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Nov 24 - Signy Island

Monday 24th November 2008

Noon Position report:
Latitude: 55 12.1 S
Longitude: 041 07.2 W
Bearing: 236 °T, 128 Nm from Bird Island
Cruise Number: JR 187
Distance Travelled:
Total Distance Travelled:
Steam Time:
Total Steam Time:
Average Speed:
Total Average Speed:
Wind: Direction WNW, Force 3
Sea State: Moderate
Air Temp: 3.2 °C Sea Temp: 2.3 °C
Pressure: 1009.8 Tendency: Rising

Current distance from Barry: 6,586 miles

This has been a great week! Our first task was to open up the base at Signy Island. Since it impossible to berth the ship at the small jetty on the island, so the adventure began with trips to shore in the small boats:

Tim and Gareth heading for Signy
Tim and Gareth heading for Signy

Once ashore we all got to work with various tasks; starting up the generators, fixing broken fences, taking down shutters etc. I was kept occupied helping to shovel snow to expose the path so that cargo could later be carried to the stores. All this frenzied activity was presided over by somewhat disinterested Elephant Seals - I must confess I was pleased at their apathy towards us — I should not have liked to pick a fight with one of those giants!

Work begins, opening up the base
Work begins, opening up the base

The morning‘s hard and cold labour was rewarded by a warm lunch sent ashore by the cooks on the mother-ship JCR

A well-earned lunch break
A well-earned lunch break

Our devouring of lunch did not go unnoticed, and we were joined by two extremely friendly Skewers, who joined us on the steps, willing us to share the food. The remainder of the day continued in the same vein, with the off-loading and storage of cargo, sufficient to keep comfortable those staying on base for the season. The following day, work went on, but I had by now found myself a warmer job, sorting through the medicines in the store room. By the end of the two days, we were all shattered, so Penny (the dentist) and I tried to boost morale with some tea and Welsh-cakes for the workers:

The inaugural consumption of Welsh-cakes at Signy
The inaugural consumption of Welsh-cakes at Signy

With Signy up and running, our next mission was to take cargo to King Edward Point on South Georgia. We must have seen it at its best, as the island was just magnificent:

The JCR at King Edward Point, South Georgia
The JCR at King Edward Point, South Georgia
After a briefing from the local authorities, boots cleaned, we prepared to go ashore
After a briefing from the local authorities, boots cleaned, we prepared to go ashore

And again, I could hardly believe it - the Welsh Dragon was there to greet me. I am beginning to realize that, like Wombles, there are Welsh people everywhere; North, South, East and West!

Another Welsh flag
Another Welsh flag

There was an old whaling station in the bay, the remains of which can be visited, and conjure up a rather eerie impression of a by-gone era.

Ralph among the machinery of the old blubber cookery
Ralph among the machinery of the old blubber cookery

Some of us took the opportunity to practise our campanology at the Norwegian church, and to visit the museum and Ernest Shackleton's grave.

Shackletons grave
Shackletons grave
Norwegian church at Grytviken whaling station - Norwegian church at Grytviken whaling station
Norwegian church at Grytviken whaling station - Norwegian church at Grytviken whaling station

Besides the stunning scenery, one of the best things about this island is the wildlife. During the day, we saw fur seals, elephant seals, even a leopard seal, Gentoo penguins, Adélie Penguins, King Penguins, and a vast array of smaller birds:

A King Penguin, perhaps learning to fly
A King Penguin, perhaps learning to fly
Adelie penguins
Adelie penguins

To my delight, due to a change in the weather and high work-load for our dentist (Penny), we were forced to remain at KEP overnight: inevitably this meant party time! Our kind hosts at the base, welcomed us with dinner and music and entertained us with various toys which to the unwary newcomer, resulted in a face covered in talcum powder… don‘t ask!

We were sorry to leave the sun and fun of South Georgia, but it is on to Bird island with great eagerness that we head this coming week.

The best photo taken in KEP during our visit must be this one, again, taken by Johnny:

Good bye to South Georgia and the King Penguins
Good bye to South Georgia and the King Penguins