Port Lockroy, Neko Harbor, Antarctica
We’re heading north-entering the Drake Passage this morning. And hoping to get back across with time to spare so we can see Cape Horn. The ship is pitching and rolling. Walking is difficult-and humorous. You kind of have to wait for the roll to move in the direction you want to go…and work with it.
Sorry for limited posts over the past few days. We’ve taken every landing &/or Zodiac cruise offered. I have taken the time to write a lot down in my journal-but getting on line has been limited because of the surrounding mountains and isolated coves.
Thursday at Port Lockroy…The water was very choppy, horrible wind. But we were able to visit the one shopping opportunity in our journey. It’s a small museum building–staffed by 2 men and 2 women who live down here for 4 months of summer. They live in one room and conduct studies about the weather, the penguins nesting just out their front door (and all over the island), etc. We wrote a few postcards while there and mailed them at the tiny box. $2 stamps each! I think the postcards will go to the UK first because it’s a British post office. Oh–and they stamped our passports! The ride back in the Zodiacs was the scariest yet. Very bumpy and we got very wet and cold. It was about 25 degrees with 30 mile winds–gusting to 50. It was the borderline of safeness and the Captain almost abandoned the plan.
Since the crew there doesn’t have running water, we invited them on board for dinner and showers. They accepted and then because the waters / wind got even worse, we took them with us for the next 24 hours because it simply wasn’t safe to take them back via Zodiac. Great people to talk to. They did mention that our mail would be delayed because they were with us.
The next morning, Friday, we awoke to snow, and very quiet, still waters. It was an eerie grey landscape–fog or low clouds covering the mountains surrounding us. There was a sheet of “grease” ice on the water…it was trying to freeze, and it looked like the gently rolling water had a soft, white, velour coating.
At the southern most part of our journey on Friday (65 14′ 84″ S), we were around the Argentine Islands where there’s a Ukrainian Base called Vernadsky. The 14 guys on base haven’t seen anyone new for 8 months and we were radio’ing with them to come visit and drop off some fresh veggies / fruits and other supplies for them. The pack ice around the bay though was very, very bad. And while one Zodiac made it in with their supplies (taking over an hour to navigate all the ice and blowing a propeller in the process), it was deemed too dangerous and taking too much time to land 100 passengers there. We did a Zodiac cruise around though-and got close enough to the island to wave and talk to a Ukrainian guy who came up to a hilltop on a snow mobile to say “Hey!” Apparently, these guys have a bar with a great collection of vodkas, a dartboard and pool-table. They also convince visiting ladies to leave behind their bras for souvenirs. (!!!)
Yesterday, we made another continental landing at Neko Harbor. We made a trek up the long side of a mountain overlooking an iceberg’d cove and a glacier. Three times while there we heard glaciers calving and/or falling. It sounds like the cracking and rumble of thunder…and then a splash. One iceberg simply disintegrated into smaller pieces right in front of us. Causing waves and gurgling of the water in an outward circle. We sat up there for a while. The sun had come out and after the long hard walk, we were warm and shed coats, hats and gloves. Stunning view. But the best part was getting down. We “sledded” down on our backsides! You sat down and scooted yourself to the lip of this descent–the mountains, glaciers and water ahead of you–then as you picked up speed, you laid down fully on the ice and flew down the mountain, spinning a bit side-to-side and seeing the Antarctic landscape above you and feeling the ice on your back. Very, very cool and fun. A whole bunch of people of all ages did this…lots of folks at the bottom of the hill cheering you on and several folks took the long hike back up to do it again (including Bryan). We came back to a “picnic” lunch outside on the ship’s back deck.
Many amazing days and so many stories to tell–whales, seals, penguins. But it’s about lunch time now and the seas are getting worse. Cabinets and drawers are banging open/closed and a few things have fallen off the shelves. So I need to stop writing and do this post. Hope to say more about this ship and the Antarctic later.