Keep waking up tired these days, though slept well.

May 19, 2008 at 10:13 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment

3rd February

Just going down to the landing when zodiac zooms round to collect Rick – dang! Is nowhere private?! Get ourselves together. Helen’s throat, tonsils and glands are very sore – should she succumb to penicillin? Molchanov’s passengers are apparently unresponsive; the visit is slow and smooth. A small boy from Swansea is anxiously waiting to play with the penguins Afterwards feels like Sunday – want to curl up. Frank first then do so, for forty-five mins. Rick has commenced extending wooden handrail around deck. Helen helps saw. Drag my body up. Helen was on the way to restock. Two skuas are perched above a chick corpse, it’s eyes pecked out. Misty damp cloud draws towards us. Discover two more boxes of info leaflets and a box of t-towels – believed we had run out of both! Bring up postcards and posters etc and unpack. Curry reheated for lunch. Washing up as Antarctic Dream pax appear (had heard hum of zodiacs as they landed at Jougla Point first.) Seventy pax. Maria Agnes’ birthday. Good to see Julio with gifts of wine, jalapenos and unidentifiable black beans. Helen has had genius notion of bringing Tesco’s Finest Christmas Cake up from the boatshed so we can have tea and cake on deck. Rick’s safety rail is nearly complete and it is only snowing slightly. Watch Australis motor in. They radio hello, with plans to land tomorrow, but we expect three ships then, so now is better. Not much to frank. Half an hour later they are here, a jovial bunch, wanting group photos by the flagpole. Roger seems well and is considerate as ever. Mixture of punters; Dutch, Australian (inc. a weaver) and American, having a ball. Helen is painting white on the window frames and Rick is finishing rail, so I hold the fort, chatting away with Tony (one of those Antarctic sea dogs like Bob, who he knows, of course.) Persuaded me to cancel some stamps then and there which I Never do – clearly touched some kind of charm button. Another lady selects loads of items for her staff – she has asked the price in dollars, euros and pounds, then decides it’s all too expensive and puts most back. Sigh. Thought my camera was fixed, but it won’t hold a charge. One technical chap says it is shorting out, but could work if I just put the battery in when needed. Pooped. Rick has prepared enchiladas with remains of bolognaise. Ooh I’m full. Tinker and tweak t-shirts in the shop, hoping we don’t need too much more stock. Tootle down for more plastic bags and pink fleeces, past Gentoo statues, beak tucked under one wing, on domes of rocks. Bedtime for them. Icebergs are glass ornaments scattered on chipped marble table top. Tired and wondering about tomorrow. Others are counting money into thousands, heat cranked up. Pass out on top of sleeping bag… a huge effort to get in.

I am persuaded to wear a little black number.

April 7, 2008 at 5:44 pm | Posted in Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment

27th January

Risked snoring, so awake at four thirty… At seven thirty John, from Corinthian II collects us for breakfast. Utter luxury; fruit, yogurt, hash browns, sausages, salmon, croissant. Then shower in a gorgeous cabin, with time to savour it during Rick’s talk. John keen to get us ashore in advance of the pax, so Helen and I take first staff boat. Busy shop. Biggest single transaction of the whole season; a group of Russians, who refuse the free bag I proffer. Hectic. Helen is in hyper mode since she had ‘rested’ all yesterday. I’m dull, concentrating. Much hassle due to pax not being informed that we can’t accept AMEX. Before Corinthian’s visit is over, Ushuaia cheekily steams into the back bay, ahead of schedule. All I desire is a Green and Black’s Hot Chocolate – Rick prepares the perfect mug-full. Finish franking and restocking, add cc slips. Helen has seen a sheathbill chick, down by the boatshed, very sweet. Lie down cosy for an hour instead of lunch. Ushuaia staff enter the building at two; leap up and into battle. One of the staff is Anna Sutcliffe, whom Tony Soper had given me an envelope for. She’s lovely, we enjoy meeting, and part with assurances to do so again. She has a house on an island, the perfect location for a bookbinding course with islomaniacs… Also chat to Chris Edwards and hear about his rare Polar library and bookbinding in Aberdeen. Had to run a fetch sandwich half way through visit. A revolting smell around the porch cannot be identified – sheathbills had pecked in to an addled penguin egg, just under the grid – very stinky. When they all leave we restock AGAIN, and frank, and cash up. Three work e-mails concerning future booky opportunities – odd to think ahead, away from here. Just considering eating unsociably early when Hanse Explorer radios; they’ll be mooring here tonight and would we like to join them for dinner? We’re curious, and accept. It is implied that we could ‘dress for dinner’ and I am somehow persuaded to wear little black number, rumpled at the bottom of box since October. And lipstick. Rick wears his crumpled best. Helen inserts earrings and tugs on a slinky top. All into boat suits, waiting for the zodiac. Rick pretends Helen had shut his finger in the door. Not funny. Collected by Ukrainian bosun and mate. Amusing to disrobe on the marina deck. Met by Martin the Captain. There are photomontage panels all along the corridors, and lots of art. Swift tour, passing by the galley where the chef advises on top dish choice, and the cleanest sparkliest engine room I have ever seen. Hanse Explorer is owned by a German ship magnate, a training vessel kitted out for twelve special guests. The sitting room has soft lighting, canapés and discreet service. We sip wine and then move through to the dining room, where the table is adorned with marine pebbles and coral. Extravagant four course dinner. Chicken, soup, duck and Antarctic yogurt pannacotta. I am seated next to an Australian woman who was meant to be on another ship, but, due to strike at BA airport, arriving in Ushuaia in tears, her taxi dropped her off on the quay next to Hanse Explorer, who scooped her up and will sort out the insurance later. She’s relieved to speak English and share her sea-sickness experience and worries with us girls. Rick does a condensed version of his talk, which Martin translates. Mini cake stands of chocolate squares and biscuits are produced, along with teas and coffees. All tired, we leave at ten thirty, in anticipation of their seven thirty (SIX thirty our time) landing tomorrow. Rick happy to sleep next door. Fold up cocktail dress and place it back in the box under bunk. I stole a peach.


Franking and hankering.

April 7, 2008 at 5:30 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Blogroll, Life in the snow, Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment

22nd January

Six thirty radio call from Endeavour. Rick assumed we wouldn’t want to get up, but we’re easily lured by the possibility of breakfast. Dressed up and down to landing site in ten mins. Help ourselves at buffet and meet Bernd, who lends me his (spacious) officer’s cabin to shower in, while Helen uses the sauna. Up to the bridge, to see this blog on the office computer, until Rick retrieves me. Upbeat visit, despite yesterday’s purchasing at Palmer Station. Bernd brings surreptitious supplies of risotto rice for me, and will try to fix camera in Ushuaia. Make him tea and he chats with Rick about German activity in the South Atlantic during the war. Oh dear Rick inadvertently ate my slice of Polar Pioneer carrot cake just now, forgetting that he’d eaten his last night with yogurt. I’m furious!

We had hoped to return to Endeavour for lunch, but Rick has offered to squeeze a visit for Boulard pax (five Czech) so there won’t be time, and we don’t know when Fram may be here. (In the event, she turns up after four…) Helen and I salivate over dreams of lettuce.

Finish the morning’s franking, it’s cold and wet. Rick is out of sorts. Take my salmon and avocado (home-grown by Manuel in Patagonia) through to shop, which is freezing, but I prefer to be alone. Wash up. Fram and several yachts radio. Leisurely visit with Fram passengers, considering it’s such a large ship. Resort to sour chewy sweeties. Get through. Again they’re heading up to Antarctic Sound straight off. Lovely Anya pops in to say goodbye. No desire to cook, or eat. Frank away. Helen cashes up, restocks, Rick carries boxes.

Finally finish franking. Stock up shelves, boxes, postcards. Read e- mails and send a couple. Hanker after privacy, so bundle up mail, clear counter and prepare shop bed. Take camera out because the blue, strangely illuminated bergs are quite something against the grey.

Brash moves in with the tide, rustling and crackling; an occasional tinkle. I’m getting rained on, and so is the camera. I’m missing the pocket IXUS a lot, fingers crossed it may be fixed by 2nd Feb. Must do a CD of photos for Mr Blog.

A tinned dinner and white wine, courtesy of the captain. I read them “Silver Threads” and sleep on counter…

April 7, 2008 at 5:23 pm | Posted in Book art, Life in the snow, Observations in Antarctica, Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment

19th January

Evie ‘Eskymo’s’ Birthday!!!

It’s been snowing. Sheathbills were so busy stampeding on roof to plant fresh footprints on deck and ramp, so I do it. Raining now.

Chicks fluff muddying. We’re prepared for seven am landing, but they start at Damoy first, so we have extra minutes for waking up. The staff on Clipper are cheery – we’re pleased to see them – first visit since December, when they were operating on one engine. 105 pax. Including a couple from Ayr, who take a swiftly constructed package for Helen’s folks. Box of much needed veg – cheers. They leave by eleven. Juliette, from Pen Duick VI is left behind, poorly with suspected appendicitis; she’ll stay warm here until her yacht picks her up, to take her to Palmer, where a fourth doctor will offer an opinion before she decides to weather the Drake. A few hours respite.

Three people from Tamara visit. A Canadian guy advises on possibilities of sodden camera recovering, tests battery, dead as dodo – he reckons charging it for 12-14 hours will do it… but that’s impossible here, on the wee petrol generator which runs for a only a few hours at a time. I REALLY miss having the means of a snapshot in my pocket for spontaneous documentation. Frank. Helen goes to try a mini-stock-take, HQ is asking what’s shifting and what’s not for next season’s ordering. She also pulls out currently low items. Big job, too hard to finish in a hurry and she’s hungry.

Carry up boxes damp and muddy. Lunch on salmon, cheese and least mouldy bread. Four credit cards from December have expired, so there’s anxiety about chasing them. H cashes up from this morning, but has lost figures from last night… ooops… it’s hard to keep on top of everything. Sit about with Juliette chatting about sailing/ being here/being French. Rick goes over to Le Diamant for talk, despite majority Francophone around three. Turns out that the staff are French, and it’s an American charter. Charming Hotel Manager brings 828 postcards and two assistants (dancing girls) to stick them on. One man wrote 86 – I promise to frank them carefully. Busy entertaining visit, humorous banter. Finish at 7:45. There was talk of dinner, but weather is holding for Lemaire, so they must speed off. Unfortunate but we’re pooped and there’ll be a next time.

Juliette has been rescued by her boyfriend, and they welcome us over for drinks. Ah but all we can manage is tinned dinner (chicken in white sauce, new potatoes and spinach, with artichoke heart starter…) and white wine, courtesy of Capt. I drink Bailey’s with milk (thanks Bernd!) Helen knits for the first time in months. Rick endures teasing for the scent of his armpits. Long day, finished laughing. I read them ‘Silver Threads’ and sleep on counter…

Seven Weeks and One Day. I appreciate the extraordinariness.

April 7, 2008 at 5:20 pm | Posted in Book art, Life in the snow, Observations in Antarctica, Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment

18th January

Sarah’s Happy Birthday! xxx

Staggered start. Multanovskiy radios, alerting us to their -2 status, but they’ll be a little while yet. Kettle on and outside to see that big bergs are still there and a new one is still closer. The original chicks at hut corner are standing together in the nest as their parent loiters watchfully nearby. Somehow I’m caught on the back foot and easily narked and disgruntled by passenger’s requests ie. ‘Could I have a receipt?’ ‘If you insist…’ Delphine is relaxed; happy not to be EL this trip, which is the last of the season for Martin Enkell. He buys some of the marvellous crocheted snow flakes sent down from Florida by a previous year’s supportive visitor. Tired and dozy. Frank. Helen restocks clothes, I do books and all the stuff up here, help carry boxes, then slink off for a lie down instead of lunch. Multanovskiy kindly removed a lot of our waste, but also left sackfuls of stuff for another ship. Rick and Helen sort it all out and many boxes are emptied in the process. Explorer II had radioed to say they’d start landing at two pm our time, but actually send staff ashore at one thirty, so my nap is curtailed. Helen holds fort while I rustle a salmon sandwich together and hence start work smelling of fish. This ship has brought post for us from Stanley – stamp supplies and a few parcels which wait tantalisingly, tucked away at the foot of my bunk. Very nice visit, culminating in slight frenzy at the end, good pace, neither rushed nor slow. Two leopard seals on floes near chains landing. HMS Endurance have located Explorer on the sea bed with their super solar beams. We will leave here in seven weeks and one day – looking at time in that context makes me appreciate the extraordinariness, and wonder about the things I meant to do in these five months. Missing small things. So: Six o’clock, tools down. Open parcels. Helen has a bag of porridge oats and wholesome goodies. I have a lovely funny parcel of treats from sister Jule, including a painted penguin from Sebastian – brilliant! Great to see photographs of both nephew and niece. Pat Law – the love – has filled a box with thoughtful gifts. And the first instalment of The Archers has made it from Sarah and Geoff – essential. Cards from Aileen and Peter Parker, amongst others. So sweet. Silently go frank, cash up and restock in the lightly falling snow. Rick responds to weary summons, carries boxes and refills t-shirt cubicles. Helen has a headache… we both dream of a bath, a long hot soak. Once all done, it is nine o’clock.

Rick heads to sleep in lounge. I had been quite looking forward to another night on the PO counter… There is a yacht moored here and a paper cut out iceberg. Affix glow-in-the-dark stars on the underside of black shelf above bunk and shimmy into bag, laying out clean socks for the morning.

Look After Your Feet!

April 7, 2008 at 5:09 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Journey, Rachel Hazell, The Practicalities of Everyday Life Out Here | Leave a comment

15th January

There was a loud thud which shook the building at four thirty am. Rick up at six-thirty. We’re not sure when Bremen are coming – they have two slots, starting at five-thirty, booked. Two large chunks of ice are beached on the on the landing site, how extraordinary. The others have indulged in fresh coffee and are sitting out on deck in the sunshine. Hear Bremen on the radio waves, broken, in the distance… something about 15:00 hours… So coffee turns into an extended foot soak session, using Helen’s Tisserand oils, Spirit of Adventure’s exfoliator and Ricks birthday Doc Hauschka Fitness Foot Balm. Our feet are like new; all plumped and cared for. The First Law of Port Lockroy is “Look after your feet!” (The second is “Look after your bum.”) Helen points out how dull it might be living on this island if the penguins weren’t here, despite their noise and smell.

On with jobs: Helen scrapes and sands window frames at side and front, Rick finishes bitumen in the middle and swaps batteries about.

The info packs are dwindling, so I collate a load more, happily humming along to i-Pod. Cold fingers in here, even though the sun is shining. Helen’s getting grunmpy (ie. hungry) but won’t stop for a tea break. Several items have accidentally dropped/fallen between deck slats and need to be rescues from the mirth of sheathbills. Rick does it chopstick style, Helen has constructed a hook with wire and ribbons of sellotape – technique depends on object lost. Watered-down curry soup for lunch. Helen stretches first, back aching. Rick nearly nods off, but Bremen will be here in half an hour. Helen nervy about getting post bagged up and setting counter straight. An immensely tedious visit, four hours, big gaps in between the four groups.

Doctor only has twenty pieces of philatelic mail today. We start to go bonkers, so Helen dons overalls, and paints windows and meets Mr. Delmonte – really! – who promises to send us a calendar with palm trees and fruit, to help keep us warm (in our imaginations, if nothing else.) Cold biting wind, fat chicks totter on the nests, many visitors stay outside to photograph the fluff. Even with just me behind the counter, there is still plenty of opportunity to browse through book (wonderful, published by SPRI) of Edward Seago’s paintings, which triggers creative synapses, pleasing stimulus amidst the nondescript. Immediately afterwards, Rick fries up egg, beans and bacon, cooked and eaten in relay to ensure maximum hotness. Finish first, return to franking, mini-restock. Rick sweeps through, shop made ready. Very early night.

Good day for a chick count.

February 28, 2008 at 1:27 pm | Posted in Penguins, Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment

9th January

Eyes ache, so keep them shut. Endeavour doesn’t appear early, or at all, they changed their schedule and we hadn’t got the message. Glorious sunshine. Can only move slowly. Helen very bouncy, goes to faff in shop. Rick lies in too. It’s a good day for the chick count, though it’s hard to decide exactly when to do it, as certainly not all the eggs have hatched. What a funny old season it’s been for the birds. Army guys  stop by briefly, Helen rushes out with (only slightly fermenting) fruit cake from our bakery mountain. Helen starts painting exterior walls with thinned down bitumen (to avoid bubbling.) We start counting at eleven o’clock. There are five different colomns to record, for all the combinations of chicks, eggs and empty nests. Oh my goodness this is even more traumatic than counting eggs; some of the chicks are so wee, and we stir up quite a commotion. Rick is as gentle as can be, each and every disturbance pains him. Have to pause for coffee. Helen is doing a gr eat job with the black (everywhere, including on her socks!) Continue and complete the count. Sit in the sun and tot up figures as Rick dons overalls to join the paint job. Late lunch – tuna salad. Sensitive eyes, stay inside, write a few e-mails, wash up again. Peel, core and chop apples for stewing (with plenty of cognac.) Since the others are painting round the corner now, Rick hints that I might like to think about dinner. Prep veg and hope someone will ‘deal’ with the chicken. In the event, Helen pops it in the oven – oh, I could have managed that. First ever warm yoga. Rick is focussed, if stiff, and concentrates well. He and Helen go for pisco sours. I ponder how to heat three veg in two pans. (Honestly not this useless at cooking at home.) Sneak to boatshed for spinach, toss the potatoes with that, and garlic. The others have the apple, with a liberal dollop of condensed milk (?!) for pudding. Light joistering about Rick turning on computer and wondering off. Out to photograph multitude of fluff. Bewildered to hear voices over towards Peltier Channel. Retire to the horizontal and read an essay on adelies.

Email National Geographic Endeavour with haircut request.

February 28, 2008 at 1:26 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Dreams and imagination, Rachel Hazell, The Practicalities of Everyday Life Out Here | Leave a comment

8th January

Throbbing engine announces Marco Polo’s arrival – they’ve started landing their many passengers at Jougla Point, a few at a time – zodiacs zip. Windy cold and grey today (choose pee position carefully.) Rick’s still in bed on counter when I take him tea. He’s slept badly. Read four days worth of blog and send off. We think Hanse Explorer is a small yacht ship due this morning, and wait for her to come, but she never does. Keep busy with things that need doing, putting out all the caps, franking all the Marco Polo mail – a decent amount, hey hey, Rick brings me tea half way through, he’s installed second lampshade (with parts from other historical bases) in the bunkroom, very smart. He and Helen have brewed coffee and eaten toast. We’re all out of sync. Kotick visits at ten-thirty, I deal with them. Marco Polo delivers post. Helen goes to restock, but Rick’s in the middle of waste management, so she has to stand and watch and occasionally pass him bits of string. Helen and Ri ck slurp on fruit salad for lunch, about two, while I wrote base diary. Marco Polo brought me mail from Ushuaia… I had worried that the arrangement through their Antarctic Tourist Office (set up by the lovely Roberto) had not worked; so an uplifting surprise. Lovely Christmas cards, a birthday Pooping Penguin from Plockton Miriam, Icelandic Voices from Pat law and a sweet Advent calendar from Heather, long letters from Sally and Ian, Susan and Jeremy. Precious. No word from Le Diamant, due at two, so I type for a while. Lots of aromatic nut roasting goes on. Discoverer’s skipper, Andrew comes ashore with a few others to buy more postcards. Show them some of my papery work, as Connor had tried to explain what I do. After typing some more, my eyes start to fail and I feel sick. Migraine Alert. Scared enough to take pills and lie down immediately. Sleep for two hours. Kotick return with mail, and stay for a drink, accompanied by gramophone tunes. Although we have a chicken in the oven, we accept dinner with the French, bien sur. At seven, the radio signals Ioffe on the air; hilarious wee chat with Coz Katie, who’s nearby and loving Antarctica – what a stuff up that we can’t meet! Fail to contact Le Diamant. E-mail National Geographic Endeavour with haircut request. Skim read script of film, it’s hard to visualise, but exactly what we had hoped for. At eight o’clock we join Kotick, on the Peltier side of Jougla Point, nestled in a good wee nook when the wind is right. Cosy, book-lined, effortless hospitality as only the French can achieve. Raisin cabbage hors d’oeuvre, beef and prune couscous, Fer Breton for afters. V. comfy, many twinkles in eyes. Lovely to boat home over still water. Risk snores, trusting to continued effect of migraine pills.

Dancing to Penguin Pop CD; the law of the tongue; what’s with this peach?

January 24, 2008 at 7:50 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Life in the snow, Observations in Antarctica, Rachel Hazell, The Practicalities of Everyday Life Out Here | Leave a comment

28th December

There’s a spider in my peach! Spun a little home where the stone used to be. Contravenes Antarctic Treaty rules so have to kill it. No bug immigration here. Frank philatelic mail delivered by yacht, and also Andrea’s. Finish folding National Geographic maps from the first packet – they’re very popular. Cold finger. Wind from the NE still. It’s officially a Maintenance Day for Lockroy. No ships. Our leader recommends taking things easy, so I start on backlog of blog entries. Too chilly to sit for long and Helen suggests a warming box moving session. So down to the boatshed with a long list. More empty boxes mean every week a little more light is let in. Heroic womanhandling of t-shirt boxes buried at the bottom of stacks, and clambering over the waste management dept. Five loads later we’re done. When it’s all set out, stop for lunch involving pickles and crackers. Back to typing. Helen offers to wash porch floor…and ends up doing the hall and shop too. Spirit of Sydney rad ios through the windy air. Helluva choppy in the Gerlache; can they come in? Only six Irish kayakers. Of course they can. Rick’s been busy for most of the day with electrical cabling in Radio room. Helen needs to transfer numbers onto spreadsheets. I’m happy to deal with the visit. The kayakers are having a great time. Ben the skipper is up for chick spotting. More wee fluffy things right by the hut, one all curled up, still egg shaped. Wind has winkled its way through my layers and I’m glad to be back in the bunkroom. Vernadsky guys brought us two frozen chickens; one goes in the oven (squashed to fit,) carrots n’ tatties prepared. E-mails about numbers missing on credit card slips and confusions with stock numbers – we have 203 of something when we should only have 100. Cabbage and gravy add to proper Sunday dinner (ok so it’s Friday) and it’s early enough for film night. Ben (from Spirit of Sydney) has lent us a ‘Big Blue’ whale DVD, with a documentary about killer whales working with fishermen (in Eden, SE Oz) to capture larger whales in return for the tastiest part of the beast – The Law of the Tongue. Fascinating, though Helen may have preferred more escapism. Rick watches last part with his eyes shut. Oh we (I) danced beforehand, to excerpts from Penguin Pop cd – it’s good to move like that. Rainy and horrid outside. Helen likes a challenge, so insists on taking buckets, slipping on ramp and soaking trousers (second pair today) oh dear. Lie and listen to the weather before sleep.

So much chocolate, cake and fruit.

January 24, 2008 at 7:24 pm | Posted in Blogroll, Life in the snow, Observations in Antarctica, Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment

22nd December

Eyes open to sound of Rick shaving, rasp, rasp. Polar Pioneer is here. Spirit of Sydney sails away. Rick goes across for talk. We sweep and reply to a couple of e-mails. Friendly bunch. Crew bring Christmas Lollies (and eggs, and custard, and strawberries.) A chick is seen at Jougla… but in the beak of a skua. We don’t have time to go and look in our nests. One gentleman, who has posted a number of cards into mail box thinks he may have forgotten to address one, could I please check? There’s a massive queue waiting, but I do, and can’t find it… sigh. Helen and I sing carols, which peter away when we have to start adding up! Chat with the cooks – it’s Jo’s birthday, she’s baked us Christmas Pudding, what a star. A couple of keen birders are outside videoing, but the visit is to all intents over. I start franking, Helen cashing and listing stock. Down to boatshed straight away. Find everything except elusive red caps (actually there aren’t any left.) Rick carries up the he aviest box. Once we’re all set again, stew-soup for lunch. I add cream, which is off, will I get a sore tummy? It has started to snow again, and the pressure is dropping. Unsettled. Helen lies on landing rock and snow falls on her. I wonder where she is and squint into the distance, frowning. We have a break of a couple of hours. I sleep until Fram radios. Swiftest visit to squeeze them in after they’ve been delayed due to a Medevac. Ian brings a couple of admiralty charts for me; how did he manage that?! I promise to make him something. Oh and more Christmas treats. Rick fears the island will sink – we have so much chocolate, cake and fruit. Rick tops us up with regular hot drinks. One hour turn around before Multanovskiy – they had kindly hung back and visited Damoy. Frank and hope ink dries. Yum simple organic cheesy pasta, courtesy of Palmer’s Stacey x, tipped down pdq. Campers land first; they all want passports stamping. Then another twenty or so. Forty-four altogether.

Doctor has not forgotten previous trip’s promise of a bath, and visions of bubbles fuel entire visit. Last zodiac includes me, Helen and clean knickers. (Fram did our laundry, thank-you.) Blissful soak, the first in two months, with a glass of chilled white. Heaven. Float to bar and swallow a few more glasses with the kayak master, Mark the doctor, Tula, Karin and the Lonely Planet author (Geoff) who is a very interested historian. Pleasurable company. Leave at midnight, promising each other not to be tired tomorrow. There is no break in the rhythm of Rick’s snoring.

We’re all going on a summer holiday.

January 24, 2008 at 7:16 pm | Posted in Life in the snow, Observations in Antarctica, Rachel Hazell, The Practicalities of Everyday Life Out Here | Leave a comment

19th December

Awake excited. Blue and blustery, wind from northeast. Last night’s uneaten pudding mixed in with porridge. Rick off at eight am to Endeavour, in close. A yacht, the Northanger radios on their way in to seek shelter in Alice Creek, keen to see Rick. We packed our bags last night; cameras, sun-cream, clean knickers, all that jazz. Good humoured shop (not surprising since we’re high as kites,) and a fresh delivery from the Palmer Bakery – Thank-YOU. The instant last passenger has signed her membership form, we lock the genny room door, hide the key and run down to the landing, singing ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday!’ (Rick rolls his eyes.) Unbelievably Tim, the Expedition Leader, has forsaken his cabin for the night. Helen and I settle in and head to the bridge to catch up with Tim and Lisa. Jim the film-maker/photographer will share his cabin with Rick, who goes straight for a shower. Then it’s lunchtime – splendid salad and the company of a couple from Arkansas. Also m eet Raydene, from Palmer, who deals with logistics. Ice-cream with butterscotch sauce! Helen tempted to shower, but we’re about to Lemaire… and the landscape wins. Out on deck with the red-coats and it’s glorious. Talk with Rod on the prow. Meet Kathy (from Palmer, also involved with logistics) really good to chat about life, and being away from home (they are away for nine months but can travel within a two mile radius of Station.) Realise we’re the only two left, and stay snapping and watching for whales all the way to Vernadsky. Into lounge bar where the Palmer gang are camped. It’s incredibly wonderful to be with them. Chat some more and bundle into warm gear. We, the Lockroy/Palmer ensemble, have been placed to land in between the odd and even numbered cabin groups and enjoy what I suspect is a slightly ‘insider’ tour of the base. At every door, our guide, Vlad, in dark suit and maroon shirt says, “This is the most important room!” (…particularly the gym, fully decor ated with breasts.) We even climb up into the roof space to see ozone-measuring machine. Finally to the bar after regarding much ex-Faraday memorabilia, the generator shed and curious humour. The vodka is golden, with a very gentle after-kick in the throat. Odd badges and faux icons for sale. Zip back to ship to pick up passport- may be only chance to have it stamped here. Several vodkas later, Raydene and I remove brassieres with minimum fuss and relinquish them to the bar in exchange for another shot, short lived fame and respect (and Tim wins his bet with Tudor.) Vlad plays guitar and sings heartfelt ballads, barman (infamous for zodiac adventures) performs magic tricks and Base Commander gives us a magnetometer to install temporarily at Lockroy. Out onto deck for a glimpse of Wordie House in the nook of snowy hillocks. Helen would like to live there she says, but she has drunk six vodkas.  We are made tea by Stanislaus, swallowed scorchingly to make last zodiac. Shower an d shave front of shins extraordinarily badly. Recap follows soon after, a great insight into icebergs and the animals who live around and under them, accompanied by a G+T. Rebecca and Phil give an intro to life and work at Palmer Station, very well received. We have swung out into the ocean now, and the swell lifts. Ropes are strung between posts to aid lilting walkers to the dining room. Sit for dinner, and manage first course of mushroom risotto. The conversation lurches as we do, until, regrettably (with a steak on order!) the ladies at the table (including me) make apologies and flee. Helen has been sick and sleeps. I join her in Tim’s double bunk for a queasy half-doze. He comes in to type up tomorrow’s itinerary, commenting on the scent of penguin that materialised with our occupation and opens the window! Soon at Palmer where skies are moody and Arthur’s Bay jagged with brash. Passengers are to lie at anchor tonight, while staff and crew are invited to a party. Fabulou s ride across with Tim driving… Welcome to Palmer! Great to see the ‘other half’ who visited us a couple of weeks ago. They seem so pleased that we are here; it’s heartening. Phil, the perfect host, offers a wee tour, (which lasts off and on, all night.) Best is the stationary store where I am issued with a ‘Rite in the Rain’ All Weather notebook and a propeller pencil, which, of course, makes me deliriously happy. See krill in large vats in the Krillers labs, the outsides of various clever machines, Kim’s inflatable iceberg and some print designs, the most cared for Ladies Room and offices. Helen still slightly icky and Rick not at full strength either but both are here, Rick talking on a sofa, Helen out on the bar’s veranda, waving to us on the boardwalk. Party is swinging; Philipino crew playing pool and dancing, Marek (Chief Barman from the ship) and a Kriller are a demon shot production line – fruity orange vodka. Utterly delectable guacamole and nachos. Good chatting and letting down of hair. A little more tour, stopping at Ham Radio Room for a luxury chance to view this blog live (!) and see Kim Baranowski’s website – she joins us, as does Helen. Tired Rick and Helen say goodnight. Tim is keen to hot-tub, as am I, Phil was going to bed, but comes too. We undress in the sauna to keep clothes warm and dry. Fortunately I have pink lacy post-mistress undies on. Step out into the snowy air and along to the tub. Tim is in first. Oh my GOD it’s HOT!!! 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Yowsers! Skin tingles with the pain of it, I can sympathise with broiled lobsters. We try vortexing to lower the temperature. An officer joins us. So boiling that a contrast is needed – the sea! Steam has rendered glasses useless. Delicately tread along wood, then metal, walkway then rock and snow (ouch! ice burn) and more rock into the cold dark water. Only up to the knees I confess, splashing all over and cooling face ah ha. Swedish chef joins the throng. We have brought hunks of fresh ice back with us, they float and crackle in our saucepan. Highly sensuous to rub the cold along legs and arms still submerged in the heat. More crazy vortexing and finally I am too dizzy. Retreat to sauna all wobbly, near collapse, breath held in the moment. Tim collects a melted me, last on the tender. Once back I walk slowly upstairs, but am summoned back for Crew Mess karaoke (it’s 2:30) Eventually to bed. Helen coughs. Wind blows through porthole from the night.

Admiring Russian log books, enormous eyes and swimming pools filled with snow

January 2, 2008 at 5:27 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Rachel Hazell, The Practicalities of Everyday Life Out Here | Leave a comment

16th December

Misread watch denies Sunday lie. I’m quite in the mood for early Philatelic franking and map folding anyway. Brightness indicates good roof painting opportunity. Rick goes up – his scraping mimics the sheathbills, but louder. He and Helen stop for coffee and croissants, I sip Rooibos, temporarily virtuous. Doesn’t look as though the weather will hold, so painting called off. In the course of helping to scrape, Helen inhales dust of sheathbill excrement eurgh. In a bit I head through thickly falling snow to boatshed to collect some fleeces and cross-stitch kits. Oh the snow! It keeps on coming. Salad and cheese on rye sandwiches. Orlova radios during lunch; anchoring in twenty mins. The visit has just begun when Father Christmas (in the form of Alex the barman) delivers an enormous sack from the catering staff. Ahh! I’m really touched. A Dutch philatelist is SO disappointed that I won’t instantly frank his mail ( I search it out later and deliver freshly inked envelopes to a surprised man in lounge on ship before dinner.) Having folded the National Geographic satellite maps and looked at distant place names, particularly on the far side, past the Weddell Sea where the far flung bases lie, I wonder how to get there, what a whole circumnavigation could be like? How? How? How?! Vlad is delighted that we’ve sold so many of his cds (1000 images of Antarctica for $20!) and brings over some more. Happy that dinner invite allows franking and cashing up in between. Disentangle selves from immersion suits. Rick and Helen shower, I feel clean enough so head straight to bar – washing does cut into red wine time. Phil (ex BAS) gives me a wee tour, including the bridge, where I admire the Russian log books and talk with a navigator-in-training (enormous eyes!) then to the snow-ful swimming pool. There’s no room for us all to sit together for dinner; I share a table with guests, Victoria and Phil. Antennae prick up when Victoria talks of the Certificate in Anta rctic Studies she and her husband undertook. My friend Jean de Pomereau did that too. Hmmm, tempting; will investigate further, when possible… Full of red wine and charming conversation. Vlad whisks us back to Goudier. Chilly in our civvy clothes; quicker to bed the better.

Tea and white chocolate cookies in the sun

January 2, 2008 at 5:23 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Rachel Hazell, The Practicalities of Everyday Life Out Here | Leave a comment

13th December

Didn’t sleep well as Rick was snoring. Blustery sea blowing onto landing site rocks – almost a wake up douche! Rick thought that Mikheev was coming in at 8:15 but he’d read the e-mail wrong! So, a bit of quiet sitting about and pottering in shop. Helen cashes up from last night. She’s still bunged up with cold and fills bunkroom with vapour from an inhalation in the fruit bowl. Rick’s writing latest episode for Port Lockroy website. Sun pushes through. Ship sighted around ten. Have heard from dear newly recovered cousin Katie that she is still planning to visit here in January, despite having been booked on Explorer. Hurray girl; can’t wait! Even though we may only manage to snatch a few minutes together… Mikheev visit goes well, although I felt flat as a pancake, not ill. Fantastic lunch grazing on remains of barbeque. Out in the sun for five mins with tea and white chocolate cookies (also from Multanovskiy.) Full restock, with some gratuitous box moving (!), until shop i s in tip-top state. Lie down flat with eyes shut. Look forward to Fram coming – watch her stately arrival before catching up on the morning’s franking… which is still drying when first passengers enter the genny shed. Non-stop good fun, but sauna/shower hopes thwarted as staff have been struck poorly with projectile vomiting. Helen goes to cash up in the warm, throat still tender. I restock all the ‘up here’ stuff and compile a list of what’s needed from ‘down there’. By the time that’s done, Rick (with Helen’s help, cos both radios became Hot lines for a moment there,) has plated up roast vegetables with cheese sauce. Just washing up as Julio and his assistant walk in with fruit, wine and postcards. Stop for half an hour talking of broken crank shafts and uncomprehending pen-pushers thousands of miles away. Explorer II is passing, and sends over a zodiac with 344 postcards and cash for more postage. Insist on sticking all stamps on before bed, which is late. Now can someon e turn the light out? Oh no, it’s Antarctica, eight days before the longest one.

Penguin paths/dots of nests/swathes of ice/glacier edge/mountain/high grey sky

January 2, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Life in the snow, Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment

10th December

Still water, crisp air. A penguin flip flups up ramp, seeking nest stones – pecks at Helen’s foot and stands on door mat looking up at her. Lovely to glimpse Europa’s rigged masts from our window, there past the control colony. Collected nine-thirtyish  and straight round to Jougla Point on Wiencke Island. Amazing to finally step ashore on land that we’ve viewed in the near distance, and never touched. Apart from numerous gentoo there is a colony of blue eyed shags (-twenty nests Rick counts.) Decide not to conduct a major count, as I believe Oceanites did one recently. And we have an hour and a half. Tjalling guides us on an uphill walk. Unbelievably good to step out and stride along for pure pleasure. Great views and a different perspective of our wee rock. An aerial view of land and coast, penguin paths, dots of nests, then reflections, swathes of ice, glacier edge, mountain, high grey sky. The snow is hard to move in; sometimes firm, sometimes sinking. Alpine graphics of  granite and white, muted lichen. Stand on rock at the top appreciating lines and ridges, hundreds of penguins massed in dark water, foggy clouds on the heights. Pause, biscuits handed round. Tip over onto Peltier Channel side – now I understand where it goes! More snow here, slight sastrugi, steeper. Move round the slope. Above Alice Creek there’s a swoopy dip which we slide down. A few snowballs, continue through deep snow to meet the boats (after several hilarious leg-in-up-to-the-crotch incidents.) Ten minute cruise in along the glacier, but not too close. Immense mysteries in cracks and crevices, indescribable spectrum of pale blues. Sit in the bar with a warm mug, until lunchtime. Most of the passengers and crew are struck with grim flu. (We pray to avoid catching it, with vitamins and Echinacea.) Delicious chicken empanadas with refried beans and some magic rye bread. Leave Port Lockroy under engine; we’re catching a lift to Damoy to check on the hut there. Exciting to  go beyond perimeters of our existence, even briefly. Say goodbye to Europa, who will sail slowly on, while two crew whisk us in to Dorian Bay. Avoid shallow reef. There’s a handful of penguins on the pebble beach. The new sign on door and snow machines removed signal recent BAS visit. Glimpse inside; bare bunkroom, basic kitchen – a historical pageant of foodstuff and memorabilia of guests past. Walk past smaller Argentine hut next door through still deep snow. Putter back to Goudier, intending to count penguins, but collapse into bed and sleep instead. Wake about an hour before the others. Force down boiled eggs on bread and scrummy nuts that Rick has toasted. All in the mood for slumping in front of telly; so we watch an episode of Michael Palin’s Pole to Pole that came free with a Sunday paper. Entertained by dusty exploits in the Sudanese desert, all tucked into Rick’s bunk, computer perched on table. Still only nine thirty… what shall we watch now? Slide in Rod’s (fro m Nat Geo Endeavour) rough cut DVD; a compilation of Super 8 footage from dog sledging Adelaide, Stonington and Fossil Bluff in the 50s and Deception eruption in 1969. Rick takes pre-emptive Lemsip. Last minute e-mail replies after everyone else has checked theirs. Last one to bed. It’s really light. Can’t get comfy.

Write twelve letters, some with big writing

December 17, 2007 at 8:46 am | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Book art, Dreams and imagination, Rachel Hazell, The Practicalities of Everyday Life Out Here | Leave a comment

1st December

Blowing a hooley and snowing a bit. Cold in sleeping bag. Polar Pioneer had scheduled a local climb today, seems far too windy. Small discussion about breakfast time – so early yesterday that Helen and I were hungry behind the counter by eleven – hard when we’re not sure how long we’ve got before a landing, the scheduled slots are necessarily broad. Rick has cereal, Helen cooks porridge a little later. The ship calls Rick over for intro talk. Since outside is a bluster, Helen and I stay behind. A few extra minutes of solitude. Climbing cancelled so shop and museum has extra indoors appeal. Large percentage of Australian passengers. Lovely, lovely cooks bring us more extra special treats – sun-dried tomato foccacia, roasted garlic, pineapple and strawberries! What loves! Fifty-eight passengers makes for a short-ish burst. Lunch on chicken soup, the bread and garlic, chopped pineapple. The bunkroom is warmed up, post goes tomorrow, so me and Helen have mail to prepare. Rick li es down, in anticipation of crazy few days ahead. Helen writes postcards, I burn new disc of blog images and paint borders for letters. Helen reads aloud from Rick’s book once he’s awake – a horse auction – while we decide whether to yoga. And I finish painting. We make it through to the chilly genny shed with our mats, and it’s good, though our flexibility had lapsed. Saw a weddell seal on a little islet by Bill’s – the others thought it was a rock – later it moves, so i’m vindicated. Yum modest serving of carbonara from Rick and, fantastically, strawberries and cream (In Antarctica! In a blizzard!!) Write twelve letters, some with big writing. Step over the hill with Helen, waves are slapping and the snow is soft and deep; a giant petrel swoops over, working the wind. That was my one and only step outside today! Some of us are lovesick; we drink Jagermeister and imagine our perfect days. Much harmony. Frank post and leave to dry over night.

Ship party foregoed: there are stamps to stamp

December 17, 2007 at 8:38 am | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Life in the snow, Observations in Antarctica, Rachel Hazell | 1 Comment

25th November

Wake at five thirty but wait until six to ring home (three hours ahead.) So good to chat with Nev and then Sarah, on a line with no delay, as a Giant Petrel flies past the porthole. Minutes fly by, must be at breakfast for seven. Sit with the expedition staff. Waiters are happy to see us (but sad that my hair is cut short.) Whiz over to Goudier Island ahead of eight-thirty landing. Despite this being our largest visit in terms of numbers (230) the passengers are well managed and flow is steady. Famished after, so finish left over curry. Bread and Jam for pudding – with the special Calafate berry jar so kindly given by Marco.

Rick has found an e-message sent from Endeavour yesterday, asking if they can come in this afternoon (instead of 28th)- try to reply. Neaten piles of t-shirts (Now I can empathise with those Benetton shop assistants) and restock as far as necessary. We have loads of post to process from Nordnorge, so congregate in the bunkroom to apply stamps, make up new mint sets and frank (spread out on kitchen table to dry quickly.) Endeavour running late. Go on a mini monitoring expedition – lots of muddy eggs in puddles. Chick numbers will surely be low this year. At seven pm Endeavour hangs left into Port Lockroy and sends a zodiac to collect us for dinner (me and Helen enthusiastically run down to the landing site in our immersion suits.) Richard the bird man, is driving, and fills us in on the scene he saw around the Explorer. There are growlers around the gang plank, so we wait for them to pass.  Delighted to see Tim and a wee welcoming committee for big hugs.

Straight to the dining room where we receive a rousing clap from a bunch of eager bunnies. Delectable dinner, gourmet fish and chips, hot chocolate fondant swilled down with a couple of glasses of wine. I cause delay to first zodiac by running round finding a WC, and then we drop a couple of staff off at Jougla Point… so we arrive at the landing after the first passengers. Run up to the hut, comedic removal of immersion suits, package up mail, pull on long johns, light tilley lamp and the shop’s in full swing, credit cards all the way. Great spirits and much patience. Sad to forego party on board, but KK is expected at 9am, we have lots of Endeavour mail to cancel and shop to restock. I stamp the stamps, Helen counts cash, Rick makes camomile tea and cocoa. Finish at eleven thirty. Wind blowing fine smoke. Bremen (who have come by for the party) and Endeavour are ablaze, zodiacs buzzing between the two.  Traffic noise for the first time in weeks!

A man in a cowboy hat insists we have something in common

December 17, 2007 at 8:32 am | Posted in Observations in Antarctica, Rachel Hazell | Leave a comment

21st November

Up first. Down to the landing site as usual. Brash ice has blown in, blocking easy route for zodiacs. Since Explorer II is not on the horizon, we check shop stock again and Helen prepares the mail-bag for dispatch to Stanley Post Office. Wind has dropped and sunny spells provide perfect opportunity to look for further egg laying. Almost every cluster has at least one nest with an egg. And there are three new ones just by the hut! I can monitor them from the genny shed windows. Odds and sods preparing for ship visit. Extended tea break on sunny veranda with books and chocolate biscuits. It’s hot enough Helen and Rick to have bare feet (I remain in two pairs of socks.) Explorer II arrives two thirty-ish – a fine visit. Calm and relaxed somehow – homebound leg of a long trip via Falklands and South Georgia. A man in a cowboy hat insists we have something in common and removes his hat to reveal curly hair – he’s funny, I must e-mail him. Fresh supplies; eggs, bacon, cheese and potatoes – yum! At six thirty we’re collapsed. Fantastic fry-up with cheesy mash and a glass of wine. Cash up – have to count everything twice or thrice… adds up eventually. Frank all mail, doesn’t take long
– not enough! Could crawl into pit at eight thirty but stay up preparing birthday gifts for Bruno Buckle our Base Commander. The night is light ’til eleven now. The three quarters moon over Mount Francaise and pink light is worth stepping out for a photo. Numb fingers.

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