Note from Mr. S.: My mom brought it to my attention that there are some misspellings and grammatical errors. I am doing my best! I am running from expedition to expedition - stealing a moment to document. I promise I will edit and fix! Thanks for understanding! :)
Our morning began with an introduction to Port Lockroy by new guests to our ship. 4 resident keepers of Port Lockroy came aboard to eat, shower and share with us some of the rich history of this port. Port Lockroy was used as an anchorage by whalers and established as Base A by the British in 1944, as part of a secret wartime initiative to monitor German shipping movements. The expedition was code named Operation Tabarin, after a well-known Paris nightclub, because team members would be staying there during the darkness of the Antarctic winter. After World War II, the station continued in a civilian capacity until 1964, when it ceased operations. This historic base was recently restored, and is now open to visitors as a museum. They have a post office – which is where a few post cards that Mr. S. wrote will be mailed.
Today marks the last day of landfall for us in Antarctica. Even though we are tired from the many days of steep hiking, it brings a sense of emotion as we descend from the ship to march upon the shores. We are sad because we know that our time on Antarctica is coming to an end. We are scared because we realize that in order to return to Buenos Aires, we have to cross the Drake Passage again. We have been told that the forecast suggests that we will have more mild waters crossing this time. However, the weather in Antarctica can change on a dime! We must be prepared.
After gearing up (snow pants, long underwear, waterproof boots, etc.), we made our way to the zodiac boat. The waters were significantly different this time than ever before; they were thick, slushy with a split pea soup consistency. Chunks of ice were floating all around us making maneuvering challenging for our driver. We would start, stop, and gain some momentum, only to be stuck in the frigid waters again! After several attempts, we made our way to our landing. Lisa, the expedition leader, was chest deep in the water wearing protective outerwear that allowed her to stay in the below freezing waters for hours! She pulled us upon the rocks so that we could climb our way up to the historic station.
The port now serves as a museum showing the most adventurous of guests how explorers lived many years ago. The structure was small, with windows certainly not treated to protect the dwellers from the winter weather. An antique stove displayed a recipe book for “Seal Brain Omelets.” It is hard to imagine how someone could desire to leave the warmth and comfort of home to set up residence in this station.
We will continue to hope that the Drake guides us home safely. All of the passengers know now that we are at the whim and care of Mother Earth!
Mr. Szymanski is a 1st grade teacher at Walt Disney Elementary School in Chicago, IL. He is bringing the world to his classroom with the help of National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions. Here, he chronicles his adventures to Antarctica and South America in December 2014.