Under the lead of Al Fastier, everyone was at work on their various tasks in and around Shackleton's Nimrod hut, come day two of our stay. Al, J.T and I are responsible for digging a ditch around the immediate perimeter of the hut, as well as excavating ice from under the hut. Other members of the team will be conserving and repopulating artefacts from in and around the hut, installing a polycarbonate dam as well as putting up batten on the weathered cladding surrounding the hut.
As I had discovered trying to put down my tent pegs, scoria (a black rock found all over Antarctica) can be extremely hard to penetrate. Our trench target is 600mm depth from ground level. To achieve this depth we have been equipped with two jackhammers, a small drill hammer and a couple of spades. Taking care not to make contact with the hut, it has been a hard week digging, however in three and a half days we have completed trenching the South and East walls of the hut ahead of schedule! As Al tells us, "you eat an elephant one mouthful at a time".
Typically we start work every day with a briefing at 7:30am and finish at 7:00pm, with two 40 minute tea breaks in between. On Sundays we get half a day off to do as we please, and this week most of the team went for a walk through a gully and then back up the coast. We came across spectacular ice formations on a frozen lake we crossed, stunning views of the sea in the distance as pack ice continues to float away in the ongoing sunny calm weather, and penguins doing their thing. Outside of work, spare time has been filled with some entertaining dinner table conversation. Everyone at camp has a great sense of humour, making for endless laughs during and after meal times.
Our second night at base was magical. After dinner we walked across to the boundary of the nearby penguin colony by the sea. In the distance we spotted a group of emperor penguins making their way towards us over the sea ice. After over an hour they came to within 100m of us, constantly trumpeting and calling to each other. The combination of brilliant scenery, great weather and penguins made for a very memorable moment, one I will never forget!