My birthday coincided with a little expedition 20 miles down the coast to the Browning Peninsula and in particular, Petersen Island just offshore. It was a glassy calm morning when I set off with the Toxicology team and a few guests. We weaved our way south between the myriad of islands that were starting to become quite familiar but it wasn't long before new territory was on the horizon. New for me at least, but James our trusty, Field Training Officier had seen it all before at the beginning of the summer when he travelled down there on quad bikes over sea ice. He pointed out the landmarks, we checked out a few landing sites and pressed on to Peterson Island where the Americans had landed in 1948.
|The declaration and flag left in the brass cannister by the US Navy in 1948. Note that there are only 48 stars on the flag.|
The landing was excellent. Sheltered and affording a small sandy beach. Elephant seals wallowed in the shallows and there appeared to be a harem racked up on the rocks. With our interest in the Elephant seals we started to see unnatural items scattered around and it soon became apparent that they represented contents and parts of the field hut that was meant to be on the hill. It was a melon hut, that is basically an apple hut sliced in half and with a middle section added. Conveniently the apple huts are often red and this melon was appropriately green. That is all history now, as everything from fuel containers, batteries, tea towels, nylon tents, sleeping bags are strewn downwind of the original site. The original site is marked by the tie down wires which are in tact and appear to have ripped cleanly out of the shell. Small fagments are all that remain of the fibreglass shell.
|The Maxie Stove after it had been rumbled in the melon|
|Lunchtime Birthday Cake - Those sparklers are not so easy to blow out.|
It was a mess and needed attention but we pushed off to explore the potential for sampling in the nearby cove. There was great success on that front and we even found a set of tidal rapids. Lunch was taken at a landing on the Browning Peninsula and a lamington cake was produced to celebrate my birthday. The days were too short to enjoy all that was on offer and we hurried off to weave our way home between islands and up narrow channels. The wind stayed down and we scooted across the clam water stopping briefly for some plankton sampling.
|Birthday Picnic on the Browning Peninsula|
Home in time for dinner and more cake, we regaled the powers to be with the story of the exploding melon. To their credit we set off this morning, just two days later, with an eager team to clean up the remains of the melon. Much of the melon was lost into the ocean but there wasn't much we could do about that. It was just tragic history. What we could do was clean up and remove the remnants from the small plastic fragments to the table size fibreglass panels. It was like viewing your own life through the eyes of an archeologist.
|All that is left of the Melon Hut|
I still wonder, when I see the look on some of those Adelie Penguins faces, whether they stuck some explosives in the melon and blew it up. A warning perhaps. A penguin jihad?