Jan 15, 2018 - National Geographic Orion
The start to today could scarcely have been better. The National Geographic Orion was entering the Neumayer Channel, in wonderful clear weather and calm seas, surrounded by feeding humpback whales.
Soon after this excitement we arrived at Port Lockroy. This is an old British Base established in 1944, in order to monitor any German that might have entered the area towards the end of World War II. The Base, known as ‘Base A’, closed in 1962 and fell into disrepair. However, in recent years the buildings have been restored to their former glory by the U.K. Antarctic Heritage Trust. It is now a museum giving a very good insight into the conditions that scientists and support staff lived back in the early days of scientific study in the Antarctic.
Sophie, one of the three members of UKAHT staff who live and work at the museum, came on board the National Geographic Orion to give a short introduction to the base. Then it was the guests’ turn to get their outdoor gear on and be taken ashore to see for themselves. There is a shop and post office in the base as well, which gave a popular opportunity to send a postcard home.
As the museum can only accommodate 50 visitors at a time, half of the group visited Jougla Point, which is a Gentoo penguin colony and Antarctic shag rookery, before changing over halfway through the morning.
While the guests were ashore, the dive team encountered a large leopard seal and her pup, which stopped any chance of getting in the water to dive, but did provide some excellent footage shot from the Zodiac, which entertained us all at evening recap.
We gave a fond farewell to Port Lockroy and sailed on up the Neumayer Channel to Leon Bay, where the Captain stopped the ship and we took advantage of the calm conditions to undertake a short Zodiac cruise along the spectacular shoreline and in amongst some very photogenic icebergs. On one berg we were treated to the sight of six crabeater seals resting on the ice.
Eager to make the best of our last few moments of the fine conditions, a polar plunge was organised and many of the intrepid guests and staff, not to mention the Captain, threw themselves willingly into the icy waters.
But now it is time to take our leave of the peninsula and make our way across the Drake Passage once more. A sad parting, but we will all take away many wonderful memories of this magical place.
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