Day 14 |
Nov 23, 2010

Port Lockroy

By Pete Clement, General Naturalist

Co-ordinates: S 64.50 W 63.30
Weather: Overcast with Light wind

In the early morning the Prince Albert II is heading south in the Gerlache Strait. The weather is very overcast and when I went out on deck there was a lot of snow and the deck crew were cleaning it off the decks.

Soon Cuverville Island was coming into view and there was a lot of ice in the channel between the island and the mainland. It was quickly decided that a scouting party needed to go and assess the ice conditions ashore. Very soon I was speeding ashore in the scout boat along with the rest of the expedition staff. There was a large amount of ice along the shore and this was making a landing impossible. There was also the added risk of getting stuck inshore as well, as there is a lot of current here that moves the ice very quickly. So a decision was made to cancel the landing on Cuverville Island and proceed further south.

Retracing our course out into the Gerlache Strait, we were now going south towards the Neumayer Channel. There is improvement in the weather and it looks like clear weather coming from the south.

While I am on deck enjoying the scenery, Expedition Leader Conrad Combrink announces that there are whales ahead and that they are Orcas (Killer Whales). It takes some time to come up on them and then the dorsal fins are visible, particularly on the males. This is a pod of females, males, and young Orcas. The next forty minutes is spent getting some very good views of these large members of the dolphin family. At times they were alongside the bow and from the upper decks good views were had of them swimming under water.

Excitement was high and no one noticed how cold it was as they enjoyed the performance of the orcas. The dorsal fin is a very distinctive sickle-shape in the females and stands tall, but in the male it is triangular and reaches to almost 2 meters, or 6 feet, and is unmistakable even from a distance. This had been a wonderful encounter with one of Antarctica’s predators.

Ahead lay the entrance to the Nuemayer Channel. This channel is about 16 miles long in a North East – South West direction and about 1.5 miles wide, separating Anvers Island from Wiencke Island and Doumer Island in the Palmer Archipelago. Gerlache, the leader of a Belgian expedition in 1897-99, sailed through the channel and named it for Georg von Neumayer.

After another fantastic meal in The Restaurant it was time to go ashore at Port Lockroy. This former British base-turned-museum on tiny Goudier Island is operated by the British Antarctic Survey under the guidance of the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust. Three staff members live at port Lockroy in the summer to maintain the historic site and act as wardens. They also run a well stocked Post Office and souvenir shop.

I first landed the group going to the Post Office and then took the second group for a Zodiac tour around the Goudier Island. This was very pleasant as the wind had dropped almost to nothing and it was much warmer than earlier in the day. Some Weddell seals were found on the ice in the bay behind the base.

The Prince Albert II got under way and Captain Peter Stahlberg then took us around the bay by the glacier before departing up the Neumayer Channel once again.

During Recap & Briefing Shoshanah Jacobs gave a thorough recap on the marine mammals we had seen during the course of the day, and we also learned about tomorrow’s landing. This finished the day off on a high note, and we all made our way to The Restaurant for another wonderful meal.