February Blog by Helen Balfour (Museum Assistant)
BUSYNESS, BIRTHDAYS AND BUGS!
When reading all of the previous blogs that my colleagues have written, we always reflect on how busy the months have been, and February is no exception to this. This month began with a few days off and a much-anticipated trip to Harpon hut for Aoife’s (our Curatorial Intern) birthday. Harpon Hut is a small wooden hut close to a glacier reached by walking over a mountain pass and down to the other side of the Thatcher Peninsula. Typically, it rained non-stop for two days, so we were glad to get the tilly lamp on when we arrived at the hut and get some delicious dhal, made by Lauren (Senior Museum Assistant), cooking on the primus stove.
On Aoife’s birthday we were finally blessed with some sunshine, and we set up an outdoor breakfast before our ship visit in the afternoon. In the evening we had a pizza party at King Edward Point and a birthday “tea” party. Lauren and I made a penguin cake for Aoife after she was threatening to make her own birthday cake. You never think about the complexities of trying to make a birthday cake for someone in secret when there are only 20 or so people on the island. Thus, resulting in a late night before her birthday and an early morning on the day of!
A highlight of the month was helping the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientists with “pup” weigh, where they weigh Fur Seal pups to get an idea of how healthy they are. They are monitored by the scientists towards the end of the year and then weighed once a month, for three months after the peak of “pupping”. Since there are only two scientists permanently on base, they need help from other people on station. Our heaviest pup was over 17kg, and we were all very excited when we found a blonde pup to weigh, as they are very rare. Again, we had lovely weather, and this contributed to the high spirits of the day.
On 7 February, Michael and Stewart arrived to live with us here in Grytviken for a few weeks. Michael has been commissioned by SGHT to create an art installation on the flensing plan and Stewart’s firm WSP is supporting Michael by providing engineering assistance to the project. It was great to have them staying with us for a few weeks and we had many great nights crowded around our small table sharing food and laughs. Although only here for a few weeks, they really threw themselves into island life and I know I speak for everyone when I say that their presence will be missed.
In the museum this month, we have had fewer visitors compared to January, which has meant we have been able to get on with other essential tasks that needed to be completed. A crucial part of museum management involves understanding your collections and we have all been involved in auditing the collections which helps us keep track of where our objects are within the building. It is important that we take care of the objects within our collections and one way to do this in the galleries downstairs is to make sure they are protected from the sun’s UV rays when the museum is closed. One of my tasks this month was to make a new display case light-excluding cover which will help protect the objects and ensure that they are not exposed to too much light. Whilst Michael was here, he was photographing objects within our collections, I was lucky enough to work alongside him to find the objects and help set up a “studio” space within the museum. Some of the objects were quite challenging to photograph due to their size and Michael will “stitch” the images together using software once he returns to the UK. Although February has been quiet in terms of ship visits, there have still been quite a few and we have been excited to open the Main Store for people and continue do whaling station tours for those who visit.
Living in South Georgia comes with some great benefits, one being that we get an opportunity to explore the local mountains. This month I finally climbed to the top of Mount Duse, where Ernest Shackleton took his famous picture overlooking Grytviken and his ship. Due to the potentially loose rocks, you must wear a helmet for the top section of the mountain to protect yourself. Luckily, I had a great guide (one of our Government Officers, James), who had been up Duse five times before, so he was well-acquainted with the mountain.
An annual event in South Georgia is the South Georgia half marathon. Of course, there is a huge amount of organisation that goes into an event like this, and we have our brilliant station doctor Anna, and our technician Codie, to thank for organising the event. In classic South Georgia fashion, it was probably one of the worst days weather-wise that we have had since we arrived here. The runners faced snow and hail as they battled along the course. I was a marshal, stationed at the top of Brown Mountain, which was great as it was near the start of the route, so I headed home after the last runner had passed to stand in a warm shower to re-heat!
The reason I chose to write the February blog is that it is my birthday on the 23rd. In the morning I was surprised by breakfast made by the museum team and our Station Leader, Joe. I also received a stunning handmade hedgehog from Aoife and in the evening our Museum Director, Deirdre, made brilliant fish and chips for everyone on station at King Edward Point. Afterwards, we had a fascinating Thursday Night Talk from Simon and Pierre who have been conducting an entomological study around South Georgia. It was great to hear about their few months here researching South Georgia’s insects and how they went about assessing the bug populations. A very interesting way to conclude an excellent birthday in South Georgia!