Log - Day #5...
February 7, 2006
Boat Ride and Port Lockroy
Another early morning due to a night of drinking. I’m beginning to see a trend here. But good things can come from stuff like this.
For example, the majority of other people on-board weren’t up at 5am and didn’t have their first whale sighting at around 6am.
They didn’t see heaps and heaps of whales. There was spouting coming from all sides and it was difficult to even know where to
look. Whale tails flying up all over the place. Talk about a whale-watching experience! Some were directly underneath us at the
front of the boat – so close that it looked like the boat was going to run over them. No joke.
Poor Alicia didn’t really drink last night and she slept through this. I drank and was awake for it. I think these little facts should
be thrown into research for why drinking is good.
Our first expedition of the day didn’t consist of land. We were going to explore the area on the zodiacs. I wasn’t really expecting
that much other than getting numbingly cold. But like everything else on this trip, I was in awe of what I was seeing…
Icebergs and glaciers (pronounced ‘glah-see-airs’ by just about everyone but Americans) surrounded us. On one massive iceberg
we saw something that was extremely rare for this part of Antarctica. I’m talking so rare that everybody on the crew was
absolutely stunned. What was it that left everybody so amazed? Why, it was an Emperor Penguin. I know this doesn’t sound like
anything that is that special. Especially to people who have never been to this part of the world who figure ‘a penguin is just a
penguin’ (I admit to falling into this category before coming out here). But now that I’m knowledgeable about all things penguin –
okay, most things penguin – I, too, was excited to see such an uncommon site. Well, back to the penguin. He was a youngin’.
Because of this, he was lacking the yellow markings that are the distinguishing trait to Emperors (at least to me). They are also
twice the size of the other penguins we have seen. Of course, we couldn’t quite grasp the size of this bird since he was pretty high
up on the iceberg. That was okay. We were all just happy to see the little guy.
Alicia and I both agreed while we were being whisked around on our zodiac that there really are no words to describe the scenery
that we were seeing. That is how absolutely amazing it is out here. In the midst of complete silence we heard loud noises that
sounded thunder. It wasn’t thunder – it was actually glaciers cracking. The sounds were incredible. At the same time, we were
passing icebergs that Weddell seals and Antarctic Fur Seals called home.
While we were cruising down the water, we heard a loud ‘bump’ and then those of us who were in the back of the boat fell forward
onto the ground of the boat. Chris, our zodiac driver, fell straight forward onto the ground (as he was standing up). Our boat went
into ‘shallow rock’ territory. Chris looked at the motor. I was in the very back of the boat so I could see that one of the little
propellers was completely eaten up. He kept trying to restart the boat but to no avail. For a while it sounded like we were going to
be stuck for a while in the middle of icebergs. None of us seemed too upset about this. We were feeling like this was bringing a bit
more adventure to our expedition. But on Attempt #54 the motor sounded alive again (even if it was ‘alive’ in the same sense that
an 80-year old who comes out of a coma can be considered ‘alive’). For the duration of our ride, we were putting through the
water – the Antarctic version of a ‘scenic cruise’.
Just when we thought we had seen it all, the boat made its way to Port Lockroy (a British station in Antarctica). Being going
ashore, I thought the best thing about this stop was that this was going to be where I could get my postcards stamped from
Antarctica. I was wrong.
We first roamed a little island that was filled with Gentoo penguins. While the penguins were great, it was the sunset behind them
that was making this place breathtaking. I also got to see a little baby Gentoo that was the littlest penguin I have seen thus far.
And then watching the colors in the sky reflect off the snow-covered mountains resulting in an orangey-pink color. Once again, we
were speechless when it came to finding a word to describe what we were witnessing.
Then we got on the zodiac to go to Port Lockroy. There are several people that live here for periods of ~6 months or so while they
conduct research. They live here with no electricity. No bathrooms. No showers. No heat. While they may not have heat,
electricity and bathroom facilities, they do have a mailbox and a gift shop. Kind of bizarre when you think about it, huh? Anyway,
this was where I mailed off my postcards. I sent one to my sister so I can see what an ‘Antarctic postmark’ looks like.
By the time we left the little shop, we went outside to see a sunset that was 100 times more spectacular than what we had just
seen minutes prior. The sky was now a bright red color and there were several puffy clouds in the sky that the color was
reflecting off of. As if that wasn’t already incredible, the red-colored clouds were reflecting into the water. And then there was the
lone penguin standing in the foreground which made it all that much more amazing to look at.
We were all beyond pumped up when we got back onto the boat – which happened to be around 10:00pm. Even the older people
were staying out in the lounge for a while. Around 12:00am or so, most of them called it a night. That left eight of us that were
talking about…um… ‘late-night’ conversation topics (to put it mildly).
It is now 2:30am. We called it a night a few minutes ago and I have to admit that I am dreading waking up in the morning…
|A penguin letting out a noise.
|Our boat in the distance.