After harbouring for the night in Neumeyer Bay, the Ushuaia kindly transports us to Goudier Island. There, we visit Port Lockroy, a British base established in 1944, abandoned in 1962 and re-opened as a museum in 1996. Once inside we are welcomed by four smiley ladies who volunteer for the summer period, contributing with UKAHT (UK Antarctic Heritage Trust) to preserve British history in the Antarctic.
I ignore who designed the Union Jack, probably a ginger beard Norman who guised his serfdom as towers and queens to play chess. What I am sure is he had intuitive notions of marketing. The strident colours of the British flags create a nice and notorious contrast with the Antarctic backdrop and seem to hypnotize the gentoo penguin colony nestling around.
Image of Port Lockroy with penguins nestling around. The sober timber construction is absolutely English style...
The four ladies’s mission within Port Lockroy goes beyond restoring and preserving infrastructure, they are forced to live within the comfort standards of the 1940s, as they are not allowed to modify anything. Therefore they live without internet, computers or TV. Their only link to the outside world is a satellite telephone for emergencies. While we can arguably understand this, it’s harder to guess why they even lack central heating or showers. In the absence of this basics the girls resource to have shower onboard the cruises that every other day visit the base. Some cruise ships also provide them with fresh vegetables.
Laura and I take the opportunity to send a few postcards from her Majesty’s Post Office in Port Lockroy. Each stamp boasts the legend of “British Antarctic Territory”. We tell the girls that the Ukrainians at Vernadsky base have their own bar, and indeed pour free drinks to those female tourists willing to leave their bras as souvenirs. On listening ours story the girls deeply regret having the exact number of bras they need but mentally evaluate the possibility of having some cheap ones shipped from Ushuaia, and then forwarded to Vernadsky in exchange for some vodka. So here we are, contributing to international commercial links within Antarctica.
Our ship with the amazing setting of Antarctic glaciars...
The ice universe around Neko Harbour was the setting of anew zodiac cruise. Here we even see an iced triumphal arch, among many other weird shapes ice can come up with.
OK, this picture proves it. We can’t denied having started a snow battle that promptly sprawled to other zodiacs leaving just a couple of hardliner expedition leaders lecturing on the penguins reproduction cycles as we had fun.
Penguins rocket by in their favourite environment. They are far less clumsy in the water than on land.
We feel incredibly lucky to be able to touch this pristine landscape with our souls. On few occasions the intense solitude and beauty of a landscape has moved me to cry. And this has been one.