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03/10/2008

Drake Passage

We awoke to a quiet Drake Passage morning. The ship’s movement due to swell was only slight, and many of us slept in, resting up from the full schedule over the past few days in Antarctica. After a flurry of postcard writing, we visited the Port Lockroy staff in the Reception area where they had opened their post office. We were able to post mail as well as buy first day covers of stamps. In addition to dealing with our post, we enjoyed the opportunity to chat a bit with the station personnel about their summer in the Antarctic and their anticipation of getting home.

We then gathered in the Main Lounge during the late morning for a talk by Port Lockroy manager Rick Anderson entitled “Port Lockroy: The work of the Antarctic Heritage Trust”. Rick gave a brief history of Bransfield House at Port Lockroy (also known as Base A) that was built in 1944 as a British presence in the Southern Ocean during World War II. Today it has been restored as a living museum and shop, much of it exactly how it was while in use during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Rick and three others came down in 1996 to do the clean up and renovation, and it has been open to visitors ever since. Visitation has grown tremendously with over 16,000 visitors walking through the door during the 2006-7 season (along with 80,000 postcard stamps sold!). All in all, it was a fascinating look into preserving the heritage of the Great White South.

After lunch, many of us caught up on some reading in the library, while others spent as much time outside as possible looking out over the famous Drake Passage. This body of water, known throughout history for its fierce winds and enormous seas, was impressive to watch as the wind picked up throughout the day. The sea surface was dotted with white caps, and many cameras on the bridge clicked as spray shot over the bow.

In addition to the usual afternoon tea, Maitre D’ Andrzej Gronowski served Cherries Jubilee in the Verandah. Afterwards, the rocking and rolling swell drew many of us into our state rooms for an afternoon nap, but we resurfaced for Ornithologist Rich Pagen’s talk “Albatrosses off the hook: Seabirds and fisheries in the new millennium”. He explained the ins and outs of longline fishing for Patagonian toothfish, as well as the impact that it has had on seabirds in the Southern Ocean. He gave details on what is being done to solve this problem, as well as ideas for how we can become involved and make a difference. He also provided us with information on how to support sustainable fisheries, and avoid those that are not sustainable or that do not take steps to protect seabirds from harm.

In the evening, we met for Captain Giovanni Biasutti’s Farewell Cocktail Party, under conditions which could be best described as “interesting”. The ship was rolling quite a bit, but the staff lent us their arms to make sure we got safely to a secure seat. The band played on, and we sipped champagne as the Captain thanked us for coming, and summarized some of the highlights of the trip. He also spoke of his hope that we would return home as ambassadors for the Antarctic, and actively be involved in its precarious future.

A wonderful dinner was served by a most talented and patient restaurant staff, providing us with a most memorable evening. Shackleton’s bar was teaming after dinner, and as Pianist Chantal Sanders sent beautiful music into the air, we all celebrated the friends we made and the experiences we have had on this adventure to the south.

   

The customized chart to be raffled for the Crew Welfare Fund, makes its way up to the Bridge for signatures from the Explorer 2 officers

Our Port Lockroy guests bring out their post office for our perusal

Now that we're at sea, we have time for a lively game of cards between lectures

Rick Atkinson, the base leader from Port Lockroy, gives us a talk about its history, resurrection and current success as a stop for Antarctic visitors

Our Sous-chef has given a humorous twist to the lowly cucumber


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