January 16, 2013 – Port Lockroy, Neko Harbor
Posted on January 17th, 2013
Temperature: 35° F
Wind speed: 10-15 knots
Cloud cover: 50%
We began our final day in Antarctica with a walk out on deck to again soak in the incredible scenery here along the Antarctic Peninsula. Following breakfast, our rubber chariot sliced through the dark sea en route to Port Lockroy, with its huge mountains topped by wisps of clouds.
We stepped ashore at one of the most historic sites in this part of the Antarctic. Originally used as an anchorage for whale factory ships in the 1920’s, Port Lockroy was later one of three bases established in the Antarctic Peninsula to be on the lookout for German ships that might have been in the waters south of Cape Horn.
We wandered through the museum, which was filled with relics of early British occupation in Antarctica. Various artifacts gave us an idea of what it would have been like to live at such a remote outpost at the time, and we had an opportunity to buy souvenirs and books in the shop, including one by our very own historian Bob Burton on the history of the British Antarctic Territory.
A colony of gentoo penguins occupied all available space outside the building, and nowhere were they more photogenic or in such close proximity as here at Port Lockroy. Beautiful nests crafted from small stones hosted small chicks, some right next to the path from the landing. After some time ashore, we boarded the zodiacs to explore the surrounding area, where we found a Weddell seal near an old whale skeleton and thick brash ice beneath a recently calving glacier.
Back on ‘Le Boreal,’ the grills were lit and preparations made for an Antarctic barbeque out on the pool deck. While we ate, Captain Etienne Garcia maneuvered the ship through the very scenic Neumeyer Channel, and we frequently popped up out of our seats to snap photos between courses and cocktails.
Out in the Gerlache Strait, we came upon a large pod of orcas that, based on the number of giant petrels and storm petrels in the area, had probably recently made a kill. We lined the railings with our cameras in hand taking in these awesome top predators.
Later in the afternoon, ‘Le Boreal’ maneuvered around magnificently sculpted icebergs and into Anvord Bay. It was here, at a site called Neko Harbor, that we would make our landing on the Antarctic continent itself!
Many of us decided to make the hike to the ridgeline above the landing. We ascended a steep snow-covered hill and cut back to a rock outcropping from which we could see Anvord Bay in its entirety. It was a sight to behold! Some of us took the easy way back down by sliding down the snow-covered slope.
Down below, we sat and watched the penguins, absorbing the scene in its entirety. A massive glacier with cerulean blue crevasses cascaded down to the sea adjacent to the boulder-strewn beach. Gentoo penguins loafed along the shoreline and made the perfect subjects for photography.
Back on board, we spent as much time out on deck as possible while the ship made its way north through more stunning scenery. The swell picked up slightly as we entered the open waters of Bransfield Strait, which we would cross during the night en route to the Drake Passage. We secured our cabins for open water, and headed off for a good night’s rest.
– Rich Pagen, Naturalist