December 06, 2012 – Port Lockroy/Brown Station, Antarctica
Posted on December 7th, 2012
Temperature: 30˚F (-1˚C)
Wind Speed: 0
Cloud Cover: 2%
‘Le Boreal’ was brought into position late last evening and we spent the night swinging lazily on the anchor chain. Our backdrop: the 9,000-plus-foot Mount Francis and the razor spine of the Fief Mountains of Wienke Island.
Surrounded on all sides by these magnificent giants was our landing in Port Lockroy, Goudier Island and Bransfield House. Built in 1944, “Base A” as it was known, was part of Operation Tabarin, a secret British wartime mission to monitor possible German activity in Antarctica.
Restored in 1996 and now run by the British Antarctic Heritage Trust, Port Lockroy is one of the most visited places in Antarctica. Once on land, we were greeted by the three volunteers who had been spending their summer at the base and running the shop. Inside, it was a superbly prepared museum and we were amazed at every turn. We headed into the gift shop for a bit of retail therapy.
Leaving Port Lockroy, ‘Le Boreal’ spent the lunch hour traveling north through the Neumayer Channel, a stunning passage separating Anvers and Wienke Island. At sixteen miles in length and an average of 1.5 miles wide, it is considered one of the most spectacular passages on the peninsula.
When most people hear the term “paradise,” it conjures up images of palm trees, white sandy beaches and lapping waves. ‘Le Boreal’ weaved through Byrde Channel, in and around the large pieces of ice in its way. With glaciers clinging to the mountains from the shore to their peaks some 3,000 to 6,000 feet above, we bathed in the afternoon sun and understood why it had been named Paradise Harbor.
We were on our way to Brown Station within the harbor, an Argentinean base built in 1951. The base had been occupied for short periods of the summer season until a fire destroyed it in 1984.
An easy landing, we made our way amongst the buildings past the gentoo penguins and up the hill for a panoramic view of the harbor. With the sun shining down upon us, the temperature felt more like it was in the mid forties rather than mid thirties. Stripping our gear as we climbed, we stopped to take it all in. After spending a short time on top, many of us opted for the quick route to the bottom — a 50-plus-foot slide down the slope!
Before returning to the vessel, the Expedition Team took us on a quick twenty-minute Zodiac tour. Along the cliffs nested blue-eyed shags and Cape petrels while Antarctic terns did their best to disturb the silence with their screeching calls. We were all speechless from the surrounding beauty. Along the way, it was suggested that the day couldn’t get any better and we all agreed.
Pulling alongside a stranded Zodiac, we found Sally and two of the bar staff waiting with full glasses of champagne. We toasted to our time in Antarctica and to a safe journey home.
– Chris Srigley, Naturalist