Leaving Antarctica

Tags: Antarctica, Lemaire Channel, Port Lockroy

Date: December 14, 2022

Our last landing in Antarctica was in Port Lockroy. It is a protected bay forming a natural harbor in the Western part of the Antarctic Peninsula. It was discovered in 1904 by the French Antarctic Expedition (1904-1907) led by Jean-Baptiste Charcot and named after the French politician Edoard Lockroy who had helped fund the expedition. From 1911 to 1931 the bay was used for whaling, but in 1943, during Wold War II, the British launched a secret expedition to Antarctica with the code name Operation Tabarin.

The operation lasted until 1946 and its primary goal was to strengthen British claims to the Falkland Islands and Dependencies, which both Argentina and Chile had made counter claims to since the war began. This was done by establishing four permanent bases, the most important of which, Base A, was placed on Goudier Island in Port Lockroy bay. The other three bases, B to D, were placed on Deception Island, on Coronation Island and in Hope Bay, respectively. The expedition arrived at Port Lockroy on February 11, 1944, to establish the base and one of the very first actions taken at the Port Lockroy base was to initiate official mail service, postmarking the first mail on February 12, 1944.

In addition to mail service, Port Lockroy and the other bases operated as research stations, doing meteorological observations, sea ice observations during the winter, upper air observations using meteorological balloons, mapping and topographic surveys, geological surveys and botanical surveys. Port Lockroy was in operation until 1962. In 1996, restoration of the base buildings were initiated and today it has a small staffed museum illustrating life at the research base and an operational post office and gift shop.

Here is a picture from the kitchen. The large tins at the bottom are freeze-dried vegetables:

The bunk room:

A painting of Doris Day:

Several of the bunks had similar paintings of half-clad stars of the day.

Felicie standing a the base's bar writing postcards to send home:

Our last sights in Antarctica before heading toward Cape Horn and the Beagle Channel returning to Chile were in the Lemaire Channel.

It is very a very popular destination for Antarctic cruises due to the numerous photogenic icebergs hemmed in by dramatic cliffs in a narrow passage. Unfortunately, as is often the case early in the Summer, the channel was filled up with ice making it impossible to sail all the way through the channel. Instead, we went in as far as was safe and then turned around to go out the same way as we got in.

Lots of beautiful pictures with calm seas and blue skies:

However, the weather changes quickly in Antarctica: