Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More penguins, some Antarctic history and the continent. Sunday, November 22

They’ve split the passengers into 4 groups with only three on shore at a time (to follow the Antarctic Treaty guideline of only 100 tourists on land at a time). Today for the landing we were in the group that started with a zodiac cruise among the Icebergs. It’s a cloudy gray day so the Icebergs aren’t the fantasic blue color but are some fantastic shapes.

We next head to a Gentoo penguin colony on Pleneau Island. (I think I may be getting a little tired of penguins!.) I decide sit and watch the penguins hopping in and out of the water. Fascinating. Bev decides to stay a little longer and I take a zodiac back to the ship. Of course that’s when a Leopard Seal swims up and starts checking out penguins for lunch. According to Bev, the penguins immediately move away from the beach--rapidly. [Sarcastic note to Apple--how about naming the next operating system and updates after seals?]

In the afternoon we head to Port Lockroy. This was an anchorage used by explorers and whalers. In World War II, the British built a small outpost on the very small Goudier Island that was part of a secret British project to monitor German shipping movements during World War II. Seven people would overwinter here. After the war, the base was used for civilian science until 1964. It is considered a historic Antarctic site and has recently been restored by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust as a museum and Gift Shop (They accept Pounds Sterling, US Dollars, Euros, MasterCard and VISA).

Four people staff the station during the summer tourist season. They live in rather primitive conditions--not unlike the conditions the crews when the station was operating. (Although they do get to shower on board cruise ships they are invited aboard.) They are also limited to a very small Island that also has lots of penguins--and therefore lots of penguin guano--I wouldn’t want to be hear in February after a summer of nesting penguins.

We also visit Neko Harbor for a landing after dinner. Up until now, all of our landings have been on islands in the Antarctic Peninsula archipelago (Geologically and geographically part of the continent). This landing however is on the Antarctic mainland. If we wanted to, and were equipped for it, we could walk from her to the South Pole (It would be the long way of getting there).

Back on board and there’s a pick-up jam session with the ship’s staff pianist (Victor) and a passenger who brought his Baritone trumpet on the trip.

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