14 Weekly News 7 February 1999

Dear All,


Only slightly frustrating that the end of the cemetery work was forced by running out of materials rather than coming to the end of the job. Still, the last headstones are mended and all has been painted with the usual immediately effective results. There was enough paint for only one coat….ideally we’d have put on two. Luckily it is good quality paint, but you will understand our slight frustration.

Bad weather stopped play much of the week. Indeed we got so used to being thwarted by snow, wind and rain that yesterday we were in and brewing tea before the snow had a chance to prove it was just kidding. Still, it stayed sunny after that, hence we were able to complete our summer job.

We now have a week to pack and be ready for the pick up by the military resupply ship. We have hopes of exploring the Busen [Lewin] peninsula during that time, but it was raining again this morning and the barometer is plummeting. Still we may head over to Carlita Bay for the night this afternoon.

In the attempt to fit in all we haven’t done yet, we took fishing line, hooks and plumrose ham to fish off the rotting jetty. The water was cloudy with sediment washed down from the hills and the wind was rising, so I didn’t envisage we’d last long. I laughed at Pat’s hopeless optimism at taking a bucket for our catch. After five minutes of dangling my handline baited with ham I was getting chilled and wondering why we were bothering. It’s one thing to go fishing on a still sunny evening, but where is the fun on a cold windy and overcast one?. Am I missing something? Pulling up my line to check the bait I also pulled up a large rock cod. Surprised? I’d had no intention of catching something. Indeed I was looking forward to spag bol for dinner. Oh well! Fish it was. Pat hit his finger hard with a bloody great lump of metal whilst dispatching our supper. I never could kill anything. I re-baited and dropped the hook and blow me in minutes I had caught another. I had to stop then to give Pat a chance. One unfruitful (unfishful?) hour later he gave up and sulked.

We returned to count the gentoo chicks at Olsen valley but quickly realised we had left it too late. They were all fledging and had moved down to the beach. There was no way we could make an accurate count. Instead Pat happily stalked the King colony to read flipper tag numbers. He looked like one of the racecource bookies signing the numbers to me some distance away. There was a mime to say the bird was a moulter, another to say it was on an egg, a cradling of arms if it had a tiny chick and I won’t describe the one for being mated!

Having blown easterly the surf has been wonderful. I love walking along the beaches, threat throwing seals one side and powerful curling waves the other. Might have got ‘that’ photo too, of Chinstrap, Gentoo and King penguin all in one frame. I suppose you can better it if you find a Macaroni too.

The monopoly board is almost worn out. I think we played six games one afternoon and evening. They tend to be shorter with just two of you.

More visitors. The Canadian yacht “Taonui” arrived on Wednesday. Coryn is Scottish and Tony is Australian. Their 42 foot yacht is beautiful. They came for supper here that night and returned the favour a couple of nights later. At least that helped run down the gin lake we have no hope of getting through before we leave.

As usual the wildlife has been a good source of entertainment. I was certainly entertained when Pat was, without warning, hit over the back of the head by a protective skua! The fur seal pups seem to have migrated from their birthplaces to our front door. There must be fifty out there. They seem to spend all day being obtuse. They stalk the moulting Kings, harass the skuas, surface under the ducks and play fight each other. Once in a while they take a power nap, wrapping their tail up over their milk fat bellies and pinning it there with chocolate coloured flippers. Then they are off again making mischief. We can not go out the door without several of them swearing at us.

We walked to Stromness to pick up the rest of our gear on Friday. Snow overlying sodden ground made the going slippy, and tide was so high combined with the surf we had to time our scrambles round the rocks to avoid too big a soaking.

Once there, we tramped over the hills at the back to visit the waterfall Shackleton had descended at the end of his epic journey. The snow was inches thick and the going rather heavy. I was surprised how tired it made me after our months out here. Looking back down at the station with the snow on the surrounding mountains, one wondered if it looked something like this when they saw it. But they hadn’t just puffed up the hill, they had crossed glaciers and mountains on a 36 hour walk with no sleep and little equipment. Once down at the station they had ended up at the managers Villa, unrecognisable from the men who had set out from the island on their ship “Endurance” a year and a half before.

We took another look at the little roof blown off the managers villa at Stromness and decided it was not something we could tackle. There is an intact ceiling below which may keep the worst of the weather out for a while.

Luckily the tide had dropped a bit by the time we returned to Husvik, making the beach walk less challenging. In one bay the waves curled up and fell in near perfect tubes. The seal pups occasionally caught under the breaking wave might flick their head as they re-emerged after but otherwise seemed barely to have noticed.

By the next time you next hear from us we will either be awaiting the ship here at Husvik or back at KEP. All good things have to come to an end.

All the best,

Sarah and Pat

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