07 Weekly News 23 December 1998

Dear all,

We are now back at Husvik, having finished the two cemeteries at Leith. We had three glorious sunny days in a row so worked long and hard, standing the 16 fallen headstones of the ‘country’ cemetery upright after drilling holes and putting steel bar in to stop them falling over again. Very interesting fact: concrete is softer than granite, which takes a long time to drill through even with a hammer drill. After all the effort that went into building a sophisticated gantry with block and tackle for lifting headstones we ended up lifting something like thirteen of the headstones by hand in one afternoon with brute force and ignorance (“You better believe it, and I’m loaded with both” – Baloo, the Jungle Book). The gantry was needed, however, for the last one which was a massive granite edifice and with both our weight hanging off the rope we could just about lift it to the sound of much creaking and groaning from the gantry, the rope, and Pat, whose hitherto dodgy back failed to give up or even twinge, thus giving him no reason to skive out of the physical stuff.

It was the drilling that took most time of all and I (Sarah) felt bad for Pat that my single coat of masonry paint, like makeup on a woman, made an instant impact and is the single most effective way of making the cemeteries looked after. Sadly there was only enough paint for one coat and even then four cement headstones were left bare, but with luck a Norwegian tour coming in January will be able to put on the second coat and maybe paint the fence angle irons as well which will make the big cem. very smart.

The wooden crosses of the town cem. were planted in their respective positions and a couple more grave surrounds cleared of vegetation.

So, by the end of Monday 21st we had finished both Leith cemeteries at last and got most of our packing ready for the arduous journey back to Husvik. With considerable difficulty we squeezed into the immersion suits, donned headsets and clambered into the back of the Lynx helicopter so it’s a big thank you to all you taxpayers,who kindly funded HMS Endurance’s voyage South this year. They dropped our generator and tools off at Stromness ready for the next phase of the project before giving us a ride around to take in a bit of the breathtaking scenery of the island. We flew high above King Edward Point before having a close look at a couple of glaciers. Finally we landed right outside the villa at Husvik ready for our Christmas break. We were not alone for long. A party of ramblers from the Endurance passed on their way up to Gulbrandsen Lake to see the grounded bergs. Once they were gone we boiled up loads of water for a good wash all round.

We were just preparing to have a quiet night relaxing and celebrating being reunited with our booze locker when the cruise ship World Discoverer hove into view. We welcomed the passengers and crew ashore for a look around the whaling station and invited the Captain in for tea. It was the first time he had been to Husvik and this was his forty ninth visit to the island. He kindly invited us on board for a few drinks and dinner in the evening. After a few weeks existing on all the variations of tinned food we troughed our way through steak, chips, salad, more salad, lovely moussey ice creamy stuff etc etc etc and Gin and Tonic with ice and slice. Life is sometimes tough here in the colonies.

Our planned lie in this morning (Wednesday) was rudely awakened by the results of Pat’s success with the programmable timer on the radio which had hitherto failed to wake us up to the World Sevice news nice and early for a day’s work. Still, we are in good spirits and it didn’t matter. We just got up, drank a load of coffee, and made up verses for our new seasonal song:

On the first day of Ramadan Mr Clinton sent to me . . .

Well, it made us laugh.

Endurance arrived mid morning to take away the walkers who had had a nice night roughing it in tents. Lucky for them the helicopter had been on hand to fly in emergency beer, it’s heavy old stuff to have to carry on your back. We gave them tea and cake (kindly given to us by one of the passengers on the World Disoverer who had found the food served on board was up to the required standard) for half an hour or so before their ship arrived around the corner to take them away. The launch arrived at the jetty, binging our mate Phil and a huge pile of cases of beer, wine, and spirits and two frozen chickens. Tiny Tim will have a Christmas after all.

Then the helicopter dropped off the two environmental survey lads who had spent yesterday further up the coast looking at Prince Olav Harbour. So now we are five. Prep for the festive season continues with Sarah icing cakes, Pat baking bread, Phil tending the fire and the two climbers passing a bit of rope between them muttering about knots and breaking strains. We are already having a great laugh so the next few days will be over too soon and the Endurance will once more appear out of the mist to whisk the three away to the Falklands and beyond.

That’s our news up to date which leaves us only to wish you a happy Christmas, Ramadan, or whatever the poor Korean monks celebrate in between water canon attacks.

Loads of love,

Pat and Sarah

PS All those of you who get new Computers for Christmas please remember to set your email software to send only plain text emails and to not send a second version in HTML or ‘rich text’ format which takes ages to download.

PPS The quote of the project so far was fom the Swiss photographer who, watching us heaving on ropes to raise a headstone said “Its a rather strange way to spend your summer holidays”.. I had to agree.

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