Saturday, November 28, 2009

Port Lockroy

A few days ago we arrived at the Antarctic Peninsula.  Yesterday we got up at 4am to watch a scenic transition from open water to mountainous straits.  First we passed through Gerlache Strait.  It was quite foggy and dim, but still nice to see land.  Gerlache Strait transitions into Neumayer Channel, which was much more scenic with mountains on both sides.  The sea is filled with icebergs, while lots of whales and penguins are jumping about.  Once through Neumayer Channel we arrived at Port Lockroy at about 8am. The sun is shining and the weather is perfect for a day ashore.  Port Lockroy is a former British station, which is now a tourist attraction operated by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust.  With just one building serving as a museum, gift shop, and as housing quarters, there isn’t much space for the four people that live there. 

We spent yesterday morning and afternoon ashore at Port Lockroy unloading two cargo containers filled with wood, steel, doors, and windows for a new housing building.  We formed a “bucket-brigade” line of about 25 people, along the rocky shore from the container on the shuttle boat to the snowy hill leading to the “hut” known as Port Lockroy.  After spending hours and hours of passing building materials down the line and then carrying them up a hill…. it is very clear that building something in the Antarctic is not an easy task!  Although it was a day filled with hard work, it was quite nice to have my feet on dry (okay, snowy) land again!

Port Lockroy is also home to about 800 pairs of gentoo penguins.  After unloading and a picnic, there was plenty of time to wander among the penguins.  A midst the muddy penguin colony was a female elephant seal, Antarctic gulls, and brown skuas, waiting to steal a penguin egg.  The view from Port Lockroy is beautiful.  I could have spent all evening staring into the harbor watching the penguin’s porpoise and ice float by.  Sun-kissed and tired, we take the shuttle back to the ship. We then pulled up anchor and headed for Lemaire Channel. 

Lemaire Channel is about a 1600m wide gap between the mountains on the Antarctic Peninsula and is known for its scenic views.  As the sun is setting (although setting is a bit deceiving because it never really gets dark now), we get a glimpse of how gorgeous the Antarctic can be.  The sea is so calm you can see the reflection of the mountains in the water.  The channel is full of icebergs and pancake ice, creating an absolutely stunning view.  Pictures do not do the view justice.  So far, this is my favorite view!  Our destination for the night is Verdansky, a Ukrainian base in need of some repair on their weather equipment.  Tonight we leave Verdansky and head for Marguerite Bay and the heavily glaciated Adellaide Island, where Rothera is located.   

Our arrival at Rothera will be later than expected, due to stops along the way and delays because of ice, but when such delays include penguin excursions and scenic views, it’s hard to care about time.               

1 comment:

  1. I love reading about your adventures! I can't wait for the next installment! I love the pictures, too! We miss you!