Feb 04, 2020 - National Geographic Explorer
Our last day on the Antarctic Peninsula was spent well. Tall snowy peaks and glaciers surrounded us as we made our way to Goudier Island. Here we were able to visit Jougla Point and Port Lockroy. It was our last opportunity to spend time soaking up the sounds, sights, and smells of penguin colonies. The gentoo chicks were nearly as large as their parents at this point in the season. The chicks were curious and wandered about inspecting all of us. Many of them were molting, leaving their downy feathers behind and preparing for a life at sea.
Spending time with wildlife is always a priority, but it’s also interesting to learn about the history and early exploration of this white continent. Port Lockroy is on the western shore of Wienke Island, part of the Palmer Archipelago. This harbor was used for whaling from 1911 to 1931 and later as a base for Operation Tabarin. Significant scientific data have also been collected from this site, including the the first measurements of the ionosphere.
The undersea team went scuba diving to collect underwater video footage. Seeing this video footage helps us all better understand this Antarctic ecosystem. Their favorite part of the dive? Sea spiders! Don’t fret, arachnophobes, sea spiders aren’t truly spiders—they are more closely related to crabs.
The sun was shining, so we took the opportunity to have a barbecue out on deck and enjoy our sail north. We spent all afternoon on the bow, Bridge, and outer decks taking in the scenery and watching for whales. As of January 1, 2020, new protocols were implemented to ensure all vessels traveling though this area of the Gerlache Strait mustn’t travel faster than 10 knots, reducing the possibility of whale strikes. It’s great to hear about new stricter measures to help keep this incredible wilderness area protected. As we reached Dallmann Bay, humpback whale blows could be seen in all directions. Captain Oliver referred to our location as whale soup. Indeed.
Though we now sail north to Ushuaia, we know our memories of this snowy desert will forever be with us. We leave changed.
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