It was our group’s turn to be first off the ship today, and we were due to proceed to the zodiac’s at 7:00. I am not an early riser, but if I can be up at 5:00 AM when I am on safari, I can certainly be ready to see penguins by 7:00.
We were dressed and ready to go by 7:00, but then came the announcement that due to weather conditions (you think? There was a blizzard going on out there) our landing had been delayed, but they were hoping to land a bit later. The dilemma was whether or not we should sit around and overheat in our expedition layers. Just as we decided that we should remove at least a few layers, the announcement came that the weather had improved (really? Then why can’t I see out of the window?) and we should start making our way down to the zodiac embarkation platform.
By the time we were actually on the zodiac the weather had improved somewhat. We made what was called a wet landing where we slide off the zodiac and into the water before going ashore. Luckily my boots kept my feet dry, but Brian did get some of the freezing water into his boots. From the landing area we made our way up some steep ice rocks and walked to the cabin that had been preserved as a museum from the time that this was a British outpost.
There was an Argentinian hut near by, but it had not been opened for the summer as yet.
After this we went for a short hike up the hill to a viewpoint. Unfortunately the penguin colony was further up the hill it was too icy to get there, but the view from where we were was amazing, so we were happy just to see the penguins from afar. I had been reassured that there were plenty of penguins in my future this afternoon.
Although we didn’t see any penguins up close and personal, we saw loads of skuas. These are predatory birds who are waiting around to consume penguin eggs and chicks. I know they have to eat, and the whole cycle of life bit, I just wish they found something else to enjoy rather than baby penguins.
When we returned to the zodiac the tide must have changed as we were able to get back on without going in the water. I had been concerned that although it wasn’t too difficult to slide off the zodiac, climbing back in might be a real challenge for me.
Back on the ship we realized that we had missed breakfast and that lunch wasn’t for another hour. Oh the horror of having to wait for our next meal!
Well lunch was well worth waiting for, and then it was time to get dressed up for our afternoon adventure, a visit to Port Lockroy.
Port Lockroy was a bow (dry) landing thank goodness, but then you had to climb up a series of steps that the expedition team had kindly cut into the ice for us. Slippery but doable. At the top of the steps was a path through the show leading to the museum building, the hut where the team working at Port Lockroy live, and the flagpole proudly flying the Union Flag.
There were penguins EVERYWHERE! I was in penguin heaven. They come right up to you, and to get anywhere you have to step around them.
It was my first major encounter with penguin poop. It was everywhere as well. The path was slippery, and I had visions of ending up in the poop. Luckily I had already downloaded instructions on how to remove penguin poop from you clothes when I was preparing for the expedition, so I was at least ready for when the inevitable happened.
After taking our outside photos we went into the museum hut where one of the women who work at the station showed us around the museum and told us about the history of the station.
The bay was discovered in 1904 by Jean Baptiste Charcot, and named after Edouard Lockroy, a French politician. The harbour was used for whaling between 1911 and 1931. During World War ll it was used by the British military as an Operation Tabarin base, and the British continued to operate it as a research station until January 1962.
The historic importance of the site relates to it’s function as a base in 1944, and for the scientific work performed there, including the first measurements of the ionosphere, and the first recording of an atmospheric whistler (electronic waves), from Antarctica.
The snow was up to the window outside. I was glad to see that they ate marmite and had hot water bottles. Two of my favorite things.
Apart from the historic importance of the building, it is also the southernmost post office in the world, and I was able to post a postcard to our grandson.
They have a little shop as well – yay retail therapy. I was happy to support them by purchasing T shirts and dish cloths. I wanted to buy more, but we are limited by weight and space limitations. Also by cost. They are very, very expensive, but they have a very functional credit card machine. When this is not working they do take US dollars, UK pounds, and Euros.
The 4 young women who take care of the station will be there until March, and are doing penguin research. They were very perky, and I loved chatting to them. What an exciting adventure.
Outside the museum we mingled a bit more with the penguins, but then alas it was time to say farewell to them and to negotiate those ice steps in order to climb back into the zodiac.
Back on board I was on a penguin high, so we thought it was only appropriate to celebrate with going to afternoon tea in La Terazza.
Tea on the Cunard ships is quite my favorite meal. But I have to say tea on the Cloud is hard to beat. No, it doesn’t have the grandeur of the Queens Room, or the white gloved waiters, but it is really good. There are 12 choices of tea to be had, and your tea comes in it’s own tea pot with the tea in an infuser, and a little timer so you can make sure you remove the infuser at the correct time.
The food consists of the usual sandwiches, pastries, and cakes, all of which were delicious. The only thing lacking was there were no scones. The onboard guitarist, Igor, played beautiful music in the background. So all in all it was a most enjoyable experience.
We decided to take some photos off of the back of the ship, and then when it became a bit cold we retreated into the Panorama lounge so I could have some champagne and crisps. Brian ordered a Guinness, but they were all out of Guinness and our waiter recommended another beer. Brian ordered it; however, it was no substitute for a Guinness alas.
Then it was time for our daily briefing and another glass of champagne.
Tomorrow we are going to Paradise Bay and Neko Harbour. There is still quite a lot of ice in Paradise Bay so we may not be able to land there, but if we can’t we will do a zodiac ride. I thought that was a great idea – landings are fun, and you do get the penguin interaction, but just cruising around and admiring the scenery may be more my speed.
WOW, what an amazing and extraordinary day.
How big of an issue was it that Brian got water in his boots? Besides the discomfort it seems that it could have been dangerous. Did you have your hiking poles with you on this day?
Fortunately we were only ashore for a short time, as Brian’s toes got jolly cold. The issue was that Brian’s boots are his sailing boots, (Xtratufs) and they just don’t come high enough up the leg, mine are Boggs which are much higher. Looking back at things he really should have rented the boots they suggest rather than using the boots that we had. The climb we did today was very icy and he found it quite challenging as there really isn’t enough tread. He had used the boots when we were sailing in Glacier Bay a few years ago, and they were fine for the wet landings we did from the dingy, and OK on the glaciers, but the water here was much deeper, and the snow much more slippery. We didn’t need our hiking poles this day.
“Luckily I had already downloaded instructions on how to remove penguin poop from you clothes when I was preparing for the expedition, so I was at least ready for when the inevitable happened.”
Could you please share? I had not heard this was something to be concerned about. We get on when you get off and I am enjoying reading about your adventure.
I had read on a couple of blogs that penguin poop is very difficult to get off your clothes, but when I Googled it to find out how you do remove it I found some fascinating articles on penguin poop as such (well worth reading) but none on how to remove it, So I ended up downloading the instructions from this article (https://www.thespruce.com/remove-bird-poop-stains-from-clothes-and-carpets-2146927). You remove the penguin poop from your boots when you get back on the ship. They have a fun boot wash machine and boot showers and brushes so that’s easy. I am the sort of person who will slip on anything, so I was concerned I would slip on the penguin poop and end up with it on my clothes. Penguin poop on clothes is only a problem if you end up lying or sitting in the poop, which should not happen :). Have a wonderful time, it will be an amazing trip, and the expedition staff work incredibly hard.
Thank you for sharing your trip. I am really enjoying it. I am sure you are too.
Thanks for reading it! The trip is more than I ever imagined it could be 🙂
Everything in theshop at Port Lockroy can be bought at the UK Antarctic Heritage web site, where the girls at PL post a blog too.
Penguin heaven. Yes we were the same.
Thanks for letting me know. I was worried about the extra weight so severely limited myself in my purchases. I am so glad that this can all be improved upon, and I’ll be supporting a very worthy cause.