Port Lockroy Blogs

17 March 2015: A Voyage to Remember

Some of the team in front of Bransfield HouseLeaving Port Lockroy after four months was an experience of mixed emotions for us. After a very busy last couple of days of packing, cleaning, tiding, taking inventory and some last minute paint jobs, Sarah and Amy boarded the ship ´Ushuaia´ for our journey back to South America. We hurriedly waved goodbye to Skinner, Liesl and Michael who left a couple of days later. They did the hard job of final clean up, taking down the communication equipment and preparing the base for winter, so we got off lightly! They had a smooth crossing of the Drake Passage with good company on the expedition ship ‘Ortelius’. We heard all about their adventures when we met up back in South America. It was odd to leave the tiny island which we now know so intimately without knowing whether or not we will be back. It is certainly nice to have a change of scene, but also sad to leave the site of many wonderful memories.

FIDs wWe were incredibly lucky to be able to travel on the British Antarctic Monument Trust voyage (www.antarctic-monument.org), whose aims were to remember those who died working in Antarctica and to visit as many bases as possible. On board were many participants of FIDS (Falkland Islands Dependencies Survey – the precursor to the British Antarctic Survey) who worked down here, some as early as the 1950s. Consequently, the stories, presentations and mealtime conversations were absolutely fascinating. We have learnt all about the Earth´s magnetic field, what penguin tastes like, how to run a dog team, current research on subglacial lakes, how living conditions in Antarctica have changed in the last 60 years and many other topics and anecdotes. We felt both privileged and humbled to be in the company of these amazing people, who, despite their incredible achievements, are extremely modest and friendly. Very inspiring!

JohnEdwardsFID wOur journey from Port Lockroy first took us south through the dramatic Lemaire Channel and on to Vernadsky station. This base was originally British, but was sold to the Ukrainians for a pound in 1996. There are currently 12 men on base who gave us a tour, showed us the science they do and let us try the vodka in their bar! Several of the men on this trip had worked at this base in the 60s and 70s, so were very excited to be able to visit once more and see that some things have not changed very much – the Ukrainians still follow the British routines and traditions, including pictures of all the winterers over the decades lining the stairs! We also visited Wordie House which is another historic hut that the UKAHT looks after. It was a scientific base, built on the site of the northern British Graham Land Expedition hut in 1947, and was abandoned when a new base was built at the current site of Vernadsky. There were many interesting artefacts inside, including dog breeding cards, complex meteorological instruments and radios.

FIDLookingAtMtClimbed wAfter a day at sea sailing south, we rounded the bottom of Adelaide Island and entered Marguerite Bay, historical dog sledging capital of the Peninsula. It is a huge bay surrounded by towering mountains, and as the views opened up the atmosphere on the bridge was electric. FIDS were pointing out endless familiar landscapes and animatedly discussing their experiences in this area. The weather was so clear we could see south to Alexander Island, inland to the mainland and north to the bases of Adelaide Island and Rothera. 

We headed to Horseshoe Island, site of another British base. The weather was absolutely stunning – beautiful blue skies, glassy calm sea, glistening icebergs and huge snow clad mountains. We landed to explore the hut and surrounding area. Inside, there were many items which reminded us of Port Lockroy, including the stove, food, generators and magazines. However, this base has far fewer visitors and has received less care and attention which makes it feel a little more special. The generator shed still smells like oil and the outside walls have a wonderful texture from being blasted by wind and snow for so many years. Next season, a team from the UKAHT will be doing some maintenance work down there.

LookingforMichael wWe then headed to Rothera, the main British Antarctic Survey base. There were about 70 people working there when we visited, so as you can imagine, it is a fairly large and modern set up. Parties from Rothera fly and sledge to many other parts of the continent, carrying out a wide range of scientific research. We got a very interesting tour of the station, including the hangar, labs, stores and offices as well as being treated to homemade scones with jam and cream! We felt very privileged to be allowed such an insight into scientific work in Antarctic today which very few people witness – it has certainly changed a lot! While there, we also remembered those who died in the area, whether it be from broken up sea ice, falling down a crevasse, or being drowned by a leopard seal.

RoughWx wThe following day we tried to go to Stonington, one of the major dog sledging bases. Unfortunately, ice prevented us from getting very close, but it was worth it for the wonderful sunrise over the mountains, surrounded by bergy bits and newly forming sea ice. We then started the long journey north to Ushuaia, via Paradise Harbour, Deception Island and across the Drake Passage – a two day crossing which, despite Force 8 winds, was not too bad. We are now back to ´normality´ which seems a little strange, but we will always look back at our time in Port Lockroy fondly.

We would like to thank Antarply Expeditions, Oceanwide and the staff and crew of ´Ushuaia´ and ‘Ortelius’ for a fantastic trip in Antarctica and back to South America. Also, many thanks to all the vessels and individuals who visited us this season and made our summer enjoyable!

Amy

Amy w