From the National Geographic Explorer in Antarctica
Nov 25, 2010 - National Geographic Explorer
Port Lockroy/US Palmer Station
Under a flurry of snow we entered the Neumayer channel this morning en route to the old British survey hut of Port Lockroy. Established February 16th 1944 by the Royal Navy it once served as a meteorological/reconnaissance platform during World War II with intentions of keeping tabs on German and Argentine activity in the southern ocean. It was in use for the war effort until 1962 but today serves as the Antarctic’s oldest British structure as well as museum/visitor center. Our morning was spent maneuvering between Goudier Island (home to the hut itself) and Jougla Point which houses hundreds of Gentoo penguin pairs, Antarctic Shags and a humbling collection of whales bones. From bones protruding from the snow to their creamy silhouettes visible beneath our passing Zodiacs we saw the remains of numerous species peppered amongst the newly laid eggs and dedicated penguin parents.
From Port Lockroy we continued our cultural streak and ventured south then west to another populated corner of the Antarctic Peninsula as guests at Palmer Station—one of three U.S. Antarctic research sites on the continent. With limited numbers of visitors allowed to the station each year we were not shy to take advantage of the fact that our very own undersea specialist—Lisa Trotter—was recently winter station manager here at Palmer and was able to pull a few strings that allowed us to tour the site. In exchange for a little hospitality on our part—inviting our hosts to a grand thanksgiving dinner and providing a few libations—they showed us around station, brought us up to speed regarding their current projects, responsibilities and funding as well as sharing a few secrets regarding life at the end of the earth.
As dinner came to a close and our friends started to head home something they claim has happened but twice since September happened again this evening. The sun, an apparently rare sighting this season emerged from the clouds right about pecan pie time and is still, as I write this, bathing the surrounding ice fields with a brilliance the residents here at Palmer are sure to add to their short list of “bearable” weather for the season.