So hey – we’re here! I mean, it’s a big “here,” but last night we got to touch toe to mainland rock to plant the figurative flag. The literal flag had already been planted atop the little rise at Portal Point, and we all took turns getting Zodiac’ed out to tromp a little loop around the point, take some pics and have a photo op. Lest I sound jaded, yes, it was quite fun.
I guess we’re starting to settle into a rhythm here: some sort of excursion after breakfast, another after lunch. Maybe, if the weather has pushed us to abandon one of those two, another try after dinner. Excursions are either getting driven around somewhere picturesque on a Zodiac, getting shuttled to land on a Zodiac to see penguins or some historical site, or setting off on one of the optional, signed-up-for-a-year-in-advance activities like kayaking or a night of camping on the ice. Each evening a recap of the day, Q&A session and plan for the next over drinks in the lounge. Bedtime, wake, repeat.
We’re holding station just off Port Lockeroy at the moment, of renown as “the post office at the bottom of the world.” I mean, at 64 south it isn’t, but it’s charming. It’s three little cabins on an appropriately postage stamp-sized piece of rock off the west coast of Wienke Island. Plan was that we were going to have a landing there this morning to send postcards and buy the various tchotchkes that the Brits ship down for the tourist trade. But the winds were up enough to scuttle that plan, so two of the four charming young ladies running the station motored out to give a short talk and allow us to acquire the aforementioned tchotches in the comfort of our own lounge. Geopolitical toehold notwithstanding, if I extrapolate the trade from our ship to the roughly 2-3 tourist cruises that stop by per day, I’d guess the base more than pays for itself.
Plan B was landing on Wienke itself, to wend our way through a Gentoo colony, and Plan B worked. Shore parties are divided into four groups, assigned by cabin, and named “Adelie,” “Chinstrap,” “Gentoo” and “Rockhopper.” When you hear your group called, you’re supposed to be all suited up in Muck boots, waterproofs, life vest and report down to Deck 3. Line up, check out as “off” the boat using your key card, get your boots disinfected, hand your shore bag to one of the crew and make your way down the ladder to whichever Zodiac is waiting for you.
So, the Gentoo colony. What is it that makes the whole penguin thing never grow old? Because short of being one of the charming young ladies holding down a post office on a penguin-covered piece of rock for half a year, I just can’t imagine the penguin thing getting old. This particular spot – Jabet Beach perhaps? – was home not only to penguins, but to Antarctic shags, skuas and the occasional Weddell seal. Everyone except the skuas seemed to get along just fine. Skua, of course, don’t get along with anyone.
But enough with the verbiage. I know what you’re here for: pictures of penguins. Share and enjoy.