Lemaire Channel and Port Lockroy

Feb 01, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


We started our day sailing to the northwest part of the Antarctic Peninsula. After an informative talk on Antarctic seals, led by Undersea Specialist Maya Santangelo, we were surprised with Frühschoppen, (a traditional German brunch of sorts). This included sausages, beer, Bloody Mary’s, bright skies, and a chance passing by of a leopard seal on an ice floe—all of which did only to add to the majesty of the Antarctic landscape.

During the night, our average speed was over fourteen knots. The slight uptick in speed afforded time to visit the Lemaire Channel, a straight situated off Antarctica, between Kiev Peninsula in the mainland's Graham Land and Booth Island. Being 11 km long and just 650 meters wide at its narrowest point, it was first discovered by the German expedition of 1873-74, though it was not traversed until December 1898, when the Belgica of the Belgian Antarctic expedition passed through. Expedition Leader Adrien de Gerlache named it for Charles Lemaire (1863-1925), a Belgian explorer of the Congo.

After enjoying the incredible landscape, National Geographic Orion brought us to Port Lockroy, a natural harbor on the northwestern shore of Wiencke Island in the Palmer Archipelago. There we could visit an Antarctic base that is home to the southernmost post office presently functioning in the world, a station known aptly enough as Penguin Post Office.

The bay was discovered in 1904 and named after Edouard Lockroy. Lockroy was French politician and once Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies, who assisted Jean-Baptiste Charcot in obtaining government funding for his expedition years later. Between 1911 and 1931, the harbor was used for whaling. During World War II, British military launched Operation Tabarin and established Port Lockroy Station A on the tiny Goudier Island. The station served as a research base until January 16, 1962. During 1996, the base was renovated and now acts as part museum, part post office. Guests have access to half of Goudier, while the other half is reserved exclusively for penguins.

With our postcards inscribed and stamped, our postcards will be sent off to go along with some 70,000 other pieces of mail sent out from this unique postal office each year.

Finally, our day ended with one more surprise involving a consortium of dance and song put on by none other than our very own crew. Not only doing wonderful work as staff throughout the course of the voyage, their choreography isn’t bad either!

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About the Author

Javier Cotin

Naturalist

Javier 's passion for birds and nature began as a child exploring the Pyrenees mountains with his father. The mystery that surrounds the Lammergeier silhouette triggered his curiosity and interest towards wildlife. 

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