Union Jacks & Penguins...
Trip Start Oct 05, 2012
64Trip End Apr 01, 2013
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After this introduction it was once again time to board the zodiacs and head to Port Lockroy itself
The real focus for the visit though was the museum and post office/shop. Most of us had written postcards (some of us rather hurriedly in the morning!!) which we could stamp with the special stamps and then post in the Royal Mail post box. There was also the opportunity to buy a whole host of souvenirs, especially as they luckily (or perhaps unluckily for me!!) accepted credit cards rather than the usual $US. I like to think that the money I spent went to supporting a good cause though...
I also spent quite a bit of time wandering around the museum and looking at the restored rooms. These included a kitchen, bathroom, common area, office, and finally the bedroom where they are currently uncovering painted pictures of 1950s pin ups such as Doris Day. It was fascinating seeing the work they do, and also talking in more depth with one of the volunteers about what life is like living on the island.
As only half of us were allowed on the island at any one time, the others had been taken to a neighbouring island where they had visited another penguin colony and an outdoor display of whale bones left over from the whaling days. Once we had finished on Port Lockroy itself, we swapped with the other group and had the opportunity to wander around the other island
Moving on to the whale bones, these made a really interesting display as they'd moved them into a position to assimilate the approximate size and sharp of a whale. All I can say is HUGE!! There also turned out to be a couple of sleeping seals near the whale bone display which was a bit of a surprise.
Pushing through the tiredness, the afternoon sailing to our next destination - the Melchior Islands - was one of the most stunning yet
The afternoon's activity was a zodiac cruise around the bays and coastline of the Melchior Islands. The sea was beautifully calm and the sun meant it was also possible to do away with my trusty tea-cosy hat. We cruised past some chinstrap penguins who were hitching a ride on an iceberg, then found a crab eater seal asleep on another, much bigger iceberg. We then went into some very small channels where we came under fire from some very aggresive Antarctic Terns who were protecting their nests. They were dive-bombing the boats and we thought at one point they were going to attack our heads...!
The final section took us back along some of the open coastline and we came across a sleeping group of Weddell Seals and some stray Chinstrap penguins. We also got to have a very long distance look at the Drake Passage, which the islands also face onto. It looked very calm, but as our guides quickly told us this meant nothing as the weather can change in a matter of minutes...!!
So, a fairly perfect day all in all but little did we know that the best was yet to come after dinner!! Sarah and I were given advance warning by some of the waiters that whales had been spotted from the bridge so left our desserts and went upstairs. As we got there they made the announcement to the whole of the ship, following which the majority of people abandoned dinner and also headed up. The Captain had agreed to stop and allow us some viewing time as a large number of humpback whales had been spotted in the vicinity. I have no idea how many there were but different groups were visible from all sides of the boat. To the front - and very picturesquely located right in front of the setting sun - we had a group in the distance who's blow was clearly visible. But best of all, was a group of adults and one baby who were very close to the starboard side of the ship who started to engage in some playful dorsel fin slapping on the surface of the water
The Captain eventually said we had to return to our original course as there was quite a distance to travel that night, and so we set off again with many people out on the decks still trying to spot the illusive Orca whales. Another perfect day...!!