Top Image: Male elephant seal using a pipe on the track as a pillow
October started with the first elephant seal pup being born on the track to Grytviken and for the next few weeks we were treated to watching it grow on our daily commute. Slowly over the course of the month, the snow receded, making the daily walk easier and instead the shores filled up with wildlife, slowly colonising the quiet beaches of September. Signs of terns, albatross and penguins emerging and the occasional huge male elephant seals making an appearance in random places along the track and around the museum.
The beginning of October was a good time to carry on working with many behind the scenes tasks, preparing the museum and shop for a busy season ahead. Displays cases were cleaned, floors mopped and all the objects on display were checked after being locked up in the cold over winter. The museum is unusual in that it is not heated at all. The building is a simple wooden design with a corrugated iron roof, meaning that over the winter period the temperature inside can drop dramatically.
We monitor the temperature and relative humidity in the museum so we can get a good idea of what happens during the winter and summer seasons inside the building. Museum objects vary in material, some are organic – bone, wood, textile, feathers – and others are non-organic, metals and man-made products such as plastic. Each material is susceptible to different environmental conditions so one of the key museum jobs is to make sure that every item is not subjected to adverse conditions that may reduce the life of the object. For example, light can fade sensitive textiles and feathers, while cold temperatures can make plastic items brittle and some metals suffer from being stored in damp, cold conditions. The good news is that lower temperatures make the deterioration of objects slow down and so much of the collection is stable and happy to be kept cold if they are kept dry. In regions of the world where it is hot and humid, museum collections are more vulnerable to these risks and need more attention. Over winter we take some of our more unstable items off display, such as watercolour paintings, important photographs or books and any sensitive textiles. We have one room in the museum that is very gently heated over the year (our office) and these items are stored there to keep them protected from the harsh temperatures but also to keep them out of any daylight. Before we start the new summer season, we open up these boxes and put the objects back on display to be enjoyed again by all our visitors.
Our first ship arrived on 8 October, the Magellan Explorer, looking smart with her dazzle paint. It was a damp, cold day but spirits were high as this not only represented the first visit of the new season, but also the first year since early 2020 without covid restrictions. It was great to have visitors in the museum again after several complicated years of being closed or only with limited operations.
On 22 October the new team arrived on the fisheries patrol vessel, the Pharos SG, cruising in on a sunny day. A few days were spent settling in and getting used the ways of living on island – including exploring our large food stores and cooking with different dried and frozen goods. Also enjoying that everything comes in jumbo sizes!
As the daily commute along the track continued, we had our first male fur seal appear on 25 October, right on cue for the breeding season.
The last week of October saw our visitor numbers increase and we settled into a regular pattern of work. November is set to be our busiest month of the season.
As the weather slowly warmed up we were treated to some warmer temperatures (feeling cold rather than absolutely freezing……!) giving us the opportunity to get the museum signs up and benches set out in the front of the museum. For the first time we were able to sit outside for our morning smoko. November here we come….