfilled yet another role he has to play on base. We all needed that hearty fill to gear us up for the traditional mid winter swim at 1100. I sometimes wonder who came up with this insane idea – to run into the sea, on mid winters day when the sea temperature is hovering at freezing, not to mention the air temperature. And yet – here we all were, in various states of dress, lining up on the beach and psyching ourselves up. The sauna was on full blast, just a 50 metre dash from the sea. There is the unwritten rule that one’s hair must be wet, so Katie and I did a dunk than legged it but most impressive was Joanna Cox, who led from the front with a sprint from the sauna. Hot on her heels was my wing man and my dear friend Matt. They impressed us all and stayed in the longest and even managed a swim, along with a few hardy others. Some brave/silly souls even attempted a second dip.
So after a well deserved long hot shower, it was time to exchange some gifts, as above, and then spruce up for the evening’s meal. We were treated to some guinea fowl, roasted venison, homemade ice cream with brandy snaps and an impressive array of cheeses to name just a few dishes. It would take too long to share everyone’s effort and input with you, so I will just leave it at – a wonderful evening of fine dining, some very pleasant company and more special memories to add to the bank of them that this place generates.
The rest of mid winters week didn’t disappoint the memory bank either. Some highlights include a tapas night with an accent competition. There was a Yorkshire man giving a valiant effort at an Irish accent, an Irish girl who was almost fluent in her not so native Pakistani accent, a Ugandan doc, our BC was all of a sudden a very convincing South African, and Matt – well had us all believing he was in fact German. The evening had us all in stitches around the table, so many thanks to Katie and John for the entertaining evening.
Ongoing throughout the week was a “Decameron”, again organised by our literary genius Dr. John Schutzer- Weissmann. We were all invited to partake, and over the week delivered our performances. There is two that spring to mind, and shall not be forgotten, so worthy of being noted in the history of KEP through these diary entries. Katie wrote a “Mills and Boon” style short story. All characters were fictional of course, but it struck a chord with one base member in particular. No names shall be mentioned for copyright reasons! That leaves me with Matt’s piece – which he transmitted over the radio, on our working channel 6. Matt has vast radio and coastguard experience behind him, and it was evident in the professional delivery of the “KEP sea area forecast”. It’s a shame we cannot share recordings and movies in these diaries but maybe that’s for the better. Although, it would save me wittering on about this month of June 2012.
So on this note, I shall sign off. Many thanks for taking the time to read this entry, and thanks to one and all here for making this such a memorable month.
Yet another month passes my 29th on this Island and I look forward to many more with hopefully some good skiing, and unique special connections with the people, nature and wildlife that I’m so lucky to experience.
All the best,
Paula O Sullivan.