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22 December 2012 / leggypeggy

Our first setback—ice blocks at Port Lockroy

Port Lockroy

Ice blocks our access to Port Lockroy (see the small black building on the left)

Port Lockroy

A stark reminder of Port Lockroy’s 20-year history when it was used for whaling

The first setback on our expedition to the deep south of the world came on the third day we were in Antarctica.

At the time, we were headed to Port Lockroy, a natural harbour on the shores of Wiencke Island in the Palmer Archipelago. That’s when word came through that access to our destination was cut off by ice—lots of ice.

We’d all been looking forward to Port Lockroy. Discovered in 1904, this harbour was used for whaling from 1911 to 1931. During World War II, the British military established the Port Lockroy base (Station A), which later continued as a research station until 1962.

But we weren’t interested in military or research—we wanted stamps and stamps!
I’m talking about our postcards and passports.

Port Lockroy is looked after by the United Kingdom Antarctic Heritage Trust, which runs a post office, museum and souvenir shop there. It’s where you can send mail that is stamped and postmarked from Antarctica. It’s also where you can get an ‘official’ Antarctica stamp in your passport.

But the ice won. While we were all able to have a lengthy cruise in a Zodiac, our postcards will have to wait until a later expedition. And our passports—we had to make-do with a Quark Expedition stamp for 2012–13.

Port Lockroy

An Antarctic Post Office—so near, but so far

I think the employees at Port Lockroy were disappointed too. They don’t get a lot of visitors, so it must get rather lonely out there. Plus many of our passengers had planned a major assault on the gift shop. That would have been very good for business, because proceeds from the shop are used to help maintain the site and other historic sites and monuments in Antarctica.

All of Port Lockroy’s workers came outside to wave and look busy. We had a laugh and wondered if we’d disrupted their coffee break.

As an aside, two days later we heard the problem ice had disappeared—not melted, just moved on. Hmm! I wonder who will get home first in January—me or my postcards?

Port Lockroy

A dazzling sea around Port Lockroy

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