10 December 2000 - Skiing, Sledging and Skidooing
RRS James Clark Ross Diary
Noon Position : 56 degrees 22 ' South. 59 degrees 29 ' West.
Distance travelled since Grimsby: 12,993 nautical miles
Air temperature @ noon: 4.0 degrees Celsius
Sea temperature @ noon: 6.3 degrees Celsius
A lot of hard work ensured that all the cargo had been unloaded at Rothera station by Tuesday morning, and all that was left to do was to back-load the "gash". All waste - "gash" - is removed from Rothera station like the other UK stations to protect the local environment. As we were ahead of schedule some of the ship's personnel were able to get the afternoon off, and Rothera staff kindly put on an afternoon of skiing up at their local "ski resort".
Local Rothera ski resort
Random skiers - Me, Luke and Dave
Click on images to enlarge
It was an excellent afternoon of beautiful sunshine, fantastic views and lots of snow - most of which was experienced at first hand, as even the best of the skiers fell head over heels trying to find their supposed ski legs. Skiing in Rothera is slightly different from the usual ski resort, mainly due to the lack of lifts, but this is easily rectified by an initial run in the Sno-cat to get up to the pristine slopes, and then a regular run of skidoos that drag the skiers and snow-boarders up the mountain and then blast down again to pick up the next lot.
For those with more guts "Pecker's Sledge" was available, an interesting ensemble of wood pallets and skis painted with "tasteful" go-faster stars, not that it needs to go any faster than it already does. Skiers, skidooers and even just pedestrians need to beware when it is on the move, Dave promises that he has complete control - Hmmm. This is certainly the most exotic ski location I've ever been to.
After an enjoyable evening in the Rothera bar it was back to work and we sailed the following morning, heading back to Stanley via Port Lockroy again to pick up the mail and a few other bits and bobs. The Lockroy lads, Ken and Jim, had been busy having been visited by three cruise ships already and they seemed quite comfortable in their new home.
The waters around the Antarctic Peninsula have suddenly become relatively busy due to the start of the tourist season, and there was almost a traffic jam when we headed through Neptunes Bellows, the entrance to the bay at Deception Island.
Deception Island is a collapsed volcanic cone, its crater making a natural habour. The volcano is certainly not extinct and although there have been no eruptions since 1967 there has certainly been activity over the last decade. The shore continues to steam and the first metre or so of water is unaturally warm for the latitude tempting a few brave (or stupid) people into swimming!!!
The lads - Lee, Dave, Dean, Scanner,
The locals welcoming Dave
Click on images to enlarge
- The island has a chequered history - here's the abridged version:
- 1820: First formally explored by the American sealer Nathanial Palmer
- 1906: First whalers set up a factory ship in Whalers Bay
- 1908: Britain formally claimed the island within the Falkland Islands Dependencies
- 1928: Australian Hubert Wilkins made the first flight in Antarctica from Deception Island
- 1941: During the Second World War the British destroyed coal and fuel oil depots to thwart German raiders
- 1942: Argentina sent its Navy to the island to take formal possesion
- 1943: Britain sent HMS Caernarvon Castle to the island where it removed the evidence of Argentina's visit
- 1943: Two months later the Argentinians were back again, removing British emblems and repainting the Argentine flag
- 1943: At the end of the year, the British returned once again and removed Argentina's marks and established a permanent meteorological station
- 1948: The arguing continued and the Argentine Republic built their own base
- 1952: The Chileans decided to get involved, and they, plus the Argentinians each built a hut on the British airstrip
- 1953: The British Navy returned and removed the huts and deported two Argentinians to South Georgia
- 1954: British Royal marines were sent to keep the peace
- 1955: Chile built a new station at Pendulum Cove
- 1957: An Argentinian Naval ship sped through Neptunes Bellows wrecking a Scottish whaling ship
- 1961: The Antarctic Treaty is ratified giving freedom of access by all countries to all of Antarctica including Deception Island. Territorial claims are "put on ice" and "frozen" for the duration of the treaty.
- 1961: Argentina sent its President to show the country's official interest in the island
- 2000: Today, Query - Do all three countries still claim the island as their own "frozen" asset?
As we leave the Antarctic Peninsula behind us, and head back toward Stanley. We also leave the calm seas and sunshine, and revert to our normal rhythm of bouncing up and down over the Burdwood Bank, the night before our arrival at our home port.