After three slightly bumpy days at sea we arrived at the South Orkney Islands, a small group of islands in the southern ocean. Signy, the island upon which I spend my summer, is one of the smaller islands in this group. We arrived on a cold day. The information screen informed us that the sea temperature was -1.32 degrees centigrade. I always think its strange that water can be below zero degrees and not be frozen solid, but that is the case with salt water.
With the air temperature pretty chilly too, the aft deck was covered in ice where the waves had been washing over it and freezing immediately.
The rest of the ship looked like some kind of ghost ship with everything white and ice covered.
It was going to be a cold day for working! The first cargo tender arrived to offload people to start the process of opening up the base for the summer. Jobs to be done were to dig out the walkways and doorways to the buildings, to remove shutters from the windows and to start the process of getting the services up and running. On days like this, everyone, regardless of their reason for being onboard, mucks in to get the job done.
These jobs all take time and have to be done in the right order. Generators have to be warmed up properly before they can be started and buildings need a chance to warm up before things like communications can be switched on. The first day went very well, and by the end of the first day we had heating, lighting and flushing toilets on station meaning we were able to spend the first night ashore in our Signy home.
Day two dawned a complete contrast with glorious blue skies and sunshine.
The digging continued...
This pipe is critical to life at Signy- it brings sea water into the generator shed where it is pumped up to the main building for flushing toilets, or diverted to the Reverse Osmosis plant which converts it to drinking water.
By the end of day two we had started making fresh water, all of the cargo was ashore and being unpacked, and the base was starting to feel much more homely.
The ship finally left us with a fully functional base at the end of day three.
This year there are only 5 of us for the first part of the season, but we are back up to eight people with the next ship call in early December. There is much to do in the next couple of weeks- unpacking all of the cargo that has come ashore, stocking the foodstore, tidying up, and starting the science that allows us to be here in the first place.
It is great to be home!