Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Well it's a good thing I told my Credit Card Company I was going to Antarctica, even though I figured there was no shopping down there, but I wrong! The UK has a research station there called Port Lockroy. It's quite small so they broke the group into 2 and while one half took a tour the other half got to mingle with the penguins. We did penguins first and unless I get a picture from someone on the tour, this is the closest documented record of me with a penguin. It doesn't compare to many others I've gotten of me with some sort of a wild animal but it's the best I have.
Much of the facility as been preserved from early exploration time and you can see drawings of Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor, done by the researchers who faced many a long winter with no daylight and worse yet, with no female companionship. But they could dream!
Conditions were pretty harsh and very dangerous. These were a dedicated bunch of researchers. We were able to send post cards from their post office. I have no idea how long they will take to reach their destination. A ship would be stopping in a few weeks to pick up the mail. They would eventually get to London and stuff would be postmarked there and then sent on to the final destination. We were told it would be months getting there. The little gift shop was more than I expected. I always get Christmas ornaments to commemorate my trips. I get one for myself and two for each of the daughters of a good friend. They had nothing in the way of ornaments but they had the cutest little key chains that were actually bottle openers in the shape of penguins! They had "Antarctica" written on them and they easily converted to hanging ornaments. I really never thought I'd find anything, so it was a real bonus.
After we left the folks at Port Lockroy, we cruised through the Lemaire Channel. It is 14 nautical miles long and at its narrowest is 250 meters wide, with towering peaks over 1100 meters high. That is where I got some of my most spectacular photos. The sun was shining brightly and the contrast between the white of the glaciers, the black of the rocks and the blue of the sea was stunning.
On our way through the channel we were escorted by several whales which delighted us by leaping from the water. They put on quite a show that lasted for about 20 minutes!
Beyond the channel, we navigated to the "iceberg graveyard" of Pleneau Bay. The bay is relatively shallow. Icebergs float into the bay and get hung up in the shallow waters and cannot flow out of the bay. It is crowded with stranded icebergs, many of which penguins and leopard seals use for sun bathing! Arches are somewhat hard to find as they usually develop fissures and break apart. We were lucky to see a gorgeous one and luckier still to be able to see the crevasse where, in a day or two, it would suddenly collapse and would be no more.
You can see it was just another lovely day in a frozen paradise!
Stay tuned for more.