Day 5 – Wednesday, February 2, 2005 Travel to Port Lockroy on Goudier IslandRising early this morning found us cruising through Paradise Bay which provided intensely memorable views of basaltic mountains covered in snow with blue ice fissured at their bases. The waters were filled with ice bergs of all shapes, sizes and colors of blue. The visuals on display were completely overwhelming as I realized just how insignificant we truly were. And when I thought things couldn’t get better we spotted our first whale, a small minke whale. I had never seen a whale before and upon seeing my first one it was a memorable moment. Yet later another species of whale was spotted which was a grey whale and then another species the orca was spotted a bit later.
On the agenda today was a stop at Goudier Island which is a small low-lying rocky island and the home to Port Lockroy, a small British base that was declared a historic site in 1996. Oddly enough it has a post office on site which makes for an interesting postal stamp on your letters.
The base is home to a gentoo penguin rookery which has been studied for some time. Gentoo penguins are the least abundant species of penguin found on these subantarctic islands. They face a tough life since gentoo eggs are taken by skuas, a large opportunistic sea gull like bird. Young birds are also preyed upon by a beautiful all white bird called sheathbills. Even the older birds are taken by Leopard seals that lay on the ice just off shore and, finally, their nests are often flattened by wayward elephant seals… so you wonder how so many survive… but they do.
Port Lockroy, was built on Goudier Island in 1944 and was closed in 1962 and finally reopened in 1996 to visitors and is now staffed by a British field party. The remnants of whaling can be found here amongst the skeletal remains of whales harvested long ago. Ship fragments, whale skulls and bones are all that remains of an era gone by…
Three people lived at Port Lockroy at the time I visited (The base commander, the postal clerk, and a British Antarctic politician. They were very interesting to chat with. After returning that evening the staff of Port Lockroy were invited aboard to eat, shower (they have no bathing facilities on the base), and to make a presentation that evening. Once cleaned up they had dinner with the captain. I was in the normal dining area when the waiter told me they had requested my presence at the captains table. What a great time we all had… a great time feasting, drinking wine, and enjoying each others company.
So I had saved some blue ice that I plucked from the sea water with the intent of making me a cocktail that evening with ice that could be 1000’s of years old. I can not even describe the thoughts that go through your mind when consuming water that has been locked up so many years ago. While sipping on my cocktail on the top deck I looked off in the distance and saw a sailboat sailing amongst the ice… was I hallucinating? what was in this ice? I snapped off a photo just in case… is the guy crazy… or what?NOTE: The sexes of most penguins are similarly sized except in the gentoos the female are smaller than the males.