02 Weekly News 24 November 1998

Dear all,

Excuse us putting you on a huge mailing list but we are at the mercy of an expensive satellite link so can’t afford a message each, especially when they would all be much the same anyway.

We are now installed in the not-so-little hut that used to be the manager’s villa forty years ago when Husvik was a working whaling station. We arrived on Sunday afternoon on the RFA Gold Rover which brought us from King Edward Point after a hectic couple of days handing Pat’s job over to Paul Brickle for a few months. Sad as we were to leave some good friends within the garrison, especially those who attempted to sabotage Pat with late night applications of beer and rum, it was the culmination of months of planning and logistics which saw us both happy to step ashore onto the ricketty jetty. Some old trolleys and the rusty tracks of a mini railway eased the task of ferrying our boxes and bags to the house. The rest of Sunday was spent unpacking, sweeping, cleaning, and generally getting moved in. (Guess who did all the sweeping and cleaning.S)

Moving gear using the railway on Husvik jetty.

We found time in the evening to take a stroll in rose pink evening light and ended up sitting on a low bridge over a stream behind the hut, dangling our wellies into the water to play with a few elephant seal pups. They nudged and pushed at out feet and took our toes into their mouths but luckily they are not into biting yet.

Sarah makes friends with an elephant seal pup.

The house has a great view over the bay to the open sea. We can see the last couple of elephant seal cows still feeding their pups on the beach in front of us. There is a big bull in attendance, waiting for them to wean their pups and come into season. There are a couple of other bulls nearby waiting for just the same thing but they will have to fight him first. A handful of king penguins have come out of the sea to either roost overnight or maybe to moult. A pair of skuas have taken up their sentry posts outside the front door, presumably hoping for scraps but they were not too impressed at the four year old biscuits that Sarah tried on them as she cleared out some of the cupboards. Pat, on the other hand, pronounced the biscuits to be perfectly edible.

Yesterday, our first full day, was spent finishing off the unpacking but we did go for a walk in the sunshine of the afternoon. We headed along the beach, dodging the fur seals who have started to arrive and bag what they hope will be a prime breeding beach. One bull was the biggest we have ever seen. Easily equal in size to an ellie female. On a couple of occasions we detoured into the tussac grass behind the beach to find more seals lurking in ambush between the tussacs but they were only tiddlers. We got to Olsen Valley after about an hour and wandered inland to take a look at the gentoo penguin colonies on the hillsides. They have eggs and some have tiny chicks. There is a tiny king penguin colony too and there were eleven of last season’s chicks standing around in their brown wooly coats waiting for parents to come ashore and feed them.

There are reindeer in this corner of the island. We came across a very young fawn stuck in a muddy bog. Mum was doing her nut but it could not scrabble free so after the obligatory photo session Sarah dragged it out and left it on the grass but it rolled straight back in. Pat then had a go at lifting it out by the scruff of the neck and carried it a safe distance from the bog before releasing it. Mum and fawn were soon reunited and after a wobbly moment while it got it’s breath back it was last seen in hot pursuit as she led it over the hill back to the rest of the herd.

The barometer (built into Mr Gadget’s watch) fell overnight and today, Tuesday, was windy and wet. A good day to stay indoors, catch up on a bit of reading, explore the house and watch the squalls whipping up the surface of the bay.

By late afternoon it had quietened down so we went for a scavenge around the whaling station for some pipe to build new flues for the fire, which is not usable at the moment, and to look for some corrugated iron that is in good condition. The winter storms have ripped some sheets off the villa roof so will need to be replaced. We also found the dandelion patch where scientists stationed here over previous summers have protected the dandelions from the grazing reindeer with some strategically placed bed frames. We had to set them back up as they had been flattened, probably by a snoozing seal. Tonight’s dinner was accompanied by a delicious dandelion salad.

So that’s our news to date. The rest of the week will be spent doing housey things around the villa and walking around the area. Next week we will move around to Leith, a couple of hours’ walk away and start on the summer project building new fences around the cemeteries at the whaling station. See our website at www.wildisland.demon.co.uk for more details.

And now it’s time for Captain Gadget to link his Psion Organiser to his Portable satellite phone – both powered by solar panel – and try to send this on to you.

All is well with us,

Much love

Pat and Sarah

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