Nigel Bonner

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Nigel Bonner's relationship with South Georgia began betan between 1953-55, when he conducted biological surveys on the island's birds and animals for BAS. Nigel then deployed a field hut on Bird Island on 24 November 1958 that ultimately developed the present BAS Research Station. The hut, affectionately known as Bonner's Bothy, was used by Nigel as he studied fur seals on Bird Island. The shed was demolished only in recent years.

After many discussions about preserving South Georgia's artefacts by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), initiated by David Wynn-Davis, in December 1989 Nigel returned to South Georgia with a team to do a clear up report on environmental hazards on the island. At the end of Nigel's report he suggested the creation of a whaling museum at South Georgia, and the Commissioner at the time, William Fullerton, agreed.

The following text is an excerpt from Nigel's diary as he went about setting up the museum, courtesy of his wife Jenny. It's fascinating to read about Nigel, Ian and Bob's daily life as they created the museum from the old villa.

Friday 6th November 1992

We had a reasonable day's work at the Villa. I walked over with the hoover, leaving Ian to follow later with the rations (Bob, of course, was already at work having left at 0600). I finished scraping the window in the Larsen Room and used the hoover to pick up the pieces from the cracks in the mouldings, ready for me to prime it. I found an old inch brush, managed to clean it up a bit and smudged on some primer - not high class work, but it will do. I then set about the window in the Ringdal Room. By tea time I had scraped this down and primed it. It is wretched work scraping. The little bits of brittle paint fly everywhere and I suppose it is all lead based. This will probably hamper my intellectual development.

Bob pottered about, making pales for the cemetary and, at my suggestion, trying to hook up wiring from the genny to the Villa on a more permanent basis, so we don't have to have the doors open all the time. It has been pretty cold today with a brisk wind and incessant light rain. I wonder how they got on with the pick up of Sir David at Bird Island. I wouldn't have cared to trust myself to a Pacific in Bird Sounds in this sort of weather.

Ian spent the day scraping the ceiling of the Wilson Room and stripping it of wiring and fittings. He is not very adept at this, but at least he took it on, and neither Bob nor I was very keen to scrape a ceiling. I gave Ian a hand after I had finished my painting.

After tea I cleaned up the mess room and then walked back rather wearily to the Point. I thought a good deal about what Roger had said after his operation: "It takes time to learn to live without pain", and I thought how much my daily activities were modified by my hip.

I had a miserable shower as someone was using the washing machine in the Customs House, as I later discovered. Still, I got most of the paint chips out of my hair and came out considerably fresher. Dinner (if one can call it that) was as usual at 1800. I went up without my tablets and was told that there was a Goldie Hawn film that evening at 2030. I like Goldie Hawn, and would have gone to the film anyway, for social reasons, but then found it necessary to go back to the Customs House for my medicine and trek back later to Shack House.

Monday 9th November

I got back in time for lunch and in the afternoon undercoated the Wilson Room window and main door. Bob had finished his lining and had gone up to the graveyard to mend the gate and the fence. Ian was writing labels for the Larsen Room, a cold job on a day like this.

I got back a bit after five and had a strip wash - there just wasn't enough pressure for a shower and I was really quite cold. The Customs House is warmer than ambient, but my room not so much as there is no heater.

After dinner I chatted in the mess with Alastair McDonald, the harbour master, for a couple of hourse and then returned to my room to do some writing.

Tuesday 10th November

Today was lino day at Grytviken. I walked over after breakfast in a cold bright morning and found Bob had already painted the ceiling of the Wilson Room. I started lining the floor of the Larsen Room and that done solicited Bob's help in bringing in the lino.

It is not linoleum, of couse, but vinyl, industrial vinyl at that, the surface loaded with carborundum grains to provide a non-slip surface. This it certainly does, but it makes it impossible to cut from the top. It is also exceedingly heavy. Bob and I manhandled a roll in the materials store so that we could unroll 4 metres, which I cut off. We carried two pieces like that into the Larsen Room and then Bob left me to fit it while he set about preparing battens for the Wilson Room's walls.

It was not a very difficult floor to cover but lino laying is not my forte. In the end I achieved a reasonable result, particularly as all the cuts had to be made from the reverse side. I was quite pleased with it as it is noticeably better than the lino we laid last time.

When I went back to the workshop I found Bob trying to plane the edges of his battens single handed. As they are about 16 feet long this is very difficult, so I did the planing while Bob steadied them on the bench. This also served the useful purpose of getting me warm again - I had got very cold, slithering about on the floor.