Its now a week since I left home, slowly making my south for another season in Antarctica. Traveling with the British Antarctic Survey is always slow and dates and times constantly change around you as you travel, making for lots of confusion and frustration along with a lot of time to read your book. The changeable nature of traveling south is even more pronounced when traveling by ship to the island bases of South Georgia, Bird Island and Signy, where I will be spending the next four and a bit months. The travel might be slow but is always interesting and this season even more so for me getting to travel through the Falklands.
I’m not great at understanding much about somewhere till I get to visit and while I had obviously heard of the Falkland Islands growing up I really know nothing about them other than they were “owned” by the UK, they weren’t very big, they were always windy and there was a war fought over them when I was a kid. Since working for BAS I had also become aware that they were a major stepping stone for personnel going to work in Antarctica. BAS staff are still sometimes referred to as FID’s (Falkland Islands Dependants).
I had never really grasped why Margaret Thatcher had sent the British Navy to the Falklands after the Argentinians invaded in 1982. It makes more sense in Stanley where the people are so proud to be British and there’s a statue of Thatcher in the high street where shes heralded as the person that came to the Falklands rescue. In a recent referendum 99.7% of the Falkland islanders voted to stay under British Sovereignty. There was one person who voted against!
For those of us heading South the falklands is an 18hr flight in a Military Airplane via Cape Verde from Brize Norton near Oxford. Military planes have loads of leg room and a box of food is thrust at you every two hours but unfortunately theres not 500 films to watch on your own personal screen.At one end of Stanley high street is a statue of Margaret Thatcher, at the other a statue made from the jaw bones of two blue whales. This has stood since 1933 (with a bit of restoration) and is hard to believe that these could have come from any animal alive today.
We (the 7 of us going to Signy) should be spending four days on the Shackleton along with some staff headed to the other island bases.
Where is Signy? Signy Research Station is a Summer only station in the South Orkney Islands, 600km from the Antarctic peninsular. More people have heard of the South Shetland Islands (closer to the peninsular) as they contain Elephant Island where Frank Wild was left with some of Shackleton’s men when he set off for South Georgia after the failure of the Endurance expedition.
While the Ernest Shackleton is an Ice Class vessel (not an Ice Breaker) she is known to have a fairly bad roll in heavy seas. I thought the statement “If you suffer from motion sickness however slight this ship will make you ill” pretty funny at the initial brief but when we set sail tomorrow it might be a different story!