Busy day today! Our morning was spent at one of Antarctica’s most popular destinations – Port Lockroy base built on tiny Goudier Island. It seems to be a mandatory stop for all cruise ship visitors and we were not the exception. The base has since been converted to a museum/post office and half of the island is reserved for a penguin colony. After spending some time here, we zipped over to nearby Wiencke Island and explored its numerous whale bones. Then it was onward to the Lemaire channel, an 11 km journey though an iceberg filled passage. Next up was a visit to Petermann Island which has a gentoo penguin colony. However, we will always remember it as the island where the boys (Robby, Ted, Vic, Craig and Ross) plus Jessie engaged in some downhill sledding, with a hidden trench of guano goo as a bonus surprise at the base of the hill! Booth Island was our last excursion of the day, and we got to see a proposal! Yup, our historian Craig Poore got down on one knee and asked his girlfriend to spend the rest of her life wit him…super romantic and what a great way to round out another fabulous day.
19 JAN: (Tuesday: Port Lockroy, the Lemaire Channel, Petermann Island, Booth Island): Ted had forewarned us last night that today would be a “marathon” day, but it feels like every day is a marathon day and today was no different! Becky got up at 0530 to see if the view in the Neumeyer Channel was anything spectacular to behold, but the view had a grayish tone to it and the weather was overcast, so she hopped back into bed for another hour of sleep. After breakfast at 0700, we had a 0800 presentation by one of Port Lockroy’s female staff (one of 4 all female staff, the first ever in Port Lockroy’s history). It was interesting, and we found out that this is the most popular stop in Antarctica! For the landing, we had a 50/50 chance of going to the restored base and museum on Goudier Island or else the second option was a visit to Jougla Point on the adjacent Wiencke Island. We ended up going to Goudier Island first, and were amazed at how miniscule this base was, especially for it to be the most popular one in Antarctica. The museum is a living museum, and currently the staff lives in it. However, it is rather poorly insulated for human habitation, so renovations are underway for an adjacent hut to be completed, with proper insulation and a kitchen. The staff member briefing us on this was extremely excited about the prospects of new lodging accommodations. We spent 90 minutes on Goudier before hopping on a zodiac over to Wiencke, whose highlight are penguins nesting among Blue whale bones scattered throughout the colony. There is a reconstructed whale bone structure, but it is made up of various types of whales…a montage of different whale bones. After cleaning off our boots in the sea (its very muddy at this colony), we hopped on a zodiac ride to a nearby yacht to pick Ted up (he was visiting a friend who fortuitously happened to be in the area that day) and were dropped off at the Polar Star for lunch. It appeared that 2 additional passengers joined our ranks, both of whom hailed from Ireland. They joined our vessel under less than desirable circumstances, having tricked the Cheesemans into thinking they were BAS staff members, since scientific members always get to travel for free (a gentleman’s agreement in Antarctica). However, we later found out they were tourists who came down on a yacht and were hitching a ride back to Ushuaia. As paying customers, it irked us that they deceived the Cheesemans like that, and the Cheesemans were now in the predicament on how to declare them to customs (i.e. to have to falsify the manifest and add them as staff members or else have to explain to the authorities how to additional tourists managed to join the ship midway). And to boot, they were SMELLY, in dire need of a good whole body scrubbing and laundry run. Needless to say, we tried to avoid them at all costs as the guy’s body odor was particularly overwhelming and disgustingly nauseating.
After lunch (chicken wings), we cruised through the Lemaire Channel, with dismal weather at first but it cleared up towards the end of the short Antarctic fjord voyage…very cool passage and definitely a highlight of Antarctica. We started landings for Petermann Island shortly after the passage, and found it to be a nice island. There was a red emergency hut that had a flag of “Armada Argentina” painted on the side of it, and nesting gentoos were raising their chicks all around the base of the hut. We opted to follow Ted on an optional hike to the other side of Petermann, which had a fantastic view of iceberg cemetery. The weather cleared up significantly, so we decided to take photos of our ship in the distance beneath majestic Antarctic mountain ranges. It was a scenic photo spot. Afterwards, Robby decided to engage in a little bit of head first downhill sledding…he started a trend and soon Vic, Ross, Ted, Craig, and Jessie all joined suit. Robby was the only one doing it face first, and on one extreme downhill run, he splashed face first in a bunch of penguin goo…it drenched him from head to toe, earning him kudos from the macho guys. We didn’t really take too many photos here since it was more of a place to enjoy, relax and take in the fact that we were truly in Antarctica. Petermann Island ended up being our southernmost destination in Antarctica.
We were ravenous for dinner, which consisted of chorizo sausage…it was ok. Becky talked to an engaging Carol Augspurger, who was Ted’s teacher and taught Biology with Doug many years ago. She was a close friend of the Cheesemans and had kept such a low profile that this was the first chance that we had to talk to her. Fascinating stories of the Indians of Panama ensued, and dinner was over before we knew it. Becky also talked to Scott Davis (the professional photographer who asked us to sign a talent release), and found out that he was being paid to do this tour and take photos! What a sweet job. Some guys get all the luck.
Our last landing of the night was Booth Island, and there seemed to be some zodiac confusion. We had originally boarded Rod’s zodiac, but he had to return to pick up a few more passengers. Eventually, Patrick was sent back with an empty zodiac to pick up folks, so we happily volunteered to jump ship. Patrick drove the zodiac like a maniac and we made it to Booth Island in no time at all. It was spitting rain when we arrived, but eventually the weather settled down and we were able to take a few photos to remember Booth Island. Craig Poore proposed to his girlfriend Lauren Boozer, who said yes…we cheered on the happy couple and thought it was the perfect touch to a perfect trip. What a nice way to propose! Booth Island forms the western edge of the Lemaire Channel, and its southwestern shoreline offers one of the few sites in Antarctica with Adelies, Gentoos, and Chinstraps all living in harmony. We saw tons of Gentoos and a few Chinstraps but no Adelies. We also saw a leopard seal on a nearby iceberg, and could spot two other seals on ice, but couldn’t make out what they were. The zodiac ride back was interesting, with one of the zodiacs (the one Rod and Hugh were in) not wanting to start. We were in Marlene’s zodiac but were not allowed to leave until the motor problem was fixed…this delayed us returning until 2235, and this definitely was one of our later nights.