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12/12/2008

Antarctica


This morning we were surrounded by a winter wonderland. Snow was swirling around the ship in the blustery conditions. We could just see the mountain tops as we sailed down the Gerlache Strait towards Dorian Bay.

Our intrepid Expedition Leader, Larry Hobbs and some of the staff went out in the challenging conditions to see if it was possible to land on Wienke Island. They encountered very deep snows and impossible landing conditions. The zodiac drivers were bobbing about in the wind, choppy seas and horizontal snow. Eventually it was decided that conditions were just too extreme and unsafe to have a landing.

We spent the morning on the ship and naturalist Brent Houston gave a very informative lecture about sea ice and its importance as a critical habitat for many of the polar species.
Snow was falling all morning and a comical snow penguin appeared on the pool deck. For some of the ‘Minerva’ crew and others, it was the first time for them to see snow. What a magical experience to have that happen in such a remote place.

In the afternoon we reached Port Lockroy. Several small huts make up this historic station which was established in 1944 as Operation Tabarin. In 1996, the base was repaired and a museum was set up showcasing was British base life was like in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

We had hoped to go ashore to visit the museum but the conditions had not improved so it was then decided to bring the base personnel onboard for a short presentation. Importantly the base manger, Rick Prince, and staff also brought out items from the gift shop!

Rick gave a fascinating lecturer about what life was like on the base in the past and today. He has worked in the Antarctic for over 30 years so had lots of interesting stories to tell.
All of the items purchased from the shop directly support the Antarctic Heritage Trust which is responsible for maintaining the historic station and preserving historical British artifacts. After the shopping frenzy was over, we sadly had to say goodbye to our new friends and started making our way back down the Neumayer Channel. We are just hoping that tomorrow the weather gods will finally give us a break!

   

A more substantial snowfall provides for a snow penguin!

We wait patiently for the storm to abate

Our intrepid Expedition Leader, Larry Hobbs, braves the storm

Due to miserable conditions, the Port Lockroy shop is brought to the Minerva


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