Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Antarctic Trip: Port Lockroy and Cuverville Island, Antarctica, December 12, 2016

This morning we woke up with the ship anchored near the British Base A at Port Lockroy, Goudier Island. Port Lockroy was established in the Antarctic Treaty. Now it is an historic site occupied during summer months by about four persons. This summer all four are women. Some of their duties are removing bird guano from the buildings, repainting those sanded surfaces, counting penguins, and running a gift shop for the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. Despite the job description, Port Lockroy positions are highly competitive with many applicants each year.

British Base A, Port Lockroy
In addition to the gift shop, the original living quarters have been turned into a museum. Before it was a museum, these huts were where scientists (based on the art, I'm guessing mostly or all male) lived. Base A at Port Lockroy was the first British base to be established on the Antarctic Peninsula in 1944.

The Heritage Trust employees live for the six summer months in another building with dual-pane glass to keep out the cold and wind. The base is unoccupied during the six winter months when 100mph winds are howling, the station is buried by snow, and it is cut off by ice from the sea.

Gentoo Penguin
Remains of a penguin egg stolen and eaten by a skua

Our afternoon shore excursion was to Cuverville Island. We sailed past even more dramatic scenery along the way.

View of Ship from Cuverville Island
Wikipedia describes Cuverville Island as "a dark, rocky island lying in Errera Channel between Arctowski Peninsula and the northern part of RongĂ© Island, off the west coast of Graham Land in Antarctica." The island was named in 1898 after Vice-Admiral Jean Marie Armand Cavelier de Cuverville of the French Navy. It is a 2km by 2.5km island, two-thirds of which is covered by a permanent ice-cap.  For our visit, the sun was shining and the water was flat. It was probably our favorite shore excursion. At about 6,500 breeding pairs, the island has the largest Gentoo colony.

Like the penguins, we marched along from colony to colony. The colonies stretch from the edge of the sea to much higher up the slopes. The paths used by the penguins are so deep now from the constant back and forthing to the sea that the walls of the paths almost hide the penguins' movement.

We were supposed to stay several meters from the penguins, but sometimes they sneaked up on us as they went about their business.

A tobogganing Gentoo Penguin
Adding rocks to the nest
Gentoo penguin porpoising

Absolutely magical!

Sunrise: 02:24
Sunset: 23:51

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