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Signy Island Diary — December 2009

Hi,

I am Antony Clements. I am the facilities technician here in Signy. Back home I live in a small village in North Dorset, where I work as a plumber. This is my first time working in Antarctica.

Signy is a beautiful small Island that has fantastic scenery. Plenty of walking and variable weather that can change by the hour. December started with a gradual melting of the snow, with the elephant seals finding their way onto land and around the base. To say their personal hygiene standards are poor would be an understatement.

Mr and Mrs Friendly our resident skuas are on true form as Jessica found out to her cost. Don’t leave the top store carrying a joint meat without a hard hat on. Mr friendly landed on her head and checked if it was worth eating by giving it a few good pecks. Bruce was very sympathetic to her and burst out laughing.

I spent a night in Foca hut with Jessica (PhD student Cambridge, cake maker and crossword expert) and Bruce (GA, walking food dustman as he eats everything in the fridge). We’re at Skua Terrace on the north west of the island helping Jessica with drilling moss core samples. We drilled down 1.2 metres. Tiring and dizzy walking round in circles.

The hut was warm and dry, biscuit browns and dehydrated chilli concarni to eat.

Jessica & Bruce moss core drilling (Photo: A.M. Clements)
Jessica & Bruce moss core drilling (Photo: A.M. Clements)

Saw 10 Weddell seals and one Leopard seal and one fur seal at Foca.

Matt (Base commander), Bruce and myself pulled a sledge all the way up to the repeater and back with 2 new batteries weighing 60kg. We walked, crawled and tumbled for 5 hours through waist deep snow at times. The round trip was about 6 km.

The wind was blowing on top at the repeater and standing up was quite difficult at times. It was a relief to get back to base and sit down.

Matt at the repeater (Photo: A.M. Clements)
Matt at the repeater (Photo: A.M. Clements)

We had a Saturday night darts match against Bird Island. The previous week was spent practicing. Jessica had the top score of 143. Matt won our practice games and was congratulated by Dirk in true sporting style!!!! We linked up with web cams and battle commenced. We put on our best pink Signy T shirts. Bird Island is renowned for having a strong team and rarely beaten. After 3 hard and long matches, mainly due to poor dart accuracy, the final match was decided on a double, which both base teams needed to win and Signy won, with the winning dart thrown by Bruce.

Signy Pink Ladies Dart Team (Photo: William Purvis)
Signy Pink Ladies Dart Team (Photo: William Purvis)

Mid December saw Jessica, Bruce and William leave for home. Mike Dunn (Penguin man and fry up king), Andy Webb (Facilities Engineer) and Gerry Hatting (electrician, Royal Engineers) arrive.

Leaving Signy (Photo: A.M. Clements)
Leaving Signy (Photo: A.M. Clements)

The snow is melting quickly and there is a fast flowing river flowing under the base. You can hear the noise of the water from inside Sørlle House.

We have had some fantastic sunny days, warm enough to be in short sleeves.

Factory Cove (Photo: A.M. Clements)
Factory Cove (Photo: A.M. Clements)
Sunset Factory Cove (Photo: A.M. Clements)
Sunset Factory Cove (Photo: A.M. Clements)

Now that Andy and Gerry are here we have some large projects to start and complete before last call in April. The first was to start the installation of 2 new diesel generators and new fuel lines this involved lots of heavy lifting after dismantling the new generators to get them into the generator shed.

We had to remove the side wall panels and fire alarm wiring from the generator. Space was limited and finding room for the old and new generators was a challenge.

Old generator disconnected with Andy and Gerry in the background (Photo: A.M. Clements)
Old generator disconnected with Andy and Gerry in the background (Photo: A.M. Clements)
Andy assembling new generator (Photo: A.M. Clements)
Andy assembling new generator (Photo: A.M. Clements)

Christmas day arrived, Matt cooked Christmas dinner.

As you can see we put a lot of effort in the decorations.

Christmas dinner 2009 (Photo: A.M. Clements)
Christmas dinner 2009 (Photo: A.M. Clements)

Before Jessica left she made an excellent Christmas cake that was all eaten within a couple of days. The liberal amounts of brandy helped with the flavour and moistness of the cake.

Dirk (when he hasn’t been wandering around trying to find his coffee cups) and Mike have been busy with the penguin colonies, most days off to other parts of the Island. They just managed to get back after spending Christmas Eve in Foca hut on Christmas morning in time for Christmas dinner. If not they would had spam for dinner.

The last 2 weeks of the year have been very busy. Getting the generator ready to be connected up and running.

New Years Eve I went for a swim to refit the water inlet pipe.

Refitting the water inlet pipe (Photo: A.M. Clements)
Refitting the water inlet pipe (Photo: A.M. Clements)

To say goodbye to 2009 and to welcome in 2010 and a new year, Matt did a BBQ. Plenty of steaks, chicken kebabs, baked beans, jacket potatoes and a few cans of beer. Standing outside enjoying the light evening even if it was a bit chilly and noise from the elephant seals, it was a night worth remembering, made more so by the great company.

Mr and Mrs Friendly were on hand in case of a chance to steal any unattended meal.

Happy New Year everyone and see you all April 2010.