In January of 1904, the French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charcot was in urgent need of quiet water where the damaged boiler of his expedition ship Français could be repaired. Fortunately, he discovered a well-protected anchorage tucked into Wienke Island. He named it Port Lockroy to honor the French Minister of Marine, and there he made the needed repairs. Port Lockroy was subsequently an important anchorage for whaling factory ships in the early 20th century. In 1944, the British established "Base A" here. Its mission is not entirely clear, but watching over the British Antarctic Territories was clearly part of it. After the war, the station became a base to support scientific research. Then in 1962 it was abandoned and it lay falling into ruin until the British Antarctic Heritage Trust restored it as an Antarctic museum and the world's southernmost gift shop and post office. It is now the most visited site in Antarctica, and home to the world's most visited gentoo penguins. This morning we, too, visited Port Lockroy, supported its gift shop, wandered in the museum, and paid our respects to the penguins perched on their stone nests, each pair, in alternation, incubating two eggs. It was a snowy Antarctic day, and it only added to the mystique of this, the final landing of our trip to the southern continent.
With some reluctance we departed, wondering if that landing marked the end of our trip; or might there be just one more rabbit in the hat.