Palmer Station to Port Lockroy

P-51632Morning was clear and calm – and cold again, but I could get used to this. The ship was anchored just offshore and it was an easy task to climb into the zodiacs for landing. As I said in the last post, Palmer Station, on Anvers Island, is the only United States research station in Antarctica located north of the Antarctic Circle. Initial construction of the station finished in 1968. The station, like the other U.S. Antarctic stations, is operated by the United States Antarctic Program.P-51546 P-51551In just a few minutes we were walking up one of the few ice-free bits of land I’ve seen on this trip. Even here in mid-summer, ice is almost everywhere. The station seems to have a central snow-free area, but beyond that, there are only paths cut into the snow, or boardwalks, linking one building to another. It has the feel of extreme remoteness.P-51555 P-51565 P-51573The people living here are primarily researchers and support, and maintenance crews. It’s the kind of place where, to some extent, everyone does everything. We were met onshore by our guide, who doubled as a maintenance man when not conducting tours. He was just a bit underwhelming in his expression of the workings of the place as we toured around the various buildings in the complex. He’d point to the aquarium and say something like that is where researchers study the sea life collected from offshore. It kind of felt like getting a tour of a friends new house. But it was nice in it’s homeyness. The tour ended with a warm-up in the community room where they offered a table of  warm chocolate chip cookies and hot coffee.P-51559From there we were allowed to wander around the rest of the station at will – including the gift shop! Leave it to the Americans to know how to make a buck. But they did have a nice selection of t-shirts, designed by one of the researchers no less. The snow all around did kind of hinder much desire to go too far, but the sun on my face and the wonderful views made for a nice few moments.P-51596 P-51590 P-51593It was an interesting, if brief, visit here. The thing I took away most is not so much how impressive the outpost is, but rather THAT it is here at all. One of the spokespeople here talked about what it was like to spend 6 months to a year here, saying something to the effect that, first third of the stay you love it, the second, you hate it, the third, you just get through it.P-51598 P-51608Back in the zodiacs for the return to the ship, we did a short tour of a few icebergs in the bay.P-51615 P-51619 P-51630The ship stayed in the bay until late afternoon. By then, cloudy weather had begun to move in again. Looking at the station from offshore really gave me a sense of how precarious our little constructions appear. In this light, it is a far less appealing looking place to want to spend long periods of time.P-51643We are now headed to Port Lockroy, the British outpost on Wiencke Island located in another part of the Palmer Archipelago. As we eased out of the bay and back around the island, I was again topside watching the ice covered scenes go by. It seems like a never ending parade of shape and color nuance, but only for another day. This trip is nearing it’s end.P-51652 P-51656 P-51657 P-51668I noticed one of the ice-flows going by had an interesting melting portion on it’s surfce. I managed a few images before we moved past, but was one of those situations where I could have lingered to ponder the forms I saw in there. Instead, only a couple images that just begin suggest something great.P-51664The cloud cover became increasingly heavy as the afternoon and evening progressed. There were only occasional outbreaks of sunshine, and then most often way off in the distance.P-51674 P-51680Despite the flat light, there was still plenty of visual drama to experience. It was really just a matter of hanging out on deck until a little light broke through, then looking around to find something to photograph. Watching mile after mile of these rolling hills of ice is simply mesmerizing. It doesn’t seem to matter how monochromatic it can get here. It’s still spectacular.P-51685 P-51691 P-51697 P-51705Later in the evening, we arrived at Port Lockroy. In 1996 the base was renovated and is now a museum and post office operated by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust. That was one of the big draws for many on the ship. You could send  a postcard with an Antarctica postmark. It is also one of the most popular tourist destinations for cruise-ship passengers on the continent. The gift shop is another draw. Here I found penguin earrings, penguin coffee cups, penguin scarves and patches, and on an on. Proceeds from the small shop fund the upkeep of the site and other historic sites and monuments in Antarctica. The Trust collects data for the British Antarctic Survey to observe the effect of tourism on penguins. Half the island is open to tourists, while the other half is reserved for penguins. A staff of four typically process 70,000 pieces of mail sent by 18,000 visitors that arrive during the five month Antarctic cruise season.P-51709 P-51708 P-51710 P-51712We anchored in the bay just around the bend from the station. In the morning we will be going ashore to visit the penguin colonies there – and more shopping. Next post, at Port Lockroy.

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2 Responses to Palmer Station to Port Lockroy

  1. Jim Melvin says:

    What a fabulous trip!!! It was a shame you were confined to the ship while convalescing, but you certainly made up for it later. Your pictures are really fantastic. I am looking forward to seeing more. By the way did you happen to see any Lazy Dazes while down there. HA!!

  2. Thanks Jim! It truly was a trip of a lifetime. More coming soon!

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