Friday, 18 July 2014

We now have an official date set for the first transmission of Natural World: Penguin Post Office - 24th July 8pm on BBC2 in the UK. We still don’t have a date for showings in France or USA, or elsewhere in the world, but will let you know when we do. 

So I last blogged when we left the Antarctic. Leaving the magical continent and personable penguins behind to head north was, for me at least, heartbreaking. It was a much less exciting and far more subdued journey northbound across the Drake Passage than our journey south was. The sea was much calmer and we all took turns to go on watches, meeting up with each other only to share or swap shifts and occasionally to eat together. The final sighting of snow-covered land was masked by the presence of icebergs. Even once we had left these behind, there was still the chance that we could encounter more so I was never quite convinced that I’d seen my last. Until we crossed 60 degrees that is. I watched the boat’s electronic chart show us progress north over the otherwise completely invisible line and I suddenly realised that I really was going home. I’d long wished my last Gentoo and Adelie farewell and now looked eagerly for albatross, prions and petrels, of which I saw plenty gliding elegantly through the air, often within metres of the yacht. Bertie was the first to spot land, calling “Land Ahoy” as Cape Horn grew nearer. Soon after that, we found ourselves motoring back up the Beagle Channel and I saw my first real civilisation for over four months. Even before we got this far, the air started to smell different, of trees and grass, and the abundance of greenery felt weird as it came into sight. I was reassured to see snow on the mountains behind and kept a hopeful watch for Magellanic penguins, desperately not wanting the adventure to end. We saw a handful of these birds swimming, which delighted me. 

Crossing 60
We stopped off in Puerto Williams for a shower and a meal in an establishment run by other people, who had not been to the Antarctic. Everything felt a little bit surreal, especially when Andrew emerged beardless and, quite frankly, looking like a completely different man! Doug was sympathetic to my spaced out state of mind - or at least pretended to be - whilst Dave and Bertie suggested a strong rum and coke might help (which it did). It was great to relax and walk about with dogs and ponies on firm even terrain!

Land Ahoy
After a bit of a rest, we motored further up the channel back to Ushuaia. Arriving here felt more bizarre as it is an even bigger town and there were lots of yachts on the dock that Dave had to navigate around to moor up. Once in situ, we caught up with familiar faces - including the lovely Helen from Port Lockroy who was still around catching up on paperwork. The next task was mammoth - pack up all our kit and offload it from Pelagic. (See picture to see just how much there was.) Thankfully, Helen was able to help us and we got all our bags piled up into a van and offloaded into a hotel, where we could repack in a more organised fashion in preparation for the flights home. We had an evening in Ushuaia, catching up with Helen, recovering from spending so much time on a boat and saying goodbye to Bertie and Dave, and were on a plane back north the next day. The flights home went smoothly and all our kit arrived at Heathrow in as many pieces as it set off in.

The kit returns
Ruth finds an edible penguin in Ushuaia
We were pretty much straight back to work of course! The edit suite, alive with the sound and sights of Port Lockroy as the film was being cut, was a dear reminder of the experience, allowing Andrew and I to re-live it through our expert editor, Rick Holbrook. Here is a picture of him hard at work! As you can see, although the screen is full of penguins, the rest of the landscape in Bristol is a far cry from the wilds of life on Pelagic or in the Nissen Hut!

Editor Rick hard at work
Now, it feels almost like a lifetime ago that we were in the Antarctic making the documentary. It certainly feels like a different world - simpler, more free somehow. Since we’ve been back we have completed the film and managed to take a bit of time out too. We were also honoured to join the UKAHT at the House of Commons in June for an event to mark the 70th anniversary of Operation Tabarin, during which the base (now Post Office) at Port Lockroy was built. It was wonderful to catch up with friends made during our time south. 

I feel extremely lucky to have spent so much time in the company of penguins, to have live in such a remarkable part of the world and to have met so many people who have made the journey there themselves - or made it possible for us to journey there. I believe the finished film is a reflection of the key events that took place in the lives of the penguins surrounding the post office during our season. Or at least as much as it can be when condensed into an hour long film. I really hope you enjoy watching it. I will be on twitter during the transmission and immediately afterwards to answer any questions should you have any whilst watching. My twitter handle is @ruthpeacey

Thank you again for reading this blog and for all your support during the season. I will keep you posted as and when we find out about further transmission information in other locations around the world.  





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