Museum Assistant Darren Blanche on the return of Team Rat and an overview of the museum events in February

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Museum Assistant Darren Blanche brings us up to date for February 2013 with news of some of our trustees, the arrival of “Team Rat” and the amazing re-enactment of Ernest Shackleton’s journey from Elephant Island to Stromness by the Shackleton Epic team in their replica James Caird – the Alexandra Shackleton. As previously mentioned by my partner Gemma, I am the other Museum Assistant. I came to South Georgia without any prior knowledge of the vast extent of wildlife and scenery and I deliberately stayed away from the BBC’s Frozen Planet so as not to ruin the surprise...and South Georgia didn’t disappoint – this place is truly amazing!

It’s been a busy, busy month – but for a nice change it’s not been due to the tourists! We have had many visitors this month. We have had people arriving for the SGHT Habitat Restoration project, which is the largest attempted rat eradication project in the world, and various Trustees and VIPs visiting to see the project first hand and help in what way they can. Everyone has been really friendly and excited to see the HR project get started, and we have shown them all the South Georgia hospitality of fresh baking and friendly faces!
One of the Habitat Restoration helicopters ready to get baiting underway again.
One of the Habitat Restoration helicopters ready to get baiting underway again.
Seb describes the crossing to the museum team aboard their James Caird replica.
Seb describes the crossing to the museum team aboard their James Caird replica.
Team Rat consists of 27 people including three chefs! Gemma and I were lucky enough to get some cooking lessons from Gerard Baker, a Michelin starred chef. Gerard has had 13 books published and made TV appearances and spent a few seasons cooking for Antarctic Bases, and now he has joined the Habitat Restoration Team, keeping all the field workers and bait loaders’ bellies full and healthy so they can keep up all the good work.





This month also saw the arrival of the Alexandra Shackleton and the ‘Shackleton Epic’ Adventurers. The guys who took part in this re-enactment used all identical (or as close to original as they could find) clothing and equipment as that worn by Ernest Shackleton and his crew in 1915. We were very lucky to be invited on board for a look around and we saw first-hand how these six men squeezed into this tiny boat for 12 days!
Gemma and I fill the space where five men had to live and sleep during the sea crossing in Alexandra Shackleton.
Gemma and I fill the space where five men had to live and sleep during the sea crossing in Alexandra Shackleton.

Seb Coulthard (one of the Epic Adventurers) showed us around and told us all about their crossing from Elephant Island to South Georgia and then how some of the team crossed the mountains to reach Stromness. The journey is to be made into a documentary. Thomas, our Curatorial Intern, was very happy to receive some of the replica equipment and clothing for the Museum, here in Grytviken, and we worked quickly to get a temporary display up for the cruise ship arriving later that day. That cruise ship also brought with them Alexandra Shackleton herself; granddaughter of Ernest.

Seb with some of the many items donated to the museum collection in the temporary display in the Carr Maritime Gallery.
Seb with some of the many items donated to the museum collection in the temporary display in the Carr Maritime Gallery.




On top of Narval
On top of Narval
All these visitors and our normal duties have kept us pretty busy but we did manage to take a day off and head into the hills for a walk up Mt. Narval, which is the second highest peak in the local area. We had some amazing weather for our walk (although it did get a tad windy at the top) and when I say walk, I mean more of a scramble up and down the scree and a climb to reach the summit – but wow!!! It was worth the effort!




Me in the workshop.
Me in the workshop.
After our day off, it was straight back to work so I could get started on making a display cabinet for the new military display. Thomas and I have been working hard to get the display finished before we leave. Sarah and Gemma have been doing a great job restoring some of the artefacts out the front of the museum (a very important job to get finished before the onset of winter) to ensure they continue to be around for many years to come.
Gemma working on one of the whale canons.
Gemma working on one of the whale canons.







Sunset over Mt Sugartop.
Sunset over Mt Sugartop.
A perfect spot for a camp.
A perfect spot for a camp.

The weather has been so changeable here on South Georgia and apparently one of the worst summers ever remembered! Gemma and I seem to be following the bad summers around the world...managing to be in New Zealand for what the locals told us was “the worst summer we’ve ever had!” and then back to the UK for “the wettest summer for over 100 years!”. Even with all that bad luck we checked the forecast and Sarah let us have a few days off to make the most of it. We filled our backpacks and headed into the hills and found ourselves a lovely little camp spot – you don’t have to go too far for a beautiful view in South Georgia.





That’s all for February 2013 – this is our last full month here on South Georgia. It’s been an amazing experience and we are very sad to be leaving next month. South Georgia will always be with us and we hope to return sometime in the future. Where else in the world do you wake to the sounds of penguins and seals outside your bedroom window and find the odd skua at your front door?