The end is nigh!
05 March 2014 | 64 49.7'S:063 29.6'W, Lockroy
The whiteboard in the Nissen hut which normally tells you what's going on in the upcoming days had a slightly different type of message on it to the normal list of ships due to visit. �"Monday 3rd March The end is nigh!' Followed by a long blank ominous space. No, Jayne hadn't taken to apocalyptic predictions, but the end was indeed in sight for the girls of Port Lockroy. The Post Office and shop have been packed up, as has everything else on base, and the girls by now are already on their way North on cruise ship Ocean Diamond. We spent the rest of the day since their early morning departure jealously estimating how many showers they would have had by then.
Although we don't see the girls everyday, we hear Helen on the radio coordinating ship visits almost without fail, and it's rather nice to know there is someone else out there, and you could pop over for a cup of tea if you wanted. It feels quite strange to think the base is empty. Although strictly speaking Michael and Liesl from UKAHT are still on base doing maintenance, and Spirit of Sydney are anchored in the back bay, but it's not quite the same.
Its been rather hectic for Team Lockroy trying to finish all jobs that needed doing before the winter, as well as packing up their stuff and still dealing with ship visits. They've literally been working dusk �"till dawn. Knowing this, and wanting to give them a proper send off, Dave volunteered to go over and cook his trademark slow roast beef and make a mess of their nice clean galley. Which he duly did.
Even though we were in the boat shed, a mere 20m dingy ride and 30m walk from the front door of the Nissen hut, getting there felt like some of the most challenging conditions we'd been out in. Horizontal snow flew around in strong gusts that tried to knock you off your feet, and with all the penguins hunkered down and covered in snow it was easy to miss them. There was more than one occasion where what I thought was a rock suddenly got up and squawked at me. Poor penguins. As ever, it was great to see the girls, even if we did all get rather nostalgic about how quickly the season had flown by. We'll definitely miss them all. Dave's beef was pretty good too, but that almost goes without saying.
The big Post Office related drama this week has been the possibility that the last post might not go. Cruise ship Fram was due to take the last post of the season back to Stanley with them. Unfortunately as they tried to drop their anchor, the only 40kt gust of the day blew through, the Fram got scared and bailed on the landing. Had they waited 10minutes the weather would have been back to a balmy 10-15kts but Antarctic weather being what it is, they weren't to know that. We thought they were the very last ship of which would stop in the Falklands, as most of them go straight to South America, and were even preparing to offer Pelagic's services as postal delivery service to Stanley, albeit via Argentina and Chile.
The failure of the Fram to stop spelt disaster on a few fronts; not only had Andrew and Ruth been set to film the post leaving as one of the closing sequences of the film, but between us we'd written almost three dozen postcards which now might not be sent until November and also rather more selfishly, Dave and I wouldn't get any laundry done.
Sad to say the laundry problem persists, and no amount of febreeze seems to deal with the smell emanating from the team Pelagic laundry bag, which unfortunately resides in our cabin. Frankly, I'm worried it is about to grow legs and make a break for it. However, thanks to cruise ship Hanse Explorer, the post will go!
Hnase Explorer called in to shelter in the back bay at Port Lockroy the last night the girls were on base. They were not just there for shelter though, as it transpired that they were also headed to Port Stanley before returning to Germany for the rest of the year and had agreed to take the mail. Hurrah! They came up and joined us for a drink as we all tucked into beef and Yorkshire puddings, and then after dinner we all suited up and headed out into the cold. By now the blizzard had abated leaving a crisp, calm, clear night. It was beautiful. Although Andrew didn't manage to film his closing sequence it was rather dramatic, as we trekked through the snow with head-torches, carrying mailbags and cases of unused stamps down to the Chains landing site.