Day 33: 2 February 2019

All day anchored at King George Island.   The mid-afternoon flight with our spare parts, medical supplies and fresh food for the ship did not arrive because of strong winds and fog.  Worse weather on the way and everybody is becoming concerned because, if the flight cannot make it tomorrow, then we will not get away until the 4th.

The team went ashore for a couple of hours during the afternoon on zodiacs kindly provided by the ice-rated cruise vessel Hebridean Sky which is at anchor in the bay beside us.  There was not much to see, just a Russian Orthodox church on the hillside, some chinstraps and gentoos on the beach, and that’s about the sum of it.  Exactly as one would expect of a scientific base in these parts.  I have been here before, didn’t like it then; don’t now.

I climbed the hill to the Church. The priest was there.  Bearded.   In his robes.  Nice but eccentric.  Gave me a small cardboard reproduction of one of the icons.  He reminded me of the monk in Anatole France’s book Penguin Island who, by mistake, baptized a community of penguins which led to panic in heaven (because you can only baptize people, baptisms cannot be rescinded, penguins are not people).

In return for help with their zodiacs we have been hosting some of the tourists from the Hebridean Sky.  They have been boarding our ship in groups of ten and our scientists and technicians have been giving them tours of our scientific facilities.  I spoke to a couple of them in the lounge and they were most appreciative.

But there was some good news.  I was up on the bridge with the Ice Pilot, Freddie Ligthelm (good looking, wavy fair hair, penchant for dark glasses, when at the helm is the original Joe Cool),  and he showed me the most recent satellite imagery, which reveals some improvement in the ice conditions over the Endurance site. It is now more fractured.  He attributes it to some southerly winds.  Whatever the reason, there has definitely be a loosening of the pack which may let us in.

In the helicopter hanger we have a table-tennis table, but no balls.  We have a Chinese student with us called Liangliang Lu (popular, keenly intelligent, too thin,  polite to his fingertips).  Today when he was ashore he walked several miles in freezing cold all the way to the Chinese Scientific station in the next bay.  His thinking was that, if there are Chinese on this island then there will be table tennis.  Sure enough he came back with four new balls.  Laingliang is very much man-of-the-moment onboard.

Noon position:    62  12.214  S,   058  55.661  W.