Museum Assistant Rachel Morris tell about an unusual Night at the Museum

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Seabourne Quest, image by Matthew Phillips
Seabourne Quest, image by Matthew Phillips
Having started the year in traditional style, we were grateful for a day off before getting back to our busy ship schedule which included Seabourne Quest, our biggest vessel of the year. With 450 passengers, their crew landed visitors in groups of approximately 100 throughout the day. As well as all the usual museum services, we also provided an on-board shop so people could still buy souvenirs when not on shore. Once their visit was over Sarah, Deirdre, Sheri and I went on-board to give the Habitat Restoration talk followed by a delicious four course dinner. The fundraising support from the passengers that evening was phenomenal, with Sheri and I literally selling the rat eradication shirts off our back for another $3,000.


Rachel on the pipit survey
Rachel on the pipit survey
In advance of the Habitat Restoration project Phase 3 commencing, a pipit survey was carried out to monitor the endemic South Georgia songbirds' progress in all three of the baiting areas. I was very fortunate to assist surveying the Greene Peninsula, part of the Phase 1 area baited in 2011. This involved walking 500m transects, during which you keep your eyes peeled on 25m either side of you for pipits, plotting your start and finish co-ordinates by GPS. We spent our first day walking along the coastline, good pipit habitat, and completed 10 transects but saw nothing. On the second day we hiked to the Nordenskjold Glacier. We began our first transect alongside an area of tussac grass near the beach. Just as we were pondering whether we would see anything, a little brown ball of feathers with white wingbars landed directly in our path about 5m in front of us - pipit! We were delighted, and totally enthused to see three more birds in quick succession. Great evidence that pipits are returning to their rightful rat-free territories.

We had some excitement later in the month, when 72 cruise ship passengers were stranded at the whaling station overnight. After enjoying an afternoon at Grytviken, strong winds picked up in the early evening forcing the Zodiac boats (that ferry passengers to and from cruise ships) to stop when the vessel Captain decided it was too dangerous to continue operations. We had gale force winds of 66 knots in the cove and gusts of 80 knots were recorded in Cumberland Bay. There was no sign of conditions improving so the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands implemented their contingency plan and prepared to accommodate the passengers overnight. The Government Officers, government team of builders and British Antarctic Survey staff assembled emergency supplies like mattresses, camping mats, pillows and food. Dee, Sheri and I cooked soup and pasta for everybody in our small kitchen at Drukken Villa while the museum buildings were turned into temporary dormitories for the grateful passengers. By dawn the winds had calmed and the visitors were ferried back to their ship to continue their holiday. Within a few hours there was almost no sign of their unscheduled night-stop in the museum, as we cleaned up ready for our next ship later that day. We all relished the challenge of looking after so many people at such short notice and hope they enjoyed their stay!

GSGSSI workers lend a hand moving mattresses
GSGSSI workers lend a hand moving mattresses
The unexpected visitors sleeping soundly the next morning around our replica of Shackleton's lifeboat James Caird. Image by Andrew Bishop
The unexpected visitors sleeping soundly the next morning around our replica of Shackleton's lifeboat James Caird. Image by Andrew Bishop