Monday 18 November 2013

What a day!

We had such a wonderful day yesterday with bright sunshine and calm winds at Half Moon Island, that we were all lulled into the feeling that this is what Antarctica is like. Boy, were we wrong! We woke up this morning to very strong winds, snow, which eventually covered the decks, and some ice around the ship.

We had a big day planned with landings in the morning and afternoon, but neither came to be because of the winds and pack ice. We did manage to sail south to the spectacular (in any weather!) Lemaire Channel, and then got some way through it before we were blocked by ice. Our Captain turned the Fram “on a kroner” and we sailed back the way we came. All this gave us the true feeling of what it is all about to be on an expedition cruise ship. 

Winds continued to blow as we approached Port Lockroy. Port Lockroy, or more correctly, Goudier Island, is the site of the British "Base A" which is now a museum, shop and British sub-Post Office. We anchored off Goudier Island in relatively sheltered waters and assessed the situation. The wind continued to blow but we were able to send a Polarcirkel boat over to Base A to pick up Tudor Morgan. Tudor is a with the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust and has been assisting the BBC, in the production of a documentary on the penguins living around the base.

After a talk about Port Lockroy given to us all in the deck 7 Panorama Lounge by Tudor, the winds had abated enough to attempt a landing at Port Lockroy late in the day. For us patience was a virtue today! The base looked beautiful with the crisp white snow and the black, red and white buildings all surrounded by breeding Gentoo Penguins. There was still lots of snow on the colony and the whole place looked very wintery.

After we arrived on the tiny island, the winds picked up again and blew the snow horizontally. The Gentoo Penguins toughed it out with their amazing coat of feathers. They are so well insulated that the snow just stuck to the outside of the plumage and did not melt.

At the end of a long day, the Expedition Team and Fram crew helped transport 10 pallets of stock for the shop at Port Lockroy from the ship to the island. This was an essential task as the shop was running low on stock from last year. The girls who will be running the museum, shop and post office spent most of the night moving the many boxes to a sheltered storage area. All this was hard work but good fun and great exercise!