Outside to sit on rock and consider the high horizons.

April 7, 2008 at 5:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

30th January

Poor Helen thrashing and feverish. Rick kindly makes tea, except it’s not peppermint… how long have we been here?! Polar Star are the first visitors. Warned by Rick, who has met pax during talk, that there are some serious philatelists onboard, as well as Bernard de Gerlache, whose ancestor explored so much local territory. Very upbeat morning. A couple in tears – their parents loved this place and died last year – they have brought memorial cards to leave here. Emotional. Damon buys Iceberg Library postcards and tries to explain Belgian hierarchy. Not sure how long we have ’til next ship – slightly cowed by amount of post stacking up to be cancelled. And Helen is achey, not well. Frank a counterful while Rick and Helen restock and H retreats to bed, prescribed a Lemsip (not by me!) Rick even gets extra t-shirts as he has seen gaps, very good. Can’t be bothered to eat. Plonk on bunk to attach stamp to all the Nordnorge mail. Rick offers to fry bacon and tomatoes, which, with avocado is really splendid. Orlova arrives. Rick goes over to do talk. The ship has mail from Stanley for us; parcels for me from Belinda and Nessie (big smiles) and finally some for Rick. Helen vaguely present but fades towards the end. I push her off to bed so that she doesn’t breathe flu fumes on everybody. Funny to hear snippets of Victoria’s progress. Roger, Hannelis et al pop in for a minute. Um it’s all a muddle now, only a few hours later…somehow we set ourselves up for the third ship – Multanovskiy. H stays in bed; there are only forty passengers. Meet the very nice Johnathan Shackleton, descendant of the honourable explorer, who has recently completed a handsome book about his famous relly, which he presents to Rick (who reciprocates with a bottle of Jamiesons whiskey which we had in the display cabinet, adorned with Antarctic tartan scarf.) Manage the queues fine, even with humour, but utterly unable to contemplate dinner on board. Rick wants (and deserves) to spend time with his mates, so goes out alone. Unmoved, I assess stock, fill shelves, make lists, write e-mails, go to the bed shed for fleeces and the rest. Wish it were possible to kayak; it’s calm and cold. Also carry up half of my postcard sets which will be sent home early, can’t sell them fast enough, more appealing in another context maybe. Helen sleeps on all hot. Outside to sit on rock and consider the high horizons. An iceberg rolls and settles, stratified with rubble and mud. A yacht is moored in Alice Creek – I can see the mast and two people walking amongst the birds at Jougla Point. Rick is returned. Other zodiacs from Multanovskiy take campers to Dorian Bay – the buzz of engines and penguin calls echo. Fingers become too cold. Encourage Helen to gargle. Rick opens mail – a late Christmas Macaroni penguin puppet from Birgit.

History and celebrity

January 2, 2008 at 5:08 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

5th December

Sleep of the dead. Fair with many blue patches on high. Expecting an early visit from Polar Star. The Molchanov is already in the back bay landing at Jougla Point. The two ships pass each other about eight thirty am – the first and only time I’ve ever seen more than one vessel here. Because Rick’s talk is going to be filmed this morning, Helen and I go aboard too, for moral support. It goes well, and the landing that follows is particularly special, as John Williams, descendent of Operation Tabarin member, Gwion ‘Taff’ Davies, is amongst the visitors. He has come to see Port Lockroy and its history – he’s moved to see the museum and his uncle’s handwriting. The brilliant BAS/UKAHT detailed map of the peninsula is the morning’s top seller, thanks to a plug from Polar Star’s EL, Hannah. After franking, snack turns into lunch. The enormous pot of Dulce de Leche is opened and dived into. Stock shelves and down to the boatshed for fleeces and t-shirts, this time with camera trail ing. Many of the penguins now have three eggs, perhaps knowing how slim the chances are of first one hatching. We watch a skua fly off with a whole egg in its beak. Lots of the free new information/membership leaflets have dispersed over the last week – we hope that means more people becoming Friends of Antarctica. Sit soft and drink tea. Rick weary from talking all morning and being interviewed; he snoozes. Type to catch up. Fram announces their arrival. Step out into the cold to take some air and listen to ship’s anchor chain. More retail mayhem. Hilarious time speaking French and dealing with one particular lady’s expectations of me being her personal shopper. Ian slightly rushes the groups so that we can go aboard for dinner, but we can’t – work to do, and the camera wants to watch us cooking a meal in the bunkroom. Restock shop. Trashed. Perfect steak sandwiches cooked up by Rick, as we’re hyperglycaemic. We’ve all been under pressure today, with the added distraction of  pretending, to the camera, that there are just three people here. Too tired and wasted to act normal. After dinner and a drop of red, it’s time to film removing mail from the red post box and franking. The light is fading. Wrap it up (isn’t that what they say?!) and finally to bed about midnight.

An assortment of black commas

January 2, 2008 at 5:05 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

4th December

*Happy Birthday and a bottle of Port for Sid! xxx

Muzzy start. The day is half bright, half not. More rock where yesterday was snow. I am less hungover than certain others. Grumpiness and tired heads held at bay with slices of bread and butter. Discover that historic newspapers in the museum lounge have been SCRIBBLED on in biro. Outrageous. Multanovskiy arrives bringing Olle Carlsson books and big bags of life jackets/camping gear for another ship. Swift and happy visit. Frank light-headed, assess stock, munch lunch – more bread, cheese and salad. Rev up for speedy restock; it’s painless. Rick deals with some waste. We take new supplies down to boatshed. Do everything that needs doing. Thirty minutes before Nordnorge is due, whip open computer and write a few lines then hear the door bang – it’s Marco, and the staff are all buzzing round shop! Lots of single dollar note transactions and mayhem at a steady pace. Three hundred passengers. Try to start franking, but if we’d like to go over to the ship for dinner, the last ten der is leaving now. Lovely to be onboard our familiar friend. The Rockhopper crew travelled down on the Nordnorge, and had fun filming en route. We sit together and discuss angles, histories, contexts. I’m dying to make a phone call – kind receptionist lends me a spare cabin – don’t get through the first time, then cut off on the second try. Hey but it’s good to talk, half way round the world. Back with Joe and Victoria, and all their camera kit etc. to our wee hut. Lots of Nordnorge post, which needs stamps sticking and franking. Helen cashes up and restocks all by herself. Rick and Joe help carry boxes. Our guests are made cosy in the lounge, on Thermarests and yoga mats, with sleeping bags, hats and a hot water bottle. It’s going to be interesting with cameras in our faces; Joe says he wants to film us doing EVERYTHING! The shop’s ready for an early start. H reluctantly writes up yesterday’s base diary. The penguins scattered on snow-covered island next to Bill’s look like  an assortment of black commas.

Down to rocks seeking whale bones with Rick

December 17, 2007 at 8:41 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

27th November

Happy Birthday Dear Sarah xxx

Up early to check stock for Fram – a slightly daunting 217 pax on board. Glorious clear blue day, with a smattering of brash sparkling on glass smooth water. Landing site lapping at high tide, beautiful. Well monitored landing. Flags erected along shore side to prevent accidents on overhanging snow edges. Sunny and warm. Busy and good. Afterwards, feel that if I don’t keep going I’d never start again. Graze on delicious grub from the Bremen after dazed re-stocking of wee baskets. Weather too gorgeous to frank, even though a large bundle came in this am (including a belated package of mail from Nordkapp posted before incident at Neptune’s Bellows last January.) Down to rocks seeking whale bones which Rick saw from a zodiac loaded with more books. A few photographs. Calming to be outside in the air, looking not adding up. Restock to maintain stock levels. Orlova arrives around two thirty, with a contingent of potentially ‘demanding’ visitors (the like of which reduced Jo and S ally both to tears last year.) Helen and I vow to stay jolly and firm. No worries in the event; interesting people, lots of numbers (and First Day Covers!) Once last passengers have left, frank away in an attempt to keep up. Susan (EL) has asked us to the Orlova for dinner and kindly sends a boat over for us a little later. What an intimate comfy ship! Stand at the bar enjoying the chat. Good to meet the Australian artist-in-residence and see her work. Entertaining dinner conversation with Eric (ex FIDS,) Nigel (bird man who worked at Lockroy nine years ago, and at Rothera,) and Susan. Several young Swedish girls are keen to apply for work here next year… Good fun. Zip back about ten thirty and laugh while finishing franking slightly inebriated.

Hot-bunking and chick-counting

December 17, 2007 at 8:25 am | Posted in Penguins, Rachel Hazell, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

16th November

Rick up to bridge for six thirty. No contact from expected ship, and Endeavour is moving south – so we’re on for the day! How tough?

Breakfast on fresh fruit, scrambled egg and bacon as we cruise the Lemaire Channel. This is great – one of my fears about being at Port Lockroy for the season was not getting to see the wonders I know are round the corner…. and here we are – what luck! Foggy views, but still special (there’s a particular someone  who’ll be very envious x x x ) imagine the invisible peaks. Arrive Petermann Island for a landing at nine thirty. Meet Oceanites team who camp there during summer season; major marine wildlife researchers; v. helpful neighbours. Helen and I plod up to Adelie Towers like Teletubbies in our boil-in-the-bag immersion suits. Receive chick-counting tips at the top. Down hill past colony of cormorants, and back to ship for sauna, meeting Ian, (another Oceanites,) who’s washing his smalls in the sink. Helen and I toast, melt, shower, scrub and emerge all limp for crisp salad lunch. More Penguin Monitoring advice from John about checking for eggs; touch nesting bird on tail and she’ll lift up… Moving south now, to Vernadsky, with fresh supplies for the Ukranian station – we will be the first visitors for eight months. But the pack ice thickens to 10/10, difficult for the ship to approach close enough, treating us to a roundabout route through icy vistas and huge clearing skies. Snap away, too bright to check composition. Heart full. Captain tries hard to find a landing site. Two hundred cormorants lift off the water, fly, swoop and land again as one. Eventually one zodiac is able to deliver fresh food, at the cost of one propeller. The sun is so strong, and we so unprepared (no sunnies, no sun-cream,) that shade and bed beckon. Find Tudor and Helen crashed out in OUR loaned cabin, wake them up and take their places – hot bunking! Helen goes for zodiac cruise, Tudor checks e-mails, Rick and I sleep. Recap session v. entertaining, especially Stefan’s rendition of female adelie penguin’s infidelity. Such positive vibes on this ship – I like a captain who throws snowballs. Sit together for our final dinner as a team (Tudor will stay on the ship, until Ushuaia, once we are dropped off, he has lost his appetite.) Out on the monkey deck to appreciate return sail through Lemaire Channel. A sickle moon slithers behind the peaks, which can be seen this time. I’m remembering last year, on the bridge of HMS Endurance, peering up to the heights. What a lot has happened since then, and what luck to be here in awe again. The sea opens out. Our Mount William is visible up ahead.

It’s late; the passengers and light are fading. At the library tea bar, an Alaskan lady insists on cramming luxury tea bags in our pockets (Mint Melange, Bombay Chai, etc.) and giving us water bottles and hotel toiletries. A gentleman (who’s wife had lent me several layers, hat, scarf, gloves on deck) presses half a bottle of JD that he’s sure not to need in Drake’s Passage. Quiet cuppa in leather armchair, and then along to the bridge where the others are waiting sombre. Tim laughs at our interactions (altercations?!) – he’ll be observing our progress regularly, from now ’til Christmas. He takes us to the bar for a strong, short hot toddy. Rope ladder hop into zodiac, into nondescript night sea. Several inches of fresh snow. Relief that front door hadn’t blown open. Action stations with no light! Tudor has forty-five  minutes to pack and return to ship. Money must be bundled and credit card slips tallied for him to take. He’s promised to post cd of images for blog…I have ten minutes to burn it argh panic. Bud the zodiac driver waits patiently in the cold dark bunkroom as we flap about. Finally all that can be pulled together is and we are standing at the landing site, hugging goodbye and thanks. We’ll miss him, and envy his passage on the Endeavour. Catch his waving arm, silhouetted against the ship’s beam, on camera. A last moment. The illuminated vessel slides decorously out of sight. Brutal to climb into bed in unheated hut. We’ll have to reacclimatise after comfort of ship. Physical and emotional need for a hot water bottle. Takes a long while to fall asleep.

Bookbinding fingers begin to itch

October 27, 2007 at 11:10 am | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Book art, Dreams and imagination, Journey, Rachel Hazell, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


23rd October

Turbulent night. Up for brisk walk round deck (too dodgy to run.) Discover from pipe that clock has moved forward an hour. Not much time for breakfast. Really trying for smaller portions, having been disgusted at current photos of me rounding out. 9am bridge visit, all too brief; makes me appreciate the ships I’ve been on that have had an open bridge policy. I’m sharking for gash charts to make gift books out of…mmm…haven’t yet found the right person to ask. Bookbinding fingers are itching. Outside it’s snowing and the water is moving about a lot. Have learnt of two professional blows in the last twenty-four hours – one disadvantage of almost instant e-mail contact all the way down here. One piece of work broken; one commission cancelled. Shut myself in lecture room and sing every song I can think of. Sounds weak and wavery but serves to sort my head out. Particularly in view of impending proximity, I doubt my capacity to respond calmly, not impetuously. Rick and Tudor empathise over marinated fish of various descriptions and give good advice; we all linger in the dining room. Sleep for an hour. Woken by the pipe announcing Shag Rocks; stark triangular silhouettes on the horizon. Oh but look! The first iceberg! It glows almost neon amidst the grey, superbly sculptural all by itself. Watch the wake, bluer now. Everyone excited to see a Giant White Petrel, very rare. It arcs and swoops with the rest of them. Information-loaded lecture on ice and glaciers from Uli. Oooh I love all that physical geography stuff; diagrams and arrows… First sitting of dinner with some of the expedition staff. We talk about the importance of celebrating Christmas on board and the merits of ice-cream over cheesecake. (They’re right about the cheesecake. They know.) Quick turn round the deck. Two fur seals writhing. Write. Tidy cabin. Meet the others after second sitting. Desultory chat about the lethargy of days at sea, underwear and filmmaking. Because we’re now in iceberg territory, the Nordnorge switches on a powerful beam that sweeps the dark waves ahead. Someone on the bridge will be concentrating very hard tonight. Last thing up to the forward bar on deck seven to see the light picking out crests and growlers and wings.

Happy Birthday Rachel Hazell!

October 26, 2007 at 1:30 pm | Posted in Assistant Post Mistress, Rachel Hazell, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

With lots of love from all your family, friends, secret and not-so-secret admirers.

To let avid readers of the blog know, the posts are uploaded by Rachel’s friend and paperboy Philip, but Rachel of course writes absolutely everything in her own distinctive style.

Do comment as much as you can. When Rachel can get a signal – when she does stumble across wifi in amongst the icebergs – she would simply love to hear your words and voices.

For now, a Big Happy Birthday to Rachel, across the skies…

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