It’s now Monday night and we’ve had quite a busy 48 hours! Yesterday three of the Twin Otters flew in and managed to arrive just as the Laurence M Gould was tying up. The sea ice unfortunately prevented the LMG from getting right up close to the wharf – they used a crane and basket to lift people across the gap – and Steve and Tim went on board to introduce themselves and give the usual safety briefing. Because the ship got in later than they’d intended (it was nearly 7pm by the time they were done) the inspectors elected not to start work until the following day. Unfortunately the chief inspector didn’t grant any shore leave that evening, so all the ship’s crew were a bit cheesed off that they were within spitting distance of Rothera Bar but not allowed off the ship for a drink. We were a bit disappointed too – visitors are always a welcome diversion!
Anyway, this morning the air mechanics got on with the task of putting the Dash-7 back together, with the intention of flying up to Punta Arenas in the afternoon. Unfortunately it took longer than they expected so the flight was cancelled – it’ll go tomorrow instead. This gave me a quiet if rather uncertain morning, and so I showed several of the crew of the LMG round part of the base and was then invited back to the ship for a tour, which was very interesting! The Gould is relatively young compared to our two ships (she was built in 1997, whereas the JCR was launched in 1990) but she’s quite different – the bridge and living accomodation feels a lot smaller than on either the JCR or the Ernest Shackleton, but there’s a lot more scientific lab space and facilities. Conversely, as the Gould visits Palmer Station for a resupply every few months, there’s only a very small cargo hold under the aft deck (space for four containers) whereas our ships carry a lot more.
The inspectors saw all that they wanted and were apparently pretty satisfied with our methods, so that’s a weight off a lot of people’s minds!
As for the other ship, the Khlebnikov, she called in on Sunday to say that they had an infectious disease breaking out on board (not dangerous, just unpleasant for all concerned) and so they wouldn’t come and visit after all.
Tomorrow the Dash is going to try and get up to Punta Arenas to pick up a whole load of people – including half-a-dozen builders, the new doctor, and Tristan, who’s my replacement. The Twin Otters will be out doing “circuits and bumps” – landing and taking off again – so that the pilots get a feel for landing on skis again. It shouldn’t be long before we’re getting Fossil Bluff opened up and the season will begin in earnest.