Rothera is surrounded by islands. Some of them are nothing more than guano-speckled lumps of rock sticking out of the water, mere hazards to be avoided when cruising past on the boats. Others are more substantial, with beaches large enough to support their own colonies of elephant seals.
Several of these larger islands have got huts and depots on them, installed and maintained by personnel from Rothera. These provide several functions – they are places for people to go and spend a night away from base, but more importantly offer food, shelter and medical aid in the case of emergency. Several times in the past, parties travelling on the sea-ice around Rothera have had to make a break for the island depots when the sea-ice broke up around them.
One of my ‘it’s tough, but somebody’s got to do it’ annual jobs is to go and service the emergency radios on the islands. It seems daft to do a job like this when the weather is minging, so one beautiful, sunny and still day I jumped aboard ‘Sea Rover’ and we headed off to Lagoon Island. Joining me on board were Foxy and Paul, the boatmen, and Jen and Rose, the doctors, who had the equally tough responsibility of checking the medical equipment on the islands.
Lagoon Island is about 5km away and is a barren, rocky mound rising out of the Bay. Unprepossessing though it looks a from a distance, it hides a lovely little natural harbour with a gently-sloping gravel beach, complete with a neat and tidy little stilted hut built back in the ’80s. The only long-term residents are the elephant seals who cover the beach, grunting and burping as they sunbathe.
Servicing the radio only took about half an hour, and once I’d made a few test calls back to Rothera to check that everything worked properly, we all hopped back onto the boat and headed for Anchorage Island.
Anchorage is next door to Lagoon, and is home to an old melon hut, a handful of elephant seals and a large flock of skuas. The seals opened one eye to look on lazily as we splashed ashore, but the skuas were much more affronted, dive-bombing us indignantly as we invaded their privacy. The radio at Anchorage took a bit more work to get going, but eventually I made some successful test calls and it was time to leave.
On the way back we all agreed that work days don’t really come much better than that.