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11/21/2007

Paradise Harbour & Port Lockroy, Antarctic Peninsula

We continue to be blessed with fine weather. The wind got up last night but had calmed by the morning. Fears about pack-ice hindering our passage also proved unfounded and we woke to find Explorer II cruising through breathtakingly brilliant scenery. Our first destination was the aptly-named Paradise Harbour and the best way to explore this on a calm, sunny day was by cruising in the zodiacs. An added experience is to turn off the motor, stop talking and spend a few moments listening to the 'sound of silence'. All that is heard is the calls of birds, lap of waves and the tinkling of floating ice (often called 'ice krispies'). 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.

Our route continued clear of ice to pass along the beautiful Neumayer Channel and head for Port Lockroy. This the site of the British Base 'A' that was built in 1944 and operated continuously as an ionospherics research station until 1962. It was then abandoned but was carefully restored to its original condition in 1996 by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. It is now manned every summer for maintenance and operates a post office and gift shop. Outside the hut, Bransfield House, visitors find gentoo penguins going about their nesting activities oblivious of the attention. Monitoring has shown that, far from being disturbed, the penguins' numbers are increasing.

Later in the evening, there was a complete change in tempo with the Crew Show, a variety of enthusiastic singing and dancing acts put on by members of the Filipino crew.

   

SUNSET CRUISING IN THE GERLACHE STRAIT.

TOUCHING FOOT ON THE ANTARCTIC MAINLAND.

CHEERS ON BOARD A ZODIAC, AT SEA

THE GRAND'IOSE MOUNTAINS OF ANTARCTICA.

TOURING THE ANTARCTIC HERITAGE TRUST SITE 'PORT LOCKROY'


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