Landing with seals, penguins, people and reindeer

October 27, 2007 at 11:13 am | Posted in Observations in Antarctica, Photos, Rachel Hazell | 2 Comments

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24th October

*A very Happy Birthday to Charlotte and Rhys!!

Six-thirty call. We’ve arrived at South Georgia. Fortuna Bay is filled with sunlight. Wonderful solitary run in cool bright sunshine, round and round amongst the snow-patched mountains and shining water; easier to exercise when the world is like this. Rush breakfast – there’s a landing first thing (starting at seven-thirty.) Layer up thermals, load up cameras in general readiness, only to discover that there will be an hour’s break in between boat groups; landing regulations allow just one hundred people ashore at any one time. Mmm the perfect tea opportunity. The weather has turned – snow clouds blowing over the peaks. Land on rocky beach scattered with fur seals, people, elephant seals, penguins and reindeer in the distance. Walk over glacial plane with Rick along to the king penguin colony avoiding fur seals marking their territory and clumps of penguins apparently, bemusedly, going the same way. Elephant seals litter the way like burping trunks of driftwood. Groups of fifty-odd king penguins stand in streams, stoically facing the same direction. At the colony loads of ridiculously fluffy brown baby kings; some just still, others solemnly following a parent. Hard to envisage the transformation from downy plum to sleek back and white

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A quick game of Badminton at Falkland

October 25, 2007 at 8:23 am | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Dreams and imagination, Journey, Life in the snow, Photos, Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment

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21st October. Happy Birthday Timothy!

Early approach to Stanley. Sally is on the quay. It’s raining. There’s a bit of faff with the gangplank not achieving the correct angle of rest. Then a beautiful garden shed is fork-lifted into position for customs/security ha ha. Stand around on slippery steel discussing ice conditions and getting our fuel/alcohol supplies security checked and onboard. Sit drinking tea while the people who know what they’re doing do it. Squeeze into Sally’s car and visit her home/ducks/polytunnel before heading to the Falkland’s main Post Office. In by the side entrance, past the sorting room piled with parcels (which already rouses me to a pleasurable frenzy) and through to the back where the safe is full of stamps and the smiling staff are ready to furnish us with enough postal paraphernalia for four and a half months. We double-check sheaves of First Day Covers and shoals of sheetlets, oohing and aahing over new releases of Antarctic marine life, fresh iceberg stamps and a special commemorative round one for International Polar Year…(I’ll tell you more when we’re properly set up at Port Lockroy.) While Helen is more fully instructed in the Arts of Post Mistressing there’s time to admire the order and repetition, talk about the significance of postal communication and stock up on padded envelopes. Deputy Post Master Ann is going to be our parcel lifeline; thank-YOU Ann! Walk away down Ross Road chanting ‘I love stamps and envelopes and rubber stamps and stationary!’ loud enough to remember exactly how excited I am to be on the way to doing this job. Stand in the aisles of what is likely to be the last supermarket for four and a half months paralysed with indecision. From the mass of bounty I choose mint humbugs and gold doilies. Back to ship for lunch and gym stuff. Rick has decreed that we play badminton and has booked a court. What a laugh! Such an unexpected way to spend our final afternoon in civilisation. All frustrated by how good we used to be, except Tudor who’s brilliant regardless, and even appears to have a strategy. Cool off in the swimming pool, mucking about and laughing (in a kind way) at Tudor’s terrible buttock bruises sustained during an unscheduled bounce down metal steps after a hot tub… Split so that Helen can be shown the swiftest historic tour of Stanley. I wander along the rain-bright colour-saturated streets to dear Kay’s B+B. But where are the gnomes? Relieved to learn that they will be out and proud anytime soon, now that spring is here. Kay, along with her gnomes, home-baking and twinkling eyes nurtured me last year when I’d left HMS Endurance with wobbly sea legs and iceberg etched retinas. Catch up with necessary gossip over tea and fruitcake. Talk about Port Lockroy; Kay thinks her brother-in-law stopped by there in the 40s. She pulls out his diaries (browned paper, meticulous copperplate) and describes how he died from a seal infection after months of pain. He must have been part of Operation Tabarin – Wow! Meet up with the others over beer at the Globe; rough and smoky but the liquor slips down mighty fine. Move on to the Victory and down a few more before emerging into the glowing evening and catching last bus back to the ship. Carry on drinking as we sail away into the tumbling ocean. Sleep with tablets to hand and two e-mails from home x

Rachel Hazell moves to Antarctica…

August 23, 2007 at 4:05 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Blogroll, Book art, Dreams and imagination, Journey, Life in the snow, Observations in Antarctica, Penguins, Photos, Rachel Hazell | 7 Comments

Rachel Hazell will set sail in under two months time to the beautiful world of ice-white Antarctica. Rachel’s new job will be Post Assistant and Penguin Monitor where she will stamp over 20,000 postcards in the time she will be there. In between handling all that card and ink, Rachel will step outside and very quietly and gently tip toe around the sleeping penguins, counting them and their eggs and recording the data for the international penguin monitoring programme. Rachel said, “I am thrilled to be finally living my dream as Post Mistress for Antarctica. I’ve lived on one of Her Majesty’s Navy ships, teaching sailors to make small books, but this has to be my biggest life long ambition.” This will be the site for Rachel’s diary while she is away, so come back often for updates from abroad.

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