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12/07/2007

Port Lockroy & Paradise Bay,
Antarctic Peninsula

This morning we awoke to overcast skies and a light breeze blowing as we sailed past the western side of Wiencke Island into Port Lockroy, named for Edouard Lockroy, the French politician who assisted Charcot’s French Antarctic Expedition.

Port Lockroy was established in 1944 as Base A during Operation Tabarin. The original station hut ‘Bransfield House’ still survives as the core of the main building here and is the oldest British structure remaining on the Antarctic Peninsula. The repair and conservation of Port Lockroy as a historic site and museum began in January 1996 by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. It is now staffed by three people every summer for maintenance, and operating the post office and gift shop. Outside the hut, Bransfield House, Gentoo penguins were going about their nesting activities oblivious of the attention.
The area around Port Lockroy was quite small, so only half of the group landed, while the others did a zodiac cruise around the small neighbouring island of Jougla Point, and the icebergs in the harbour.
Unfortunately though, the pack ice started drifting towards Port Lockroy and the wind increased substantially! Within minutes the ice had closed in on our landing area. We moved across the small island to an alternative landing site. Expedition Leader, Larry Hobbs made a decision to call off the landing. We managed to get everyone safely back to the ship, with the last zodiac having only a very narrow channel of open water left, to get back to the gangway! We finally understood how quickly the weather and ice conditions can change in Antarctica!

After our departure from Port Lockroy, Captain John Moulds took Explorer II through the Neumayer Channel, slowly edging his way through the pack ice and icebergs. The channel is 16 miles long and about 1½ miles wide. Today though, the visibility was poor and strong winds forced us to stay indoors and watch penguins on ice flows drift gently by the ship.

Since we arrived back at the ship earlier than expected, there was a chance for Michael Schmid to give a talk entitled 'Life in the Freezer'. This was about the formation of various types of sea ice and the organisms that live in it.

During lunch we sailed around to Paradise Bay. At around 1400 we took to the zodiacs for a cruise around Paradise Bay. We cruised past a small Argentine station called Almirante Brown and admired one iceberg after the other, with the expedition staff driving the boats and interpreting along the way. The various shapes of ice and shades of blue within the solid masses of ‘floating artwork’ – left us speechless.
The shores were still snow-covered but we were able to land on a narrow pebble beach to experience setting foot on the mainland of Antarctica. For some of us this was the Seventh Continent and called for celebration and an extra round of photographs.

Later in the evening, there was a complete change in tempo at the Crew Show, with Cruise Director, Jannie Cloete, as Master of Ceremonies. A variety of enthusiastic singing and dancing acts was presented by members of the Filipino crew.

   

We visited the British station and museum at Port Lockroy.

There is an excellent shop for souvenirs at the Port Lockroy museum.

It was very atmospheric this morning as we saw the gentoo penguins onshore.

In the afternoon, we made our continental landing and our historian Bob Burton greeted us.

For many of us, it was the seventh continent to land on.


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